“How to respond to a racist joke”

I was just visiting Digg and the first story on their front page had this title “How to respond to a racist joke“.

Without reading anything beyond that or clicking that link, the first thing that popped into my mind was: “erm, laugh?”.

Come on people. While there are a lot of racist jokes out there, only a very small percentage are meant with ill purpose. Most of them are just genuinely funny. So, just freaking laugh. There is no “special pre-calculated response” you need to have to a ‘racist’ joke, even if the joke is all about your own race/nation. By laughing with it is the only way you can make things better, not worse. What are people made up these days from? Melting sugar?

Jeez.

Update: Read the comments for some more explanation.

BTW, personally, I am more of a prank person rather than a sick-joke person. For example, last year, I had our neighbor of our Greek home on IM and at the same time I was speaking to my mother on the phone who she was sitting at her patio. I could tell her everything she was doing, and she couldn’t understand how this was possible. She was astonished. I kept telling her “I see you via satellite” and she believed it. She kept looking at the sky! Little did she know of the neighbor. ;-)

27 Comments »

Tom Dison wrote on August 1st, 2007 at 11:04 AM PST:

I suppose you could put it another way – How do you respond to a joke you _DO_ find offensive. For instance, perhaps a joke about beating you wife. Of maybe about how lazy a fat person is. I’m sure there are some jokes that you do find offensive. When you encounter this situation, how do you handle it? I usually keep it simple – I just say I don’t like that kind of joke. That’s usually the end of the story and we go on.

p.s. – I don’t like racist jokes. I don’t like jokes about how greedy jews are, or how lazy blacks (or fat people) are, etc. I don’t like jokes that are designed to keep a group of people down.

On the other hand, one of my favorite jokes is a racist joke:

What do call a black man being chased by 100 white guys with sticks?

Tiger Woods.


Adam wrote on August 1st, 2007 at 11:10 AM PST:

As a jewish person by culture who has had to deal with this bullshit from smartassed pricks my entire life, I wholeheartedly disagree. In fact, that fact that you would validate offensive behavior only encourages it.

People don’t get along in this world already, and if you throw your hands up and say “it’s just a joke” you might as well say “I don’t care that it bothers you,” which is shitty human citizenship.

Jokes like this exist BECAUSE people just laugh and let unacceptable and unprofessional behavior go unchecked. These are people I do not count amongst my friends.

I’m quite positive you’ll disagree, but I’ve been there and lemme tell you – it sucks – and I don’t allow people to pull that shit around me.


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Eugenia wrote on August 1st, 2007 at 11:25 AM PST:

It’s simple: if a joke is genuinely made to offend the listener on PURPOSE, you simply say “this is not funny mate“, and you walk away. But for 99% of the situations, people are just having some fun and they mean no disrespect. It’s for these situations that I believe the listener should just develop some thick skin and actually enjoy the joke. Scottish jokes, Greeks Vs Turks jokes (popular in Mediterranean), blond jokes etc, are usually just funny and not meant to be truly offensive to the person that it’s told to. I know that the black jokes are a bit more offensive than the usual racist jokes, but again, it depends if there was a purposeful ill reason behind it or not.

Look the joke-teller at the eye to determine his/her true purpose, and decide to either walk away, or laugh your ass off too and buy him/her a beer.

Maybe I’ve been lucky, but in all my life I have never seen a person who told a racist joke with ill means behind it. Ever. And that’s why I have the opinion I have. You can go ahead and philosophize that the very nature of racist jokes are bad, but I won’t listen, because as I said, people are just having some fun and no one *I know* meant any real disrespect to anyone else. This is no different than wanting to take South Park off the air.

I really think that people should lighten up! E.g. I am short, I am pretty ugly, I have been laughed at on many occasions in my life, and I just laugh back too. I don’t take such things personally or seriously.


mikesum32 wrote on August 1st, 2007 at 11:43 AM PST:

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Eugenia wrote on August 1st, 2007 at 11:48 AM PST:

Mike, funny you link to a Borat clip. Adam hates Borat. :D

Adam, I guess we are indeed more different than we thought we were. I mean, there was this morning this conversation between you and me about Borat (I enjoyed Borat, you didn’t), and then this conversation about racist jokes happened. It just shows how different we are, in so many respects. I don’t think that makes either of us better or worse, just different in the way we see, understand and expect life to be.


