hi so i saw this on my reddit, and i know a lot of people i am familiar with think “OMGGGG SOCIAL JUSTICE TUMBLR” when joking about this stuff is criticized, as it is characterized as a trite overreaction. well i am pretty tired of seeing that sentiment, so if you would please take the time to thoroughly read through these (sourced) explanations…
Part of the problem here is that racism isn’t just on the scale of “I hate blacks and I want to lynch them” (or as everyone seems to refer to it in comments below, “real racism”). Racism is also when your brain keeps track of every time you see a black person commit a crime, but forget about all the white people who commit crimes, and use your confirmation bias to then conclude that black people are mostly criminals. It’s the small, subconscious racism that’s the problem.
In the past, outright racism was okay - you could be a racist in public, and you wouldn’t lose respect for it. Nowadays, being explicitly racist is looked down upon (e.g. this guy gets downvoted for most of his comments). It’s become part of the social consciousness that racism is bad, and that you shouldn’t be racist, and anyone who says racist things is a bad person.
No one is ever the villain in their own mind. In our own heads, in our own story, we’re the good guy. (This is one of the big sources of cognitive dissonance - when we do something that we personally think is bad, we start making excuses for why it was okay to do it. For a good read on that, check out Mistakes were made (but not by me), it’s a really good book.) And so, people think to themselves, “I’m a good person, and good people aren’t racist, so I shouldn’t do or say racist things.”
That’s great - that’s a huge improvement over explicit racism. But while the conscious mind does have some input into the subconscious, it’s not a lot. So thinking to yourself “I’m not racist” doesn’t mean you won’t ever have racist tendencies.
Send each of two groups of people a resume that is identical except the name - one group gets a resume that has at the top a typically “white” name and one gets a typically “black” name. Recruiters in the first group will rate the candidate as more qualified on average than people in the second group, even though the qualifications were identical. Every single one of the people rating the resumes will tell you they’re not racist; and when it comes to explicit racism, they’re not. But they still have a bias against black people that hasn’t disappeared, and that they don’t even know about.
So when you say that racism isn’t something you see, I won’t argue with that - you probably don’t see it. But I doubt that you’ve never been exposed to it. It is real. It does happen. But being white, you’ve never had to deal with it. You’ve never gotten rejected from a job and had to wonder if it was because of your name, or been stopped by police when you weren’t doing anything illegal or even suspicious, or any of the other number of subtle racist things that go on every single day.
I know that hipster racism feels like it’s proving that you’re not racist (“Look, I’m so not racist, I can say racist things and it’s funny because we all know I’m not racist!”),but it exacerbates that inner, subconscious racism both in you and in other people. I don’t really know what the solution is, other than, when a black person tells you that you said something racist and it bothered them, don’t defend it. Don’t say it was just a joke, because to them it’s not a joke, it’s their life, and they have to deal with that crap for real every day. Say sorry, and try to figure out why you said it and how to not say something like it again.
And I just want to add on the end of this… I may have said something offensive or racist or condescending in this comment. Please tell me if I did. I went to a small private Lutheran school, and a small private Lutheran college, which means that 99% of the humans I interacted with before graduation were upper-middle-class whites. I then worked as an engineer in the (semi-)rural Midwest, which meant more of the same. So while I try to not be racist, I know that the privilege I’ve been unduly awarded my entire life simply due to birth probably creeps in to what I say. It’s not that I want it to - I simply haven’t ever had to deal with it myself, or had someone point it out to me. Please, please say something. Because I want to correct the subconscious part of me which I know is lurking down there.
TL;DR: Most of us are probably still subconsciously racist, no matter how much you want to not be. Joking about racism probably makes that worse not better.
EDIT: Removed what I had in the edit before because people were taking it out of context and using it as an excuse to whine about how persecuted white guys are, which is really not the point. Yes, I think racism against white people is bad too. No, (in the U.S.) it’s anywhere near as prevalent or harmful as racism against minorities.
Not probably, but definitely:
Another thing people have to understand is, don’t assume that everybody is like you! A lot of people think “my joke about black people is really some ironic joke about racism to show how ridiculous it is, and people get that!” No, not everyone gets that. And I don’t mean that humorless sensitive people don’t get it (we do, really), it’s that racistpeople don’t get that. There are real actual racist people who will read your joke, and they won’t get that you’re being ironic and edgy, it will just reaffirm their opinions that everyone is secretly racist and that it’s okay to make racist jokes.
Going on a tangent here, but this has also been confirmed with regards to sexist jokes and rape jokes, because it basically trivializes and normalizes the behavior being joked about.
edit: I accidentally a link
this isn’t coming from me, pepperjinks; i am just quoting. original comment thread is linked as source.
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