Horace Mann's Weekly Newspaper Since 1903

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Casual use of offensive jokes: it’s not funny

Surya Gowda, Staff Writer

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As a school, we pride ourselves in our diversity and acceptance of all cultures and identities. It is written in our core values and put in practice in our classrooms. Though it sounds good on paper, is that really what happens behind the doors of the library classrooms and casual conversations with friends? Inappropriate jokes slip into casual conversations, regardless of the harmful effect.

I have heard casual jokes about everything from the 9/11 attacks to race or gender. Unfortunately, the reactions to these jokes are not always what they should be. A reply could consist of a shrug, a laugh, or even a continuation of the joke. Why do members of our community publicly promote unity and compassion towards one another while fostering divisiveness through hurtful comments?

Internet memes have developed a widespread culture of mocking serious topics, leading some to believe that it’s acceptable to make jokes in any setting. I once received multiple offensive memes related to the Holocaust in a group chat. People were hurt, but once again, the jokes were met with little response.

Though I don’t make these jokes, I don’t really do anything to stop them, which in some ways is worse. I know that these comments are wrong, and I know it’s a moral obligation to stop these micro aggressions from snowballing into something terrible. When I’m sitting with someone who says an offensive joke, my reaction is an awkward forced laugh, telling them, “That’s not okay,” in a light tone. Since these jokes have become so normalized, they have become an acceptable form of social interaction. Sometimes when we exaggerate in casual conversation with friends, our comments can be twisted in a dark manner in an attempt to be humorous but simply come off as offensive. In the past few years, I have been in conversations where peers have used terrible language towards one another, but I went along with it out of fear of being seen differently by friends. When these jokes are made, I do nothing in the moment, but afterwards I think how terrible they were and regret not saying something that could have stopped a bad joke from becoming worse.

I know people who have left chats because of how casually language is used to make anti-semitic or sexist jokes. Running away is not the right answer. Though I don’t think that is enough to change people’s way of speech, the saying “pick your battles wisely” comes into play. In no way am I insinuating that you do nothing about the situation, first you have to confront the person and speak out against what they’re doing. In a school like ours, everyone comes from different types of households and backgrounds. They may be raised to think a certain way that contradicts yours, but that does not mean that their entire character should be seen in a negative light. This still means you have to stand up for what you think is morally right and not give up. Just because there might not be an authority figure or you are not in public or professional environment, hurtful jokes are never okay.

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Horace Mann's Weekly Newspaper Since 1903
Casual use of offensive jokes: it’s not funny