Adam wrote on August 1st, 2007 at 11:52 AM PST:

I do not hate Borat at all! This particular clip is fantastic – it exposes ignorance that can only be laughed at! I just think the Borat MOVIE sucked. The actual character is hilarious.

I have never seen a person who told a racist joke with ill means behind it

There is no distinction. A racist joke, by nature, has ill means behind it. You can’t tell a joke about black people, believe it’s funny, and claim to have no ill will. If it’s funny, that means you acknowledge and perpetuate a negative stereotype, and are just as guilty as someone who meant to offend.

My 2 cents, of course.


Adam wrote on August 1st, 2007 at 11:54 AM PST:

BTW – I agree with the second part of your post, we are very different people with very different backgrounds.

I seek calm and peace, and I (try to) do my best to practice as I preach. I actually believe you do too, but certainly our methods are very different.


mikesum32 wrote on August 2nd, 2007 at 1:01 AM PST:

I just don’t re-tell the jokes. You people are so greedy with jokes! Just kidding.


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Eugenia wrote on August 2nd, 2007 at 1:02 AM PST:

Adam, you put too much weight on the jokes. Future generations won’t dislike other cultures based on jokes. It is obscene to think that. If a joke is truly funny, I think it’s worth telling. That’s the point of a joke.

While I personally don’t re-tell racist jokes simply because I don’t know how people would react, I most certainly I am all for pranks.


Tom Dison wrote on August 2nd, 2007 at 2:14 AM PST:

I guess the reason I like the Tiger Woods joke is because it sounds like a racist joke but it is really an anti-racist joke. Those who follow golf are thrilled at what Tiger has accomplished. He has not only excelled at what is often seen as a mostly Caucasian sports, thus opening up the sport more involvement of people of color, but he has really saved the sport itself. Golf is seen as a much more cool sport. I imagine many more young people are interested in golf due to Tiger. That’s why I like the joke. It isn’t about putting people down, but elevating people. That is the difference to me.


Adam wrote on August 2nd, 2007 at 2:34 AM PST:

Adam, you put too much weight on the jokes.

Dude, you don’t know me. I have a great, sharp, sarcastic sense of humor, all the time. I don’t put too much weight on jokes, I live by them, I just think it’s out of line to continue to tell hateful jokes, whether YOU think they are or not. Good comedy doesn’t have to rely on stupid stereotypes. That’s the sign of an unfunny person performing for your approval.

Future generations won’t dislike other cultures based on jokes.

No, of course not. They may “dislike other cultures” when they learn it’s the cool thing to do from people perpetuate the generalizations by telling the jokes. Or maybe they won’t dislike them, they’ll just learn “facts” about them, which are really just ugly stereotypes.

It is obscene to think that. If a joke is truly funny, I think it’s worth telling. That’s the point of a joke.

You are clearly the universal arbiter of all things funny, as evidenced by the fact that you react so smoothly to things that anger you [1, 2, 3, 4]. People questioning you infuriates you instantly, as this comment may do. Before you respond, imagine being a black man hearing a white person telling a black joke and feeling the same frustration. You have the luxury of responding to me. The black man doesn’t always, he has to grin and bear it, because people like you say “just laugh, it wasn’t meant to be hurtful.” Bullshit.

As always, you have decided that what is good for you simply must be the way it works for everyone else, or they are wrong. Don’t make me out to be a tight ass, my point is only really this: laughing at racist jokes in a work setting is inappropriate no matter the circumstances, period. It’s inappropriate (and against the law in this country) and poor taste no matter what, no matter where.

[1] http://eugenia.blogsome.com/2007/06/29/i-hate-software-and-people/
[2] http://eugenia.blogsome.com/2007/07/09/software-idiocy/
[3] http://eugenia.blogsome.com/2007/07/14/software-sucks-part-iii/
[4] http://eugenia.blogsome.com/2007/07/24/i-hate-software-part-4/


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Eugenia wrote on August 2nd, 2007 at 2:42 AM PST:

First of all, please use proper HTML to use links on my blog. And these links are not the reaction of a joke. Software is not meant as jokes. So, apples and oranges.

