Shortly after writing a post about accidental racism, I watched the Christmas episode of Black-ish and I couldn’t help but laugh. There is a fine line between being racist and funny and it seems like the more of a minority you are the “funnier” you have permission to be. I have to admit I was a bit weary about Black-ish at first as I was worried it would be too politically correct or bring up stereotypical racial issues that I feel are way over represented. However, I was pleasantly surprised and now consider it one of the best new comedies of the season. In the Christmas episode there is a running joke regarding Mexicans. Perhaps because I live in Mexico for part of the year I have started picking up on more Mexican jokes than I used to. I find them hilarious. But, am I allowed to laugh?
The episode revolves around the main character wanting to be the first black Santa at his work Christmas party. He succeeds in getting his boss to think outside the box, but gets upset when he picks a Mexican woman instead. This conversation follows:
Mom: Black people can’t be racist
(Husband enters room)
Husband: I was robbed by a damn Mexican!
Mom: See? Totally acceptable.
Wife: What happened, Dre?
Husband: I opened Stevens’ mind so wide that he chose a Mexican lady Santa!
Wife: A female Santa? Very exciting.
Husband: Of course you’d think it is, miss “I campaigned for Hillary.”
Wife: I went to one fundraiser, Dre.
Husband: That you hosted.
Husband: Anyway, I don’t have a problem with a woman being Santa, other than it being insane. But a Mexican?
Wife: Wait are you serious? Are you saying a Mexican can’t be Santa?
Mom: No way, Jose! Not yet! We’ve been waiting longer.
Husband: My mama’s right, there’s supposed to be a black Santa before a Mexican Santa. It’s just like the presidency white president, black president, Mexican president, gay. White Santa, black Santa, Mexican Santa, Thunderdome.
Mom: Mexicans can’t be jumping the line. It’s bad enough they started taking black people’s jobs with sneaky tricks like like like like working harder for less pay.
Wife: Okay, now, that is racist and insane.
Husband: Black people can’t be racist.
and then later on:
Wife: Why would you have a Mexican caterer make your dinner?
Mom: Christmas is too much work, Rainbow, too much pressure. And who else would I trust with my authentic, down-home holiday feast? Mexicans are dependable, affordable, and the backbone of the American workforce! Now, stop being racist, bow!
This Black-ish scene instantly reminded me of the movie Ted, when they are discussing a new restaurant they are planning to open.
Jay and I saw Ted while in Mexico and the theatre was full of Mexicans. When this scene came on Jay and I laughed pretty hard. And then we noticed… that we were the only ones laughing. We sank a little bit lower into our seats and hoped no one noticed who we were. We still laughed- but just a little bit quieter.
While both of these examples are clearly meant to be funny and not to offend it makes me wonder. We all think racist thoughts and we also all fall into some stereotypical categories. But is a joke only funny if it’s being told by a minority, or someone from your own culture, or only if it’s about someone else? Regardless of if you laugh or find it funny, there can be humour in race and culture if we are willing to take a step back and laugh at ourselves.