Racist Acts and Racist Humor

Canadian Journal of Philosophy 14 (1):75-96 (1984)
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Racist jokes are often funny. And part of this has to do with their racism. Many Polish jokes, for example, may easily be converted into moron jokes but are not at all funny when delivered as such. Consider two answers to ‘What has an I.Q. of 1007’: a nation of morons; or Poland. Similarly, jokes portraying Jews as cheap, Italians as cowards, and Greeks as dishonest may be told as jokes about how skinflints, cowards, or dishonest people get on in the world. But they are less funny as such. As this suggests, racist humor is ‘put down’ humor. We laugh, in part, because we find put-downs funny, sometimes even if they are about us. In many contexts, this tendency is relatively harmless; indeed, within reason, it may be therapeutic to join others in a good laugh at oneself. Why, then, all the commotion about racist humor?



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