Being called racist is one of the worst insults you can give someone in today's society and this is because it's accompanied by the assumption that you are hateful, uneducated and/or uncultured. Soon it will be called the "R" word. Nobody wants to be known as racist because it diminishes your social standing. The sad thing is that people are often more concerned about the social stigma with being called racist than they are about marginalising an entire group of people. But how do you know if you are a racist?
A racist is simply defined as, "Having or showing the belief that a particular race is superior to another." Many people nowadays believe that the issues of race are largely behind us, but how can that be? White supremacy has been the foundation of the western world for hundreds of years. From the genocide of many indigenous peoples to the slave trade, apartheid, colonisation, the holocaust and the Klu Klux Klan. "If you want a nigger for a neighbour vote labour." This was a slogan popularized by British Conservative MP Peter Griffiths in 1964. The funniest thing is that Mr. Griffith's claimed that he himself, "had no colour prejudice."
It is often claimed that racism died with the civil rights movement and the election of U.S. President Barack Obama. But how can this be true? There is still a living generation that was indoctrinated by a system of racism living on this earth, not to mention all of the children they raised. Who doesn't have a racist Grandmother? Did all these people have a collective simultaneous epiphany? Or did they decide it was easiest to hide their racism so as not to lose social standing?
I won't pretend that we have not made huge strides in the fight against racism; but it is far from over. Racism is underground now, which makes it much more difficult to detect. Many racists are unwilling and unable to recognize these behaviours within themselves, regardless of the offence they make. Nowadays people make racist comments and in the same breath claim that they are not racist. There are still instances where people refuse to get into elevators with me, or get out of hot tubs when I get in. When I speak about this and other instances, my white liberal friends find this almost impossible to believe. Which makes me feel like I am losing touch with reality. Am I crazy? Did I not get the memo that racism is over? What makes this more frustrating is that I hear this from people who have likely endured little to no racism directed towards them but somehow feel authorised to deny my reality, regardless of whether or not they were present.
The recent criticism initiated by the "racist" joke in Amy Schumer's material has sparked much controversy in the press as of late. "I use to date Hispanic men, but now I prefer consensual." This has raised a few questions for me as a Comedian. What is the difference between edgy racial irreverence and straight up bigotry? Is there an actual difference? The first thing we have to examine is context and intention. Is irony in use and is the joke meant to be hurtful? In Schumer's case I would say no to both in this particular instance. Even IF the joke was meant to reveal the character's ignorance, the material did not bring us to a larger point. And I would argue that it reinforces harmful stereotypes particularly in the minds of bigots unable to recognize the so called "irony."
Actions speak louder than words and the road to hell was paved with good intentions. Race is a hot topic so naturally you will find a lot of comics using it. But to what end? Unless comedians can come to a larger point or speak about race from a personal perspective they are doing nothing more than race-baiting and capitalizing on other people's strife. Race baiting was designed to lure controversy.
If you were born on planet earth you are likely to have adopted a racial bias or two. We are all conditioned to be racist by a revisionist educational system and a biased media. Everyone is racist. It is however important to remember that racism is a spectrum. Bubba might want to burn a cross on my lawn and I won't purchase a Jerk Chicken dinner from a pub in Glasgow...again. Both examples of racism but to almost polar degrees. It is also important to remember that we can unlearn racism and better educate ourselves. I had absolutely no idea the word, "midget" was offensive until I was informed by a dwarf. Did she oppress my freedom of speech?
I am not sure that we are ready as a society to eliminate racism. All social hierarchies have winners and losers. In fact if we do ever achieve equality someone at the top will inevitably have to give up a piece of their pie. Who wouldn't prefer to enjoy their privilege in peace? Racism is alive and well and people experience it every day. Words like, "race card" are designed to create the illusion that racism is over, you are not experiencing it and there is no such thing as white privilege, you just aren't as good as me. That is how you stay on top.
I must commend Amy for apologizing and retiring that particular joke, as I truly believe she meant no harm. What I am disgusted by are the leagues of people kicking off because they believe it is their right to say whatever they want. And it is! Just be prepared for the repercussions. Luckily, there is no such thing as bad publicity, and with almost perfect timing Ms. Schumer's movie will be released this month.