BY BRANDO STARKEY
When watching the Chapelle Show, many black people laugh at the hilarity contained in the sketches. But, in the back of their minds many wonder, “How are white people going to perceive this? Are they going to get the joke? Or, are they going to really believe the quip is reflective of all blacks?”
When it was discovered that the D.C. sniper was in fact two black men, black people were disappointed in part because we presumptively talked about how we just knew it was a white man killing folk from long range. “Black people don’t do mess like that” we often exclaimed. Blacks were also, however, frustrated because they thought this was another measure that could be fashioned to sully the image of black Americans. “These two fools just knocked us 20 steps back; we ain’t never getting to the Promised Land!”
This worldview is not only endemic to black Americans. Indeed, this concern, that non-group members might misconstrue comedy or use the actions of the worst to stain all, is shared by all minorities. Once the identity of the Virginia Tech shooter was unveiled, there is much reason to believe that Asians feared racists using this against them as a group. When Latinos see the comedic work of Carlos Mencia featured on his Comedy Central show Mind of Mencia, I am sure many of them are saddened by what they see. But, their reasoning is not the same. They’re upset because he sucks. “They only give one of us a show and he isn’t even funny. This is some bull!”I have but one simple question for minorities that think like this: “Why the hell do you care?”
When I’m enjoying good racial humor, the last thing on my mind is, “What are white people going to think?” There are definitely certain jokes that can be used against us. Actually, perhaps even this column can be used against us. “You see what happens when you give a black man the opportunity to say anything he wants? He just messes it up for everybody! Next year, I bet there won’t be a single Negro writing for the Record.”
I do not, obviously, curtail my speech when I’m not speaking to an all black audience. I don’t do that “Shhh! Massa gonna’ hear you” mess. My ancestors were born slaves not me.It is not lost on me, however, that there are people that might come away with the wrong impression after seeing, say, Friday. They may conclude that all black men act like Smokey and do little more than puff weed and have allergic reactions to employment. But, I find the movie hilarious. And, I don’t see the efficacy of abridging enjoyable things because someone might potentially use it against me.
The fact remains that anyone who is going to use the criminal activities of one to cast a negative cloud on all was already antagonistic. Anyone who had a problem with black people after the D.C. sniper already had one. No one woke up the next day saying, “This is the last straw. I think I hate black people now.” Similarly, whoever uses rap videos as a window into normal black life has issues. You could never create an acceptable image to someone who thinks like that. And, if you could, why waste your time? Would you get some sense of fulfillment if non-group members hold your group in high esteem? If you would, I’m guessing your opinion of your group is the one that needs review.
A few years ago, after seeing a black comedian deliver a joke in front of a white audience that I knew many in the audience would not fully appreciate and could use to fit some negative preconceived notions, I would often laugh but with restraint. Now I just laugh. Trust me; it’s much better this way.
Brando Simeo Starkey is a 3L.