Racism and Humor
Crossposted at: Choice Words
Recently GOP member Rusty DePass made a comment on his Facebook page comparing First Lady Michelle Obama with a gorilla. He wrote in response to a report that a gorilla has escaped from a zoo in Columbia S.C. on Friday:
“I’m sure it’s just one of Michelle’s ancestors – probably harmless.”
When story of this comment hit the press he responded saying:
“I am as sorry as I can be if I offended anyone. The comment was clearly in jest.”
and then went on to say that the comment wasn’t his because Michelle Obama has previously made a comment that humans are descendants from apes.
Especially given the history of racist imagery associated with Black folks and gorillas/apes it was wrong on so many levels. It is also comments like this that maintains the marginalization of POC in the United States, especially in places like politics. By making this sort of comment DePass “others” Michelle Obama in a way that Cindy McCain would not have experienced.
This is not the first time the GOP has made offensive and racist comments about the Obamas, and it isn’t the first time that they hid behind the “it was a joke” justification. It’s time to stop justifying racism by claiming humor. There is nothing about humor that leaves it outside of the boundaries of offense, just because a comment is intended to be funny does not mean that it is received that way. Comments like these show us all that there is a long way to go and that despite the great advances we have seen recently (election of Obama, nomination of Sotomayor) we cannot stop fighting back against racism even if it is wearing the mask of humor.
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