General Question

allen_o's avatar

When does a joke about race become racist?

Asked by allen_o (1490points) April 3rd, 2009 from iPhone

I told my friend in work a joke this morning and he got offended.
I said “why don’t black people go on cruises? Because they’re not falling for that one again!”
I don’t think that joke is racist

Observing members: 0 Composing members: 0

25 Answers

AlfredaPrufrock's avatar

It’s racist when you can’t substitute in another ethnicity and still have it be funny.

However, if you’re telling a joke on your own race or ethnicity, is it still racist? hmmm…

allen_o's avatar

I disagree

MacBean's avatar

When it comes out of your mouth.

Personally, I think it has more to do with intent. My cousin and I tell each other ‘racist’ jokes all the time, but what makes us laugh is the idiocy of people who tell the jokes and really believe the stereotypes that the jokes are talking about. The thing is, we know our audience—each other—and don’t tell jokes like that in mixed company where we could be mistaken for the idiots that we’re laughing at.

jrpowell's avatar

So you want validation?

I would be pissed if you told that joke to me.

LostInParadise's avatar

I would say a joke is racist when it is based on stereotypes or puts people down. Whether your particular joke is racist depends upon how it is interpreted. If it is viewed as making blacks seem dumb and overly fearful then it would be considered racist.

mattbrowne's avatar

When the feelings of people get hurt.

And keep in mind in every country, in every society, in every (sub) culture there are taboos and different perceptions about political correctness. In Germany jokes about Jews are a total taboo. The same applies to Nazi jokes. To almost all Germans the English term “grammar nazi” sounds very offensive. Many people are outraged by the sheer existence of this term. Calling a strict teacher a grammar nazi in Germany is like calling an oppressed student a nigger in the United States.

squirbel's avatar

Alfreda is right – when you can’t substitute another race freely, the joke becomes potentially offensive. Unless you are telling the joke to a really, really close friend [of the race you’re mentioning], it’s likely to not fly. The humor will be lost on them – and they will think that you are insensitive and rude for even joking like that.

allen_o's avatar

It was a black guy that told me the joke, and I don’t think that it belittles black people, admit it, it’s a funny joke

cak's avatar

It isn’t a very funny joke. I’m not even talking about the fact that it is a racist joke. It’s just not funny.

EmpressPixie's avatar

1. It’s not actually funny.
2. It doesn’t matter WHO told you the joke, it’s still racist. But if you really want to get into it, there are in-group norms and out-group norms. You’re in the out-group, I assume.
3. We had this exact question last weekend and it was followed by a fantastic discussion about race, ethnicity, and racism.

Triiiple's avatar

Why would you say anything a little racist at work?

I mean i can appreciate a racist joke i really dont care, i make them about my own race. But at work, did you even think if that guy might be sensitive to racial things?

allen_o's avatar

Looking back, it was probably a stupid thing to say

wilhel1812's avatar

I don’t think it’s racist unless you create very negative stereotypes.

EmpressPixie's avatar

@wilhel1812: So if I make a joke and the punch line is basically “haha, whites are the best ever! woo!” that’s okay? I mean, it’s not a negative stereotype at all, it’s positive even.

wilhel1812's avatar

Well, if that joke doesn’t mention any other races, yes, however i don’t think it’s a realistic example

kritz_the_cat's avatar

The word ‘racist’ gets tossed around like so much confetti these days.
So much so, that it has lost all meaning.
When I hear someone claim racism I assume that person has a) Lost an argument or b) has encountered someone with a differing opinion.

It is so rare these days to have an open discussion regarding race, because there are too many politically correct dingbats, hellbent on making their ‘viewpoint’ the only viewpoint.

allen_o's avatar

Well said

squirbel's avatar

Ok. kritz. Racism isn’t real? It has lost its meaning? Visit these sites. Tell me it is because someone:

a] lost an argument.
b] has encountered someone with a differing opinion.

SeventhSense's avatar

The problem with political correctness is that rather than addressing the situation it actually exacerbates it. Funny is nasty, dirty, ugly, dark, disturbing, jovial, satirical, racist, irreverent, ironic, and sarcastic. The nature of a racist is such by ignorance and racist jokes may become more prevalent in such circles but being able to laugh at our ethnic divisions actually bring us closer. You just have to know your audience.

Nimis's avatar

When it’s not funny.

Isidingo's avatar

It depends on cultural norms. I disagree with squirbel in the sense that a joke is racist “when you can’t substitute another race in”.

I was born and raised in South Africa, which as you are probably aware has a highly charged racial past. With this in mind, as someone who never experienced apartheid (I was born after it ended) my friends (of whom most were black) and I would often exchange playful banter.

My mixed-raced friends were “black albinos” and the Nigerians were fair game for everyone. Similarly, with my Mediterranean heritage, I was the “greasy” etc. The fact is though that we exchanged some pretty hardcore barbs that people like “johnpowell” would probably be highly offended by. And it was funny, everyone had a good laugh.

I have since moved to England and I learnt very quickly that sort of humour isn’t tolerated elsewhere.

Hopefully the world will move towards the same level of racial comfort as South Africa. The reason why we could laugh about it there was because it didn’t matter. Race had become a non issue. Telling a joke to a black friend about fat lips was the same as telling a joke about balding to a bald friend.

We will know we have truly moved past racism when we can tell jokes about race to each other without offence.

SeventhSense's avatar

Well put. And you’ve got enough to worry about down there these South Africans who are certainly equal opportunity.

SeventhSense's avatar

There was a time people understood comedy

ItsAHabit's avatar

I would recommend avoiding any joke that involves race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, nationality, political affiliation, etc. because it is virtually always at the expense of the group involved.

ItsAHabit's avatar

If a joke involves race, it is probably racist.

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