March 13, 2014

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Picking favorites on the basis of race is a safe strategy for simple minds. That includes people who favor other races just to prove they’re not racists. Stereotypical thinking is an inevitable shortcut past difficult discernment that most people will take most of the time. I consider myself an individualist who strives to judge each person on his or her merits, but even the most extreme individualist will make quick decisions based on prejudice or pattern recognition.

Attending Henry Harpending’s lecture at the 2012 Consilience Conference solidified my view that a high degree of racial harmony is quite possible. But I’m also a realist who accepts that most sheep prefer the warm comfort of their own flock. If they aren’t stampeding, what’s the problem?

The issue is not how to eradicate racism; it’s how to channel the tension that forms at the fault lines of integration. I think that Comedy Central is a good start. And no, I”€™m not joking. Eric Holder could never call Comedy Central a network of cowards.

Pretentious types see racial humor as “Targeted abuse,” and they might be right, but working-class comedy fans take it in stride. If you’ve heard Dave Chappelle’s brilliant “Walmart in New Mexico” bit, you know what I’m talking about. Or Daniel Tosh’s notorious “Black History Month” episode. Or what about when Michael Richards…oh wait, never mind that. Did you catch Patrice O’Neal’s last stand-up performance where he joked about owning white slaves? Or his friend Bill Burr’s routine about white guilt?

Comedy is one way to defuse a racial powder keg that could easily blow America apart. It trivializes stereotypes by depicting our differences as something to laugh about rather than to hold in contempt. PC repression only builds the pressure.

I’m all for anything that keeps us from taking our ethnic identities too seriously. Most of us have laid down our sticks and stones. What’s left to hurt besides eggshell egos?



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