What does racism mean any more anyway? A year ago, I was writing about how easy it is to name something as racist. Slightly more recently, NPR had a nice piece, highlighting how the phrase “That’s racist!” has become a punch line, instead of a challenge to a person’s humanity.
Making racism into a joke reintroduces it into the national conversation, yes, but to what end? Does it open up conversations about experience, historical injustice, and inequality? Or does it make it seem even more outdated and irrelevant?
If racism is a joke, instead of a serious indictment, does that mean that the American race debate has somehow changed? How many people in the US still believe that racism exists and needs to be addressed? How many people still think that affirmative action has, or ever had, a legitimate purpose? Having a sense of humor about race is great, as long as you can be serious about it, too.