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Racial stereotypes ≠ funny

I don’t know if we’ll ever learn that some things, race in this case, shouldn’t be satirized.

I just saw a story on the AP wire about the Princeton student newspaper publishing a satire column poking fun at Asian stereotypes.

Oh boy. Having personal experience with the sensitivity race brings to the table, especially in opinion pieces, especially when you’re trying to be funny, I can say I’m glad it wasn’t me. But I wish we could learn from each other’s mistakes. The editor is quoted:

“Using hyperbole and an unbelievable string of stereotypes, we hoped to lampoon racism by showing it at its most outrageous,” the note said. “We embraced racist language in order to strangle it. At its worst, the column was a bad joke; at its best, it provoked serious thought about issues of race, fairness and diversity.”

For background, in Fall 2004 a column was printed in the DKS basically poking fun at black stereotypes and repeatedly using a derivative of the n-word in an attempt — and knowing the writer, who is also a stand-up comedian if that tells you anything, I believe it was very much his intent — to get the conversation about those stereotypes started.

It got the conversation started all right. It got the conversation attention in the local media. It got the conversation rolling with the Ohio Civil Rights Commission. It even got the conversation going over at Romenesko.

And what I and my fellow journalists learned as we sat on the couch in the Stater newsroom discussing it the next day was that we didn’t get it. The conversations about the potential reaction that should have taken place before it was published instead took place after. We talked a lot about our own reactions and experiences, about what our other friends and professors were saying and what the other media outlets and our professors thought. We learned from it and became a more sensitive news organization because of it.

Just wish it was a lesson we could pass along to anyone else who, like the Princeton paper, didn’t get to partake in our too-little, too-late conversation that fall.

One Response to “Racial stereotypes ≠ funny”

  1. Meranda Writes » Blog Archive » Responding to Google searches Says:

    […] the many people who’ve been searching for “funny stereotypes” or its even worse cousin “funny racial stereotypes” and land at my post titled, ironically enough, Racial stereotypes ≠ funny. […]