Monday, May 3, 2010

Racism & Comedy: Where do you draw the line?

There is a spew of quotations that express the importance of being able to laugh at yourself, insisting that laughter is the best medicine. But are there times when laughter and comedy begins to encroach on personal sensibilities? I'm sure most people would agree that comedians have come dangerously close to boundaries of distastefulness, insensitivity, "racist" remarks, and provocative shock humor. Comedians (from the Kings of Comedy to your funny next door neighbor) tell jokes about some of the most tragic events across the globe, such as September 11, suicide bombings in Iraq, Pearl Harbor, the Holocaust, the trans-Atlantic slave trade, and so on and so forth. While you wouldn't make a joke about a concentration camp inside a Holocaust museum, as you move farther away from the museum, mentally and physically, the taboo of joke-telling is relaxed. The same phenomenon is prevalent in jokes that rely on a stereotype of a particular race, ethnicity, or religion. My argument is not definitive, nevertheless, I believe this phenomenon is associated with a detachment from the original milieu, which increases desensitization. This theory serves to confront the prevalence of "racy" jokes, and in combination with "groupthink" and sociological theories of group behavior, the reason for the acceptance of these jokes can begin to be understood. I am not attacking the methods of comedians and their routines, but I find it interesting that the horrors of slavery are funny (I have laughed at slavery jokes too). This particular skit embedded above can definitely be a way to laugh at common stereotypes, the one below...not as widely accepted as funny material. The video below shows a white man dressed in a KKK outfit harassing blacks. This is not his only video. He picks up day laborers/illegal immigrants and then drives towards an ICE (formerly known as INS) building. He walks into an Asian restaurant and harasses the patrons saying, "What kind of Chinese are you?" Think about it. I will be sure to revisit this. There's way too much material to analysis tonight.

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