Earlier today, my friend Christine showed me a bunch of photos “memes” that she has seen posted and liked on Facebook supposedly created by students from University of Calgary, our alma mater. We ended up having an insightful chat and I’ve used part of my chat text as the basis of this post and added some additional research and videos.
After some careful thinking, I’ve decided not to repost the stereotypical images and the supposedly “funny” text. The problem with these image/text is that they are seen as racist by some people.
Static race-based images and text purported to be jokes have the problem of being devoid of context. The images simply repeat and recycle tired and old stereotypes. And worst, they hurt the people being discriminated against in the process. Our lives are not illuminated by these racist jokes, no additional insights are gained.
Funny Racist Jokes
Are there any funny racist jokes? Yes there are but they are very few and far between. Canadian Russell Peters is one of the rare comedians that is successful in telling funny racist jokes in a manner that, I think, illuminate our lives. Some of Russell’s jokes watched on their own can be seen as racist but I think his jokes come from a good place and he laughs at himself the most! This is important. Comedy is a super fine line thing. Done well, it is funny. Done poorly, it is a complete mess.
Plain and simple, static text and image race-based “joke”/”meme” is a lost cause. The “Likes”, “reshare”, and text comments on these pix send out racist vibes knowingly or unknowingly. And there is NO context!
#fail Russell Peters vs. #success Russell Peters in the SAME comedy show
How can one clip fail and one succeed if they are from the same comedy show??? Because the first clip is out of context, he is laughing at us in the leading chuck of the clip! Let me explain. In Russell’s full comedy show, he laughs at himself, his own race, and even his own father! At the same time, he laughs with us on our own racial conditions!
To me, his message can be interpreted as, yes we are all different but we are all in these racial stereotypes and jokes together. Yes, together is the key! We are all in the jokes! It isn’t “we are laughing at YOU”. It is “we are diversified groups of people from around the world” and we are laughing at us together. We are us!
Context is king. With context, sometimes it works, sometimes it fails. But without context, racist jokes/pictures #fail big time for me!
P.S. I have no idea who created the “University of Calgary Memes” Facebook group. And I don’t really care. I will be a bit sad if it is by someone from UC because it is my alma mater and I expect UC students to be smarter and more tolerant.
In an age where anyone can create a social network page/group naming almost anything they like, and the darn meme generation is so easy and automated, I am sure stupid people have way more time to waste than me have time to write a response.