“The Lament of Racist Jokes”
So often we ignore the realities of the past. Oh I’ll admit we often get things more or less right: the irrational anger and apocalyptic rage that has exploded virtually every human era. And sometimes what went on was truly awful and more often than not it was simply cruel, and sick, and not even done for any reason other than the temporary passage of time. But there was a time when tastes were very different–and not too long ago, either. I’m talking thirty years, almost. In some cultures it is more like twenty, or fifteen. In a handful of sub-alternate cliches this preference still goes on today.
I’m talking about overt racism, of course.
Racism will never go away and the clarion cries like ‘End Racism!”, or the variety of guises telling us that individual lives matter will prove as effective as censoring literature or conspiratorial beliefs. But the easy way out–the judgment by cover design mentality–is something that can never truly go away.
Let’s look at the advantages of racism, not to a broad society nervously wavering on the edge of all out warfare of every person versus everyone, but to the miserable, lonesome failure, disgusted with everything. Racism is really yet another one of the endless parade of disappointments we can trot out before our historically reflective minds and shove it somewhere in between forced imprisonment and the over-the-edge hatred that creates true genocide. Superficial reasons are the cause of everything we blame other people for, and why we believe that somehow everything isn’t all our own fault. It is just plain lazy.
Take jokes. Comedians, joke writers, are not traditionally thought of as the most capable and confident people. They are quite often angry, feeling badly about themselves, wondering why does anything matter and what if they run out of things to say. And so the comedian lashes out in any way they are capable to get a laugh, no matter how much it might offend someone (the ultimate goal, I will admit, of much of my own attempts at sad comedy).
Racist jokes are no different than sexist jokes and gay jokes and Polish jokes and evil sex stories and hasn’t a label he does not know is there been sticking on the white man’s back for years? It is all the same thing–dismissal, or sometimes a malicious attack based in long discarded stereotypes that gets a room full of lonely drunks to feel good enough about themselves to order one more drink.
It is all about making one’s self feel better and not so broken and low. Trash someone–anyone, and see if you don’t feel just a little bit superior–at least my life is better than the awful people I am talking about.
And yet it’s still all illusion–something funny, something hurtful, something deadly, even something divine. These thoughts are just static, the blur between the stations where you try to figure yourself out and find a new direction, a new about face, a brand new distraction to give ourselves another momentary reason to go on living at all.
I called this “The Lament of Racist Jokes,” not because I am celebrating them or am even willing to think which ones I have ever found funny. It does not matter at whom they are directed. In the end it is no different–again, on the individual level–than calling your friend a pussy and making fun of them all night long. A joke is only there to draw attention to itself and, if it’s any good, to reflect something larger of the private justifications we tell ourselves when trying to forgive the lives we have chosen to lead . . .