Racist Humor As Defined By Yet Another White Dude
December 08, 2021

Grab a snorkel, I'm probably out of my depth

When I was growing up, my childhood friends and I passed around an old collection of jokes between ourselves. It was about a half dozen pages of short question/answer jokes that some stranger had seemingly typed out, xeroxed, faxed, stapled, xeroxed again, folded, xeroxed AGAIN, and re-stapled one last time before making its way to us.

This compilation shaped our senses of humor for the next few years.

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It was also extremely racist by today's terms.

Historically, comedy often rides the line of propriety. Comedians try to steer clear of overly offensive material, but hint at it enough as a way to get a good laugh. As time goes on, the line moves, but the jokes stay the same. What may be tame one decade becomes controvesial the next (good riddance, blackface). What was controversial also can become accepted (women joking about women's issues that aren't their husband or children).

As time has marched on, I've tried to squeeze these old jokes out of my brain. A couple of the tamer ones stuck around ("Did you hear about the dyslexic who got a bonus? He spent the whole night pleasuring himself in a wharehouse"). For the most part, the time for the aggresively racist joke has passed. Good comedy can inspire a conversation, but jokes that target other races seem to lead into the topic "do you want to get slapped?"

I bring this all up because something happened at a family gathering a while back. I won't be specific about the place, time, or reason for the event, so let's call it Second Uncle Scooter's Engagement Party. After the party was winding down, one of the guests -- a Mexican woman -- was doing the 'nice guest' thing and was helping clean up. One of Second Uncle Scooter's relatives -- a white man -- saw the Mexican guest picking up, and said to her "you do a good job cleaning, why don't I hire you to do my house?"

The whole room erupted into laughter. As a result of this marvel of comedy, Second Uncle Scooter gave his relative $1,000 and prima nocte.

No no, that wasn't it. Actually, the guest told the relative that he was a loser for making jokes like that. The relative took offense to that ("a LOSER?"), Scooter's family ran to the defense of the relative, statements were made like "we don't see color" and "we can't be racist, we have a black in-law," and now the guest is dis-invited from future family events. I don't think I'll be going, either.

Modern day racism is somewhat a disappointing thing. It's not as openly brazen as Tulsa 1921 or people arguing against civil rights in 1964. People see these advances and think "we did it, racism is over" while still thinking things like black people have criminal tendencies, Mexicans are layabouts who are taking all our jobs, Muslims are awesome as long as they're not holding a backpack or praying funny, and asians are nerds. The fight for equality isn't over, and some of the scars of historic racism take more than a generation to heal.

Or maybe they don't. What do I know, I'm just a clueless honky.

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