Racism in America the American Term Paper

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Although it has often been seen as a production which exploits the racial prejudices of the American society, on the other hand it tries to deal with them and point them out through laughter. The question then arises, "does the charge of prejudice come from the fact that the movie laughs and pokes fun at it instead of excoriating it? Would it have been better if it had dealt with it in the same dour, overcast manner adopted by many anti-racist activists? Would a waggling finger and pursed lips be better than a laugh at the bastards' expense?" (Tremlett, 2002). Therefore, some views consider this approach to be more useful than hard line activists.

In relation to this approach, there are studies made which argue that discussion an issue, such as racial discrimination, by using humor as a tool, is an important and most of the times useful technique. More precisely, "Humor lends itself particularly well to use as a conflict device because of its almost boundless limits in subject matter, and because its nature is such that it often contains more or less well concealed malice" (Burma, 1946). This malice tends to determine a numer of categories for jokes related to Black people. In this sense, "An obvious division of race-conscious humor into four categories immediately presents itself. That is, the joke may be by Negroes and pro-Negroes; by Negroes and anti-white; by whites and pro-white; by whites and anti-Negro" (Burma, 1946). It is considered that the second and the last categories are the most common. Indeed, from a point-of-view, they may be considered innocent, as there is only humor involved. On the other hand, depending on the language, they may be offensive and even attacking.

The other side of the use of humor in discussions related to race and discrimination is the increase in the awareness of the process as part of everyday life. More precisely, depending on the language and context, the jokes made at the expense of particular cultural items cans offend, more than they can amuse (Espey, 2002). Therefore the impact may be the opposite of the one intended.

However, one of the least positive influences racist humor may have on the receiving public is the development of hate (Jackson, 2005). Therefore, it is obvious that when increased publicity is made concerning a subject such as race and discrimination it becomes an issue in the public's eye. However, there are certain levels of the public which fail to take into account the underlining factors of the humor and remember only the joke related to the possible laziness of the Mexicans, the willingness of the Chinese to work for less, or even the Arab's belief in a holy religious war. From here on, the hate sentiment can develop, towards all the Arabs, all Chinese workers, and all Mexican immigrants. Therefore, it can be said that humor can have a serious downside as well.

Overall, it can be concluded that racial discrimination is part of the history of the U.S. And of its culture. At the same time however, dealing with it through humor is another part of the cultural identity of the United States. Nonetheless, this approach must be considered with moderation, as it can easily instigate to violence and hatred.


Burma, John H. "Humor as a Technique in Race Conflict." American Sociological Review, Vol. 11, No. 6. (Dec., 1946), pp. 710-715.

Espey, David. "Multiculturalism and Humor." Journal of American Studies of Turkey. 2 (1995): 3-12. 15 March 2008 http://www.bilkent.edu.tr/~jast/Number2/Espey.html

Hansen, Liane. "With Biting Humor, Pryor Explored Race in America." Remembrance. NPR. 2005. 15 March 2008. http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=5048040

Jackson, Camille. "Racist humor inspires hate." Tolerance in the News. 2005. 15 March 2008 http://www.tolerance.org/news/article_tol.jsp?id=1258

Jenkins, P. A history of the United States. New York: Palgrave, 1997

Loveman, Mara. Is "Race" Essential? American Sociological Review, Vol. 64, No. 6. (Dec., 1999), pp. 891-898.

Philipsen, Dirk. "Overview."..One of Those Evils That Will Be Very Difficult to Correct": The Permanence of Race in North America." The Journal of Negro Education, Vol. 72, No. 2. (Spring, 2003), pp. 190-192.

Tremlett. Edward. "Racism or Humor - on Drawing the Line, Columnist." The American Partisan. 2002. 15 March 2008. http://www.american-partisan.com/cols/2002/tremlett/qtr4/1015.htm

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