Australian Comedian Aamer Rahman has a fantastic bit, which I think clearly highlights what a lot of people don’t get about racism and other forms of systematic discrimination and oppression. Some white people will complain when a black comedian tells jokes about white people, or when minorities are chosen for jobs or other rewards over a white person. They call this “reverse racism”. Aamer explains with great comedic effect, why this is not accurate:
A lot of white people don’t like my comedy.
A lot of white people say this to me:
“Hey Aamer, hey! You get on stage, you make your jokes about white people, you say white people this, white people that. What if I did something like that, huh? What if I got on stage and I say “yeah, black people are like this, muslims are like that”. You’d probably call me a racist, wouldn’t you?”
And I say…
Yeah, you should never do that, that’s bad for your health.
And they’re like “well YOU do that Aamer, you do that! You get on stage, you make your jokes about white people! Don’t you think that’s a kind of racism?
Don’t you think that’s… *dum dum dum*… Reverse Racism?”
I say no, I don’t think that’s reverse racism. Not because I think reverse racism doesn’t exist. If you ask some black people they will tell you flat out, there is no such thing as reverse racism, and I don’t agree with that.
I think there *is* such a thing as reverse racism. And I could be a reverse racist if I wanted to. All I would need would be a time machine.
And what I would do is I would get in my time machine, to back before Europe colonized the world, right? And I’d convince the leaders of Africa, Asia, the Middle East and South America, to invade and colonize Europe. Just occupy them, steal their land and resources… Set up some kind of.. I don’t know.. trans-Asian slave trade, where we exported white people to work on giant rice plantations in China. Just ruin Europe over the course of a couple of centuries, so that all their descendents would want to migrate out and live in the places where black and brown people come from.
Of course, in that time I’d make sure I set up systems, that privilege black and brown people at every conceivable social, political and economic opportunity, and white people would never have any hope of real self-determination.
And every couple of decades, make up some fake war, as an excuse to go bomb them back to the stone age, and say it’s for their own good because their culture is inferior.
Just for kicks, subject white people to coloured people’s standard of beauty so they would end up hating the colour of their own skin, eyes and hair.
If, after hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of years of that, I got on stage at a comedy show and said “Hey! what’s the deal with white people? Why can’t they dance?”…
THAT, would be reverse racism.
Additionally, from PolicyMic.com:
“Rahman hits the nail on the head. Without getting too sociological, people who cry “reverse racism” need to realize that racism – as in, actual racism – requires a power dynamic in order to work. According to Tim Wise, racial jokes and slurs toward white folks are less potent because whites hold institutional power over everyone else. This is true throughout history. And since people of color hold little sway in defining the terms of white existence, it’s abundantly clear that racial slurs and jokes directed at whites are no more than that: slurs and jokes. They carry little weight, because there’s no actual power behind them.”
On a similar note, and by another non-white comedian, Hari Kondabolu has several really good bits on this topic and related ones. For instance, here is a clip from YouTube titled “My English Relationship” (which is a metaphor for the above):
And a bit called “Ethnic Comedy”:
This all originally stemmed from me being involved in a debate about whether Louis CK doing jokes using the N word and “faggot” was more acceptable because he does generally much sharper and smarter social critiques, but this article points out how he has admitted often he just uses these words because he likes to, not because he’s actually examining them in any real way.
I’m not here to say comedians shouldn’t be able to make jokes, but I do think some comedians (particularly white ones) don’t truly realize the power they wield and if they did realize, they would choose not to make some of those jokes anymore, even though no one is actively stopping them. No one is stopping me from using the N word, I simply understand why I have absolutely no good reason to ever use it, so I don’t. I’m adding more and more words to my “do not say” list for the same rationale. Political Correctness, I am starting to see, isn’t about censorship so much as it’s about respect for marginalized and oppressed people. It’s helping to combat stigma and shame around things that people shouldn’t be ashamed of in the first place (ie things beyond their control or things they didn’t choose). Choosing to use respectful words and terminology is merely a sign of human decency, kindness and respect.
Another example I was made aware of not that long ago, is the order of words. For instance, you should say “a person with mental illness”, rather than “a mentally ill person”. This puts their humanity first, which it always should be. If you suddenly fell ill or were injured, would you rather be called a crippled person or a person with a disability? The former comes across more like “You’re crippled!”, the latter is more like “you’re still a person who has been injured”. Something to keep in mind.
And this video: