I was scrolling through Instagram when I saw a creator post a video saying that jokes about ethnicity were not racist. As a biracial woman as an American junior in high school, I have received my fair share of racially motivated jokes. I have heard anything from casually using slurs to stereotyping. The phrase “I’m just kidding” is commonly heard amongst those of color.
“This topic is kind of hard to decide what type of joke is like funny but it’s really different for everyone.” said Damaris Gutierrez, Brighton High School junior.
Damaris seemed to have a common opinion. Most of the other high school students I interviewed said something similar. However Ryann Whisler had an opposing point of view.
“I think that these jokes come from a place that is built on racial beliefs. I think that making these jokes is, in a way, encouraging these harmful beliefs rather than fighting against them,” said Ryann Whisler, junior at Brighton High School.
The points that both Ryann and Damaris made should be considered when laughing at, hearing, making or receiving jokes about ethnicity. But when does the line cross funny to racist? Or are these jokes ever funny? Is it okay to make racist jokes to your friends? To your own race? To people you do not know?
It is no secret that these jokes can be very hurtful. I have been on the receiving end of these jokes, and to me, it never feels great.
“Usually it doesn’t hurt my feelings but it makes me aware of the person they are. For people who don’t know me they tend to think just because I’m around, it’s funny…For people who do know me, they always reassure me that they are joking and that there are no hard feelings,” said Shawn Heu, another junior at Brighton High School.
Shawn shares the same similar opinion, that the severity of racially motivated jokes is completely based on the person and their own experiences.
“It’s always racist but it seems more when it is done by someone who I don’t know.” said Spencer Smith, Brighton High School junior.
In a way, Spencer hits all fronts. Ethnic jokes are racist, but the severity depends on who the person is.
Throughout my interviewing process with those of multiple ethnicities, I was able to draw a few conclusions.
Jokes about race seem to be more racist when they are coming from people whom the receiver does not know.
Society should have a greater knowledge about the different ethnicities around the world, especially if these racial jokes are to be tolerated.
Using slurs is NEVER a joke.
Please remember, whether you are of color yourself, an adult, an educator, an authority figure, a high school student, a middle school student, a parent, or friend; no matter who you are, educate yourself. Educate yourself about the impact of racially motivated jokes and who the person is and where they come from and what their boundaries are. Because even if you were “just kidding,” jokes can be racist too.