A commonly used statement to defend these types of ‘jokes” is that in order for something to be funny, it has to be offensive. Whether it’s by generalizing a population, degrading a person, or just being plain rude, all of these comments affect our lives more than you’d think. Listening to these jokes every day can subconsciously hurt students; even if they don’t consciously process it, they will slowly adopt similar perspectives if these jokes are perceived as the norm. I understand jokes made to harmlessly poke fun at friends or an inside joke that everyone is clearly fine with; it’s “humor” that involve bad intentions about innocent people that makes me disappointed and mad.
It’s time to understand that our words have consequences:
“Jokes” that specifically target a race or ethnicity make it seem okay to treat these people differently than others, leading to work discrimination, implicit bias, and simply racist behavior later on in life. These negative effects of seemingly small “humourous statements” grow into huge consequences that plague our society today. I’ve seen too many foreign students be made fun of to their face and not realize what is going on, surrounded by laughing imbeciles. It’s baffling to me how many teenagers have lost touch with compassion, making rudeness and racism a form of normalcy and daily life.
Another common form of unfunny humor, as I like to call it, is blatant sexism, especially towards women. Slut-shaming, body-shaming, and relating women to age-old, traditional stereotypes are common in our high school environment. It’s even gone as far as delving into the horrible section of rape jokes. The culture of sexism already makes a huge impact on women today. From wage gaps to sexual misconduct cases to high rates of body discontentment, many difficulties women face can be traced back to discrimination like this in high school. These jokes cultivate the norm that women must look and act a certain way to be acceptable by society. If they decide to be anything but the way that men want them to be, they are portrayed as unacceptable, gross, and deserving of ridicule.
In addition to racist and sexist comments, other demonizing statements are often transphobic and homophobic. One thing that people who make these comments overlook is their effect on other people. What is the impact of expressing these ideas at school, where there are hundreds of impressionable people susceptible to their words? For one, it creates a culture of hate. Making these jokes the norm equates hatred with normalcy, and high schoolers exposed to these comments growing up will end up thinking that harboring these discriminations is normal and okay. Another thing that these comments sadly point out is some people’s lack of empathy and compassion. With no regard for who hears their statements, especially not those they target, it is clear that these students only care about themselves without regard to what harm these statements could inflict on others nearby.
The saddest part is that making these statements is that this behavior is considered cool and funny. These comments are made or tolerated with little to no opposition, a complete lack of upstanders to this kind of behavior. Not only are these people making offensive jokes, but they also make it a point to shut down those who feel uncomfortable around them. Anybody who tries to stand up against this crude speech is deemed “sensitive” and “not fun to be around”. This attack on people who have decent morals forces keeping silent on disgusting behavior the norm.
That said, it’s difficult to blame people who make these jokes. It can be hard to fit in without succumbing to this behavior. Yet, it’s important to keep in mind the consequences of these seemingly small statements, whether one makes them or brushes them off. When you consciously realize the damage this behavior causes, you are able to put a stop to it. Hopefully, people who make these jokes will come to discover that they can fit in without resorting to this behavior.
Reminder: saying “it’s just a joke” doesn’t make something less offensive; it’s just disguising an implicit hatred or discrimination of people as something less than it is. What it is, essentially, is expressing phobias of different people and defensively silencing those who dare to question it. So, moving forward, I’m hoping that people try to stop their preexisting judgments at the root, instead of continuing to cultivate their inner discriminations and displaying this behavior as adults later on.