The Rationale of Racist Jokes

It’s not what you say privately that matters; it’s what you say…

Justin THE DUMB WORLD OF JUSTIN BIEBER__Where Excuses Go to DieBieber’s unsuccessful attempt to buy (and presumably squash) 2011 footage of himself using the N-word while telling a joke puts him right back in the Get Character or Become One hot seat.

The rationale of the racist joke always begins and ends with, “I’m not racist.” But there are other excuses widely used as well, like, “My grandfather was born during a time when…” To hell with your grandfather – now what? Every day is a day in which to get a clue.

Bieber and Paula Dean and Donald Sterling were born some 47 and 60 years apart, so to those who point to silliness like the “era” in which certain A-holes were born, I say, “Go sell that excuse someplace else.” Willful ignorance and insensitivity are learned behaviors, not vintage collectibles. Americans are just as aware that the narrow-minded walk among us as they were in 1963, but thankfully there are far more opportunities today to learn the difference between acceptance and tolerance, as well as bad character versus bad taste. (P.S. Only someone with a grapefruit for a brain would think it “bad taste” to get caught sharing racist thoughts or humor; when the perpetrator is old enough to know better, it’s no-less than treacherously immoral.)

Fire Hose 1963_Bull ConnorTHIS IS JUSTIN BIEBER_Where Excuses Go to DieSo while 20-year-old Bieber may live in a more enlightened age, he’s apparently no more enlightened a thinker than any 20-year-old who willingly turned a fire hose on black students in ’63. Too extreme or bleeding heart a comparison? I don’t believe so. The kid holding the fire hose was told he was defending American values. Today, we not only buy in to the excuse of a “nonpublic forum,” we believe one exists and that it is somehow protected from judgment. Show me where levels of misguidance and delusion between ’63 and now aren’t the same.

Speaking of delusion, the rationale of racist jokes often also comes from those Bielbering believing they’re entitled to make them because of a shared connection to the target ethnicity, as in, “Some of my best friends are…” People who pop off with stuff like this aren’t spoken of very highly by their ethnic “friends;” you can bet on that like you can bet on gravity. Bieber’s own friends are obviously money hungry wolves, yet he believes he’s protected within the circle of sycophants, baby-bros, and fools by which he surrounds himself.

Natalie NourigantDeclaring we’d never have said something bigoted in public via the excuse, “It wasn’t meant for pubic consumption,” is equally lame. By this logic, someone who whispers an ethnic joke is somehow better than the guy who says it aloud. The non-public forum is irrelevant – always has been, always will be. We’re defined by our actions both in private and in public. So do yourself (and the world) a favor and either educate or un-friend a closet racist today.

Aziz Ansari Kicks Ass OnstageAnother defense I’ve heard people claim is, “Comedians get away with racist jokes all the time.” Society’s raging narcissism and hypocrisy aside, the volatility of humor that highlights differences between cultures is constant and fierce. Anyone attempting to engage an audience in this way had better be savvy and had better understand what it’s like to be on the receiving end. And that person had better bring fresh insight to accepted truisms. Most comics literally stand before a microphone and risk everything to do this. (But for the record, that still doesn’t excuse the word “nigger.” I have my reasons.)

PAULA DEEN_LYNCHABLESThe point is, if you wanna rig the game of life in your favor, don’t make life choices that allow the public to control your narrative. And that whole “Who cares what anyone thinks” hoo-ha? Drink that little character cocktail in moderation too. Look around, and you’ll find people suffering from the hangover of defiant isolation they weren’t able to outgrow. Sound ridiculous? Give it a few years and take another look.

Dismissing racist or misogynist jokes as “something everyone does” is either an arrogant posture or self-deceit. Nothing says, “I can’t think for myself,” like using mass culture to back you up. I mean, holy crap  –  if none of us are as dumb as all of us, someone defending everybody should be avoided at all costs.

My favorite excuse is, “Everyone’s a little racist.” 

That’s squishy horse shit I’d like to feed to people who say it one spoonful at a time.

No, we’re not all “a little racist.” We’re afraid of not being accepted, of being alone, and of being left out. And we cope with this fear in ways that show the world (and ourselves) either our character or our asses. That’s a choice, not a predetermination.

Get Character or Become One

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