Secondly, I never wrote the word “work” on this blog post. I wrote this blog post just by reading the Digg headline, I didn’t read the linked article because the site that held the actual article was down. So, what I wrote here was about racist jokes in general. I agree that racist jokes in the workplace are problematic and I also agree that most black jokes are unacceptable.

>and poor taste no matter what, no matter where.

Well, this is a matter of opinion. You have your opinion, I have mine, and yes, you do come out as a tight ass. You take some things too seriously, while I don’t. I obviously take OTHER things too seriously, things that you don’t. I accept this difference between us and never said otherwise. Why can’t you?

Right now, you are the one who seems infuriated btw, not me. Perhaps you react this way because you had a joke played on you and you have bad memories. If that’s true, I am sorry for what happened to you. But for all the jokes that have been played on me (including racist jokes on me in the city when I was 12, because I was a coming from a redneck village), I never took them seriously from the get-go, and so I developed a different perspective on the issue. Maybe that’s how my “defense” mechanism works (”laugh at it too”), or because I simply did not really care.

So, let’s agree to disagree. We have different life experiences and we react differently on shit, and so this ends up with us developing different opinions.


Adam wrote on August 2nd, 2007 at 3:15 AM PST:

yes, you do come out as a tight ass.

Whatever. I just want to get this straight: your suggestion is that racist jokes are funny and that one should laugh at them, I disagree, so I’m a tight-ass? Ok, gotcha. Just making sure.

You take some things too seriously, while I don’t.

That’s a laugh.

I accept this difference between us and never said otherwise. Why can’t you?

I certainly accept that there are major differences between us. In fact, I celebrate it.

I have never once in the entire tenure of knowing you, 8 years or so, heard you revise an opinion or admit you were wrong. You’re a stick-to-your-guns-til-death type of person, so I have absolutely no intention or aim of trying to change your mind.

You’ve made your point clear, I think I’ve made mine. My goal is not to be vicious, there would be no benefit to that, but rather to share that I do not believe that hate should be tolerated; I believe that standing by idly is condoning it. I’ve shared my piece.


helf wrote on August 2nd, 2007 at 3:19 AM PST:

It just amazes me how often and easily people get “offended” by something.

You can’t do ANYTHING today without being afraid of “offending” some poor soul.

If you get offended from anything I do, then that’s your problem and I couldn’t care less ;)

I have no patience for thin skinned people.


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Eugenia wrote on August 2nd, 2007 at 3:21 AM PST:

> I do not believe that hate should be tolerated

Nobody “hates” anyone Adam. I don’t think anyone “hates” specific groups of people just because a joke is smart-ass and funny. Jokes don’t create hate, at least it had no such effect on me. I absolutely *love* the Scottish people and land, and yet, my favorite “brand” of racist jokes ARE the Scottish ones!

> That’s a laugh.

Laugh then. It’s good for you.


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Eugenia wrote on August 2nd, 2007 at 3:22 AM PST:

Well said Helf.


helf wrote on August 2nd, 2007 at 3:25 AM PST:

I was actually written up at work a few weeks ago because on May 5th (Cinco de Mayo) I pu tup a picture of 5 mayo jars…

They claimed I was being “Culturally Insensitive”. All the Hispanic people I know thought it was amusing… Oh well :)


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Eugenia wrote on August 2nd, 2007 at 3:55 AM PST:

I JUST watched this on Simpsons (it was on TV just now), there was an ad for an employment offer:

Rednecks required for dangerous job. Free burials.

I thought it was hilarious. :D


karhu wrote on August 2nd, 2007 at 4:32 AM PST:

Really there are four situations of racist (etc) joke:

Minority person tells joke with minorities present. Do what the minorities do; I see (for example) Asians deriding their own driving often.

Minority person tells joke without presence of other minorities. No one else cares, respond as you will.

Non-minority tells to minority group. Prepare for fistfight or a lot of laughter depending on the group.

Non-minority tells without any minorities present. Just hope no one heard it, and respond as you will.


Thom Holwerda wrote on August 2nd, 2007 at 9:34 AM PST:

We have friends in Germany, who make harder and tougher jokes about the war than we do.

