Your looking for racism?…oh yea I think he’s over there

While thinking about a post-racial world, or a world with gender equality I immediately start thinking about the popular media, and in particular the genre of comedy.  I think that while we have reached political equality to a certain extent, societally America is still very bigoted.

On popular channels like Comedy Central a huge number of the jokes made are racial, or done for “shock value”.  On South Park for example they make jokes about concentration camps in the holocaust, slavery, and numerous other controversial subjects.  By this I am not condemning South Park, but what I am saying is that if the majority of americas enjoy watching, and laughing at humor like this…we can’t really say we respect races and genders equally.

Another example I recently came across is Bo Burnham.  Bo was an internet sensation about 8 years ago.  His comedy eventually led him to get his own comedy central presents show.  Having enjoyed his videos in the past, I began to watch his stand up.  What I realized a quarter of the way through was that almost all his jokes were either about rape, the holocaust, or african americans.  Now this isn’t Gilbert Godfried, or some anachronistic comedian still living in our politically incorrect past.  This is a 20 year old.  A Georgetown student.  A leader.

I think that intellectually we’ve overcome many racial, and gender divides however we’re still products of where we grow up, and who we’re around.  And a lot of that is bigotry.

At the same time, I’m not preaching in favor of censorship.  I think people should be able to say, and hear whatever they want.  But I think it silly to believe that laughing at racist jokes doesn’t change the ideas surrounding race in ones mind.  And those ideas will eventually be what prompts you to act, or remain complacent in issues of race.  Because of this, I think seemingly harmless jokes can manifest themselves in more harmful ways.

Our own student body is another example.  Thinking back a week alone I can remember students making racial jokes, jokes against women, and jokes against the LGBT community.  And I’m not talking about solely people from the Greek community, or from the athletic community.  I’m talking about everyone.   Yet when you ask most of these people about the implications of their jokes, they’ll say “I’m not racist.”  Which may be true.  But you know what they say about things that look, and quack like ducks

Despite this, I think there is hope.  While I’ve encountered the type of people mentioned above, I also know numerous people (myself included) who stand up against these types of comments.  Unfortunately, those are the minority and they’re fighting against the force of our popular culture which only makes things that much harder.  In conclusion I guess I’ll just say…we live in a community of intellectuals.  Of progressive, rational, disciplined students many of whom will grow up to make a profound impact of the world.  So when I say I don’t see enough evidence of a post-racial world here…I can only imagine what I would see around the rest of our country.



(Intel ad published several years ago with six muscular black runners bowing down to their white supervisor)



3 responses to “Your looking for racism?…oh yea I think he’s over there

  1. Humor can mean many things as well. I take your overall point that when it is ok amongst “my tribe’ to make derogatory jokes about “the others,” this may be a different use of humor than South Park which is a) public b) clearly satirical c) clearly libertarian in its interest in offending EVERYONE.

    I am not sure education minimizes prejudice. Experiences with others who are perceived as different may mean more. You may see more of what you describe here and less in the military, for example, where common experiences with individuals challenges group-based stereotypes.

  2. Good points. Two things that came to mind in reading your response are 1) south park is not always satirical. I would say half of the time they are, but the other half they are simply bigoted. For example there is a running joke of Cartman, calling Kyle a stupid jew. This is simply done for its “shock factor”. Where it becomes problematic is when kids start calling other kids “stupid jews” which then portrays the jewish religion as stupid, and adapts our vision of jews to accommodate this view. This is more what I meant by the bigotry in the media. Secondly, I completely agree that education does not minimize prejudice. If anything I think elitism increases prejudice. Historically it has generally been the elite that has oppressed others on racial, or similar grounds.

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