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Casual Racism is OK

Entry 2001, on 2019-09-13 at 22:28:25 (Rating 4, Politics)

According to New Zealand's Race Relations Commissioner, Meng Foon, it’s not okay to tell racist jokes anymore, not even Irish jokes, although we are still a bit uncertain about Australian jokes, and it's fine to tell them about the majority white community, of course.

Is this a reasonable point? I mean, didn't casual racism, like telling jokes about minority groups, not ultimately lead to atrocities like the Christchurch shooting? Well, we don't really know for sure, but I do know that casual "racist" jokes have been told by many people who don't commit atrocities, and I'm fairly sure it hasn't been a major indicator of a potentially psychopathic personality.

In fact, telling jokes about a particular community, country, or "race" is often an indicator of the exact opposite attitude to wanting to inflict harm on that group. Maybe the most popular form of racist joke in New Zealand, for example, involves jokes about our best friends, the Australians. Telling jokes about them is more a sign of a comfortable friendship where a few flippant wisecracks are seen as more a gesture of familiarity and friendship than anything else.

So, even today, many people would tell Australian jokes with no hesitation, yet telling a similar joke about Muslims would be fraught with peril! So the group we are joking about are the people we like. So knowing this, how does repressing jokes improve relationships with a group? Having to be particularly careful when saying anything about a group just emphasises the differences between them and us, rather than encouraging greater understanding.

I criticised the previous Race Relations Commissioner on many occasions, and the superficial, politically correct proclamations coming from this one make it look like he will also be the target for a certain amount of condemnation as well!

To be fair, it is part of the mandate for holding that position which virtually guarantees the person will have a particular perspective which I will disapprove of, especially when considering my recent crusade against political correctness. So my comments shouldn't really be taken as a criticism of an individual, because it's more about the position that person holds (although that in turn requires a particular type of person to hold it).

Here are a few worrying comments recently made by Foon...

He said that "jokes can degrade a person's ethnicity". But what does that even mean? Ethnicity is a social construct which is based on many factors. Factors which degrade people of a particular ethnicity might include a predisposition within that group to crime, laziness, ignorance, or superstition. I can't see how a joke is likely to be a major factor compared to those. And what is his comment based on anyway? I've never seen any credible body of research on this subject, so he's really just making it up.

He also said "systemic racism and unconscious bias is prevalent in society, and communities need to be educated." I think many groups in New Zealand have a preference for their own culture. For example, many Maori people seem to be rejecting Western culture in favour of a particular interpretation of their traditional beliefs, but does that make them racist? And how many of the problems minority groups have are due to biases within the system, and how many are due to cultural factors within the community itself? I'm sure both exist to some extent, but I reject the implication that all "disadvantaged" groups became deprived through no fault of their own. And this comment about "communities need to be educated" should be very concerning. In this area education tends to really be propaganda. We should be very careful of any education from groups motivated by political correctness!

Then he said: "I think we've got to find other jokes to tell that doesn't [sic] involve degrading people's dignity." Well that could be difficult, because it seems to be a popular sport today to find some form of insult in even relatively innocuous comments. Do we really have to stop and think before every light-hearted comment we make, to avoid potential offence? This sounds like a very sad future Foon has envisioned for us.

Finally, he said: "that education and calling people out is very important to tell people that jokes and comments are not right." So it sounds like the concept of the "thought police" is alive and well in the more politically correct parts of New Zealand society (as well as elsewhere, no doubt). Again, it seems like a horribly repressive society might be favoured by some.

Maybe I'm in a position where I can afford to be flippant about casual racism. After all, I am a middle aged (OK, older) white male so what possible derogatory treatment would I be likely to face? Well, quite a lot actually. I constantly hear jokes about being a geek, which would be considered completely inappropriate if they were about another group. And my opinion is often derided because the opinions of old white guys are just not taken seriously in many places.

But I don't take this as a great insult and accept it without taking it too seriously, instead of whining about it like many other groups do. I know that the vast majority of comments and jokes about me don't really do any harm so I accept them. I know many people have this attitude and I enjoy exchanging "racist" jokes with my Australian friends, because that's what friends do. Enemies though? No, we don't make jokes about them!


Comment 1 (5081) by Anonymous on 2019-09-18 at 10:15:52: (view recent only)

You are confusing racism with good-natured jokes. They are not the same, because some people are already abused by the majority and they don't need racist comments as well!


Comment 2 (5082) by OJB on 2019-09-18 at 16:36:15:

This is the problem when we use poorly defined, emotive words like "racist". Notice that I referred to "casual racism" above, which I don't really think is racism at all. I think casual racism is just used as a term of convenience for various forms of political propaganda. Racism should be reserved for more serious situations, such as laws which disadvantage on race. Use the word too much and it becomes less effective, not more.


Comment 3 (5084) by Anonymous on 2019-09-19 at 11:50:15:

Try to justify yourself. Your attitude has no place in the world today.


Comment 4 (5085) by OJB on 2019-09-19 at 12:12:53:

I think we should keep debate on these subjects open, and not just dispose of opinions contrary to the politically correct "norms" by saying they "have no place". If my opinion is really that bad it should be possible to say why by giving specific reasons. So, what are they?


Comment 5 (5116) by Anonymous on 2019-11-26 at 10:37:26:

Your definition of casual racism is way off the mark. "politically correct" is an overused trope - a lazy argument. Try to remember that through the lens of history we now consider some historical acts racist when I'm sure they were perceived as normal (casual) at the time. Chinese Poll tax racist - no mate, it's just casual.


Comment 6 (5119) by OJB on 2019-11-26 at 11:14:56:

Well, I don't think it is. Clearly, what casual racism is defined as is one of the difficult parts of having a discussion on this topic. Would you not agree that there have been times in history where a "moral panic" has occurred over various aspects of society (satanic worship, communism, etc) which have later turned out to be basically mass hysteria? Maybe "casual racism" is in that category. History isn't always linear, and this infatuation with racism might be seen in that way in future.


Comment 7 (5120) by OJB on 2019-11-26 at 11:17:56:

Also, my use of words like "politically correct" and "SJW" is problematic, I agree. I don't like using those words because they are over-used, just like racism (ironically). But when I use those words they are just as a convenient shorthand to describe a group. I don't use it as an argument in itself.

For example, my opponents might say "you are wrong because you are racist" where I would say "your argument is wrong because you have been selective about the statistics you use, which is a common problem with arguments involving political correctness". You see the difference?


Comment 8 (5121) by Anonymous on 2019-11-26 at 16:24:49:

You may have a chip on your shoulder. Nobody is saying you are wrong because may or may not be racist. You ask "See the difference", and yes, but only because you have reduced the counter argument to an absurd level.


Comment 9 (5122) by OJB on 2019-11-26 at 17:35:05:

I was only making that point in response to your claim that “politically correct” is over-used, which it is, like “casual racism” and just “racism”. I was also trying to say that I don’t use those words as a criticism in themselves, just as an indication of an overall attitude some people have which leads them to make other errors.


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