Opinion: Insensitive humor isn’t funny

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I get that we do not always want to think about the social injustices of the world. They are never-ending, and getting involved in just one issue usually entails a significant, emotional contribution on one’s part.

Is it even possible as an individual to fix all the world’s problems? No.

But me, being the proudly idealistic adolescent I am, I think we should at least try.

People seem to hold the false notion that in order to be funny, they have to mock others. This misconception has led to an abundance of  jokes targeted at specific groups of people which in turn downplays the severity of very real issues of discrimination.

In my opinion, the keys to comedy are one, timing, and two, relating to who you’re speaking to.

When you joke about serious topics such as race, number two is crucial.

For example, if a black person were to stand in front of a black audience and point out the humor that can be found in existing in a society saturated with institutionalized racism that would be OK.  In that situation, everyone can laugh and find the silver lining in the inequity they deal with everyday.  Though the humor might be crass, the person performing it understands the pain beneath it because they are subjected to it everyday.  It’s an exchange between the comedian and the people.

When someone who hasn’t been through those same experiences says the same thing, it’s not an exchange.  That person has not been there and does not get what he or she is making fun of.

That person can have 1,000 black friends, can marry a black person, have half-black kids, but will never be black.  However, the fact that him or her not being black and joking about it isn’t what angers me.  What angers me is that this person probably has no interest in learning about the lives and history of African Americans.

If they did, would they be ridiculing those old, apish stereotypes?

I don’t care if you think you haven’t done something wrong.  I will give you the benefit of believing you if you do.  But, making no effort to learn what it is you did and why it was so hurtful – especially making no effort to amend it – is boorish and ignorant.

If you don’t want to be considered oblivious, put some thought into how you can treat that group with respect and still be funny.  It’s going to be harder than making stupid, uninformed remarks but you won’t be sustaining stereotypes and discrimination that make entire communities feel bad about themselves.

I understand that making a racist joke does not automatically make you a racist.  I don’t think you’re a racist if you make a racist joke.  However, I will think you have a disinterest in the things that exist outside of yourself and the bubble of your life.

It is important to address and discuss sociopolitical issues even if you believe they don’t directly pertain to you.

You totally have a right to feel offended by someone else’s actions or words.  Likewise, so does everyone else.

Not everyone is the same and not everyone has the same problems and or privileges that you may have.

A lot of the time, I will be quite offended by these “harmless” quips and people will say things like,“It’s not a big deal,” or, “That’s just the way things are,” or my personal favorite, “You’re being too sensitive.”

Maybe I am being too sensitive, but I would rather live in a society that is conscious of others’ quandaries rather than an indifferent one.

Nothing good can come from saying “That’s just the way things are.”  Often times we’ll tell ourselves that society needs to change, but unless you are actively changing yourself or changing the way you affect others, you are a part of the problem.

But if we educate ourselves and listen to others, we have a shot at becoming more aware as a society.

We have to think about social constructions and the way they negatively affect our lives in order to think of ways to make society a better place for all of us.  Listen to what others have to say and hopefully, sympathize with what they’re saying.

Society should be more like my teeth after eagerly devouring an ice cream bar – sensitive.

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