I have a friend from Turkey who makes harder and tougher jokes about his origins than we do.

My parents and I can actually make damn harsh jokes about her cancer.

The key is to know when to do it, and how to do it.


Carl wrote on August 2nd, 2007 at 10:25 AM PST:

Just a little correction though, Thom; Those jokes you mentioned are only hitting the joke tellers themselves. The discussion here is about jokes at other people’s expense. :)


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Eugenia wrote on August 2nd, 2007 at 12:03 PM PST:

>You can’t tell a joke about black people,
>believe it’s funny, and claim to have no ill will.

As I said above, black racist jokes are indeed the worst. Most of them are unacceptable, although also not always meant to show disrespect. But when I read or hear blonde jokes, or nation jokes (including jokes against Greeks), I do find them funny and I don’t see any ill will behind them at all. For example, I also find Scottish jokes very funny, and yet I love the Scottish people and culture, in fact Scotts are my *favorite* Northern European people/culture. So no, I can’t agree that all racist jokes have ill will or if I laugh with them I am an evil person. I am not.


mikesum32 wrote on August 2nd, 2007 at 12:33 PM PST:

Why do you hate blonds, Greeks, and Scotts ? How dare you laugh ?

About the Borat clip, the way I see it is the reason those people are laughing is that they get the joke, or just aren’t so uptight. It’s not ignorance or hatred. That is why the women are laughing and the guys are looking uncomfortable. The women get it or don’t care, or are (doubtfully) racist.

I was talking with this racist guy I know, and was wondering why he disliked Jews so much. He said they control the media and the banks or some other crap. I told that I didn’t get it: I’d never seen a Jew chasing a dollar down the street after it blew out of his hand. Then he mentioned Israel, and it was all down hill from there.

I’ve grown up in the age of Sarah Silverman, George Carlin, Chris Rock, and Margaret Cho. It’s not really in my nature to be morally outraged by jokes, but by serious beliefs that may be the basis for the jokes. Jewish joke = funny while antisemitism = retarded .

I’m not so offended by West Virginia jokes either, but we all know jokes and stereotypes have roots and reality. West Virginians are known as inbred illiterate rednecks, and sometimes I get pissed when someone comes along and reinforces those beliefs on the national scene. Ever heard of the powerball winner Jack Whittaker or The Dancing Outlaw ? By that same token have you seen the credits of a Hollywood blockbuster ? Jew-y. I know I’m going to get a bunch of shit for that, but what the difference between Jewish joke and a lawyer joke ? There is a major difference between a joke and a firm-held belief. Why I myself have joked that Eugenia has a mustache simply because she is Greek.
She also sounds like a gypsy.


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Eugenia wrote on August 2nd, 2007 at 12:38 PM PST:

/me sings and dances around the fire. :D

>Eugenia has a mustache

I stopped waxing it out, too much of a trouble. I like natural stuff. :P


RandomGuy wrote on August 2nd, 2007 at 12:41 PM PST:

I think jokes are a very difficult topic.
Arguing about humour is just as pointless as arguing about taste.

I personally happen to have a _very_ dark and twisted sense of humour that even my best friends find disgusting at times.

Does this make me a bad person? I think not.
You cannot control what you find funny and pretending that something is not funny to you when it is – well, that’s just very hypocritical.

Of course, I try not to make really sick jokes when my more sensitive friends are listening but if someone tells a sick joke I won’t suppress the laughter…


mikesum32 wrote on August 2nd, 2007 at 12:59 PM PST:

Just to be clear, I wasn’t saying all lawyers are Jewish. Insert joke here.


Adam wrote on August 2nd, 2007 at 12:57 PM PST:

You cannot control what you find funny and pretending that something is not funny to you when it is – well, that’s just very hypocritical.

Of course I’m coming off like a jerk here, but that’s not my point. You’re right, you can’t control what you find funny. What you can do is not continue to repeat or encourage the jokes so that future generations learn that Jews are greedy, horned devils, blacks are uneducated, fatherless criminals, Latins are unemployed, short, 4-to-a-car border-jumpers, Greeks and Albanians are pickpockets, the French are smelly snobs, etc etc etc.

I laugh at the same shit you guys do, maybe more, I just don’t re-tell the jokes.


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