Two episodes into an animated show called Rick and Morty, I had to stop and evaluate a scene that immediately bothered me.
The main characters were on a plane with bombs, and chose to wear ‘Muslim’ disguises and yell Allahu Akbar before detonating. What was the purpose of that? Nothing, plot-wise. Satirically, it had no value. It was simply meant to add a humorous element. Yet in the process, it reinforced harmful negative stereotypes about Muslims and terrorism.
The problem is rooted in the fact that many individuals find this sort of joke funny, because they don’t see the harm in it (some find the harm funny as well but that’s a different topic).
After all, how could mere words, a joke on social media or a funny scene in a cartoon harm actual people?
Goddamn snowflakes. Can’t even take a joke.
In fact, I was in this exact situation just a few months ago. I ran into a friend on Fry, and she told me to save her from her date. The reason? She had refused another drink, and he had felt the need to ask and make sure she “wasn’t ISIS”. This man, who happens to be in our class and maybe hasn’t earned protection of his identity but will receive it here, thought this joke was harmless. Being me, I immediately walked over with my friend and calmly asked him about it. He was shocked that she was even offended.
Gently, I began explaining how our words become bullets, knives and most importantly, justification, in the hands of certain people. I talked about “scared” cops shooting Black people, and stereotypes of the angry Black man. I explained that Muslims are frequently victims of hate crimes, and how the association he had made between a brown woman who he did not even know was Muslim and a terrorist group is the same kind of association that kills Muslims, Hindus and Sikhs in the U.S.
I guess my long-winded point is this: words have power. Satire based in race or religion can be powerful as well, making caution all the more important. Letting our guard down means letting pass without opposal comments such as this one from veteran comedian Tina Fey:
“Like, I hope they (Neo-nazis) try it (head to New York City) and get the ham salad kicked out of them by a bunch of drag queens. ‘Cause you know what a drag queen still is? A six-foot-four black man.”