The Return of Racist Jokes

The Toronto Star, in Race is the New 'Sex' in Today's Pop Culture, comments on an upswing in ethnic jokes among teenagers that I've noticed even in our very politically correct town:
Ryan (Hearst), 19, says he and his friends will often make racist jokes towards one another. "A black friend of mine will take my keys or something and poke fun at himself for stealing," Ryan says. His Asian roommate is also fair game ... Laughing at each other just shows how close and comfortable they all are... "We couldn't go to people we don't know and make those kind of jokes, because who knows how people will react? There always has to be lines. Without lines and rules, there's chaos."
For this intimacy-hungry generation, then, it seems that lines aren't drawn between WHAT you can and can't say when it comes to race-related comments, but between specific groups of people to WHOM you say them. Does that mean anything goes as long as a person is in your posse? Or are there still a few absolute rules when it comes to teasing a close friend of another race? (Like a white person calling a black person the N-word, for example?) Hearst and his buddies freely make fun of an Asian friend's physique (go to the article if you want to read the guy-oriented details; I don't want this post showing up on weirdo google searches), but he lets his black friend "poke fun of himself." Is there a reason for that?


TadMack said…
This is an interesting article... I am not sure what to think, yet... I struggle with true humor having that kind of racial content. I know a man who regularly calls himself a "Pollack," and pokes fun, and I am deeply, deeply uncomfortable with that... probably because I think if he makes "I'm stupid" jokes about himself, he believes that there are some people who inherently are ... stupid. And in which category does his pigeon-holing mind place me?

I also wanted to say, M, that I fully appreciate your two "paisas" ;) at Fuse#8's discussion on SCBWI; I, too, felt like the brown island in the sea of white, and -- wow. You're so much more clued in to why you feel awkward... I put it down to just shyness, but one of the initial feelings I had at my first L.A. conference was, "Oh my WORD, I stick out!" In children's lit, there seem to be so few people of color, and I'm grateful you put it into words, and glad that you found your people!
Mitali Perkins said…
TadMack, I love your blog(s). Please let me know if there's anything I can do to encourage YOU as you pursue the vocation of writing for kids.
TadMack said…
M, thank you so much for the kind words! You are a dear! I sold my first 'big' book last Thursday to Knopf, so I am now trying to catch my balance and get ready for the last big edit, to hopefully create a memorable character.

My writing group would love to review Rickshaw Girl - our reviewer is Sarah. Contact me at, and we'll get this started!