Swpd reader karinova wrote the following comment for an Open Thread post -- I think it should be its own post instead. And so, here we go.
I have a question for the commentariat. Mostly the white portion.
Back in the rush to the aid of crying white instigators of racism thread, a commenter noted that sometimes, when episodes like that occurred and the POC left the group upset, "the reactions [...] were everyone looking at each other, and then somebody would crack a racial joke or roll their eyes and make a rude gesture, and we'd all laugh and go on with our day."
Which reminded me of something I've been ruminating on; maybe you guys can shed some light?
So, there's this joke.
It's not really new, but it seems to be really really popular in the last few years -- specifically, in movies and tv (which is sort of the apex of the pop-culture feedback loop) -- and it's taken on a... different flavor.
The joke goes like this: a WP says something vaguely or overtly racist, or easily interpretable as such. A POC hears, is offended, and objects.
That's it. That's the whole joke.
I don't get it.
But those in the televisual arts can't seem get enough of it lately. I'll call it the You People joke. It shows up in "Tropic Thunder" -- and is so effing popular, you can get it on a t-shirt, which, let's face it, officially = Meme. (I submit that that entire movie is one long You People joke. God, I'm glad I didn't see it in the theatre. I live in an incredibly white town.)
Thing is, the exact same joke showed up in (off the top of my head) "Anger Management." And in "Me Myself & Irene." There are versions of it in the (terrible!) movie "How to Rob a Bank," in "The Hangover," and in an episode of "It's Always Sunny." I could go on.
WTF? Please. Help me out.
I've asked several white people, and no matter how non-threatening I try to be, it's gone... um, poorly. But I honestly want to know: Why is this "joke" funny? I want to hear from (thinking) white people especially. I can climb inside the white mindset very very well, but I can't quite grasp this. I really feel like it's a White Thing. (At any rate, I don't understand.)
Also, while I'm at it: d'y'all think any POC (specifically, BP) would buy that shirt?
Laughing at it as it goes by in the mixed company of a movie theatre (yet again) is one thing; we're trained to go-along-to-get-along. But sporting a shirt like that seems unlikely to me. Although... it's interesting to note that in the movie, that line, "what do you mean, 'you people'?!" is spoken twice -- once by AC (a white character who wears blackface for 90% of the movie) "in character" to another white guy, and then immediately by an offended Lazarus (an actual black guy), to AC.
Which character did you think of when you saw that shirt? Which do you think the buyers of that shirt are thinking of? What would you think if you saw a BP wearing that shirt? Would it be funny? Would you laugh? (Not the same question, btw.)
I'm almost tempted to make (not buy) one, just to, I dunno, culture-jam the meme.