by Isaac Javier
When you look up the word “privilege” in the dictionary, it might as well come with a picture of a white, heterosexual male, probably a solid 6’3 as well, with two thumbs up and a big ass smile from cheek to cheek. The definition then reads “A special right, advantage, or immunity granted or available only to a particular person or group”
The white male, in terms of history and generalities, have never been in a position of prejudicial disadvantage due to their complexion and their history of being the oppressor.
Doubtlessly, life has dealt the white male a hand full of aces. In most facets of life, their distinct complexion makes things easier for them along the way than it might have been for someone with different characteristics. It’s been ingrained historically, which means that in a contemporary context, it’s not their fault that such hierarchies are formed. But the evident consequence for that is that they would have no idea what it’s like to play with a randomly suited and numbered hand of cards. Although eligibility is relative, they can empathize and sympathise all they want but they will always be poorly equipped to take a position on whether something is or isn’t racist, sexist (or any type of –ist’s for that matter) because of the fact that they never had any first-hand experiences with any of those –isms.
This particular concept of white male privilege has seemingly become synonymous with the proliferation of satire humour in our society. Satire, often an outlet for entertainment, subconsciously is also an expression of one’s privilege.
With the constant glorification and practice of satire humour, it’s way too easy to overlook the root context of such wisecracks. Often, particularly the racially-themed ones, ethnic minorities are at the end of these jokes. I mean, I don’t want to sound like a hypocrite as I enjoy my fair share of satire humour. When done right, it warrants critical acclaim because of its supposed quirky and innovative nature. People also see it as progressive because we’re now at a point where we can just be remiss and have a laugh and about each other’s cultures.
In the world of comedy, people like John Oliver, a white male and one of my favourite comedians, mocking people like Donald Trump, the Brexit, and a myriad white politicians and sensitive topics and issues generated by white politicians are fine examples, all of which are subject to caricature and mockery.
White men, like John Oliver, Stephen Colbert, and Jon Stewart, mocking other white men can be objectively funny and amusing. Just as Indians mocking other Indian people can be amusing. Chinese people mocking other Chinese people can also be justifiably amusing. Africans making fun of other Africans. I could go on.
What isn’t funny is when white males, as some satire comedians sometimes do, mock other cultures and ethnic minorities, conveying discourtesy towards cultures at the expense of some cheap laughs. But, it’s all good right? Lighten up, it’s SATIRE! Just because you label something “SATIRE” doesn’t mean it’s not offensive.
On a daily basis, slurs and references get thrown around casually, subconsciously disregarding and practically forgetting the essence of those references. Whenever white males apathetically decide use terms such as “ching-chong”, does a blackface, makes references to your skin colour, the food you eat (or what it’s made from), your language, we don’t see it as progressive, as if you were speaking for us oppressed people and trying to change people’s views towards us. We only see a white man vilifying our being, using words and slurs that have been etched into our skins since birth.
When South Park, one of the most critically acclaimed animated series, write satirical and progressive adaptations of current issues, particularly race, their right to make a political commentary is in question when they’re just a bunch of white guys in Canada who never had to deal with any sort of oppression in their lives as people of colour do.
Blatantly racist humour can also be found in Family Guy, one of the most popular TV shows right now. Consuela, the Spanish maid character is a subject of mockery because of her accent and stereotypical proffesion. Besides the unfunny and flat-out distasteful attempt at satire, I suppose it also points out how fucked their immigration and education system are? Progressive. Or South Park, again, featuring sketches mocking starving children in third world countries.
What makes this perpetuation of racist satire very dangerous is its influence over the younger demographic. Then we have a generation growing up thinking it’s okay to make fun of how people are.
When you use terms and words that have always been deeply rooted in oppression they will always feel oppressive, no matter what your intentions might be. There is no such thing as acceptable racism.
It comes to no surprise that the presence of freedom and freedom of speech as a right is brought up as a counter-argument to celebrate and perpetuate any kind of humour as you please. And rightfully so, as and our free will our ability to rationalise, comes into play as they are what fundamentally separates us from animals.
In an ideal world, supposedly the one we live in, we do emphasise the importance of protecting our free speech, such is in a democratic society. Evidently, this comes with the need to tolerate the viewpoint of the rest of the world – which includes viewpoints that some might find to be objectionable.
But also in an ideal world, it would only be rational to expect consequences. We have unwritten and written rules, social contracts, in which we abide by in order to achieve a desirable and harmonious society. Obviously, that’s all and good if we live in a vacuum in which we only do and live by whatever we want other people to also do and live by. If people do the things you do and say the things you say, and it still makes for a pertinent and livable society, they you’re good, bro. But just visualising a society riddled with negligence and insensitivity towards other races leaves a nasty feeling in your stomach. The sad thing is that you don’t have to visualise much.
featured image by Lex Drewinsky