A Point of View By Paul V. Montesino

A Point of View © 1996
The Jokes that “ain’t”.
By Paul V. Montesino PhD, MBA, ICCP.

In the late nineteen sixties and early seventies, the country was still under the erroneous spell that it was OK to make racial jokes…about others. Not only were they frequent and tasteless, but we were supposed to take them, and give them, in stride. There was the previously disclosed question asked my supervisor at my new job when she decided to correlate my Cuban national origin with a well-known herb: “Do you smoke marihuana?” She asked laughing, the rest of the employees joining in the chorus… or else. To this day I haven’t tried that herb even as a curiosity.

Boston bank officers meeting for lunch to improve business relations, used to kid each other using racially stereotyped jokes typical of the day and we weren’t supposed to get upset no matter how outrageous. It was all part of the game never away from the menu.

The country, of course, grew up. Supervisors who asked questions like the “herb” comment mentioned above were penalized, even fired.

Recently, the Chancellor of Purdue University Northwest added an off de cuff improvised Asian ethnic joke to one of his speeches welcoming an Honorary Doctor degree recipient. This was a high-level educational official addressing a high-level recipient. But obviously, the sin is the same regardless of its organizational level.

There are countless races, religious beliefs, and nationalities represented at that university. To select one group for jest is offensive. I am sure that those groups do not receive a break in their rooms and tuition for belonging to one group. As a result of this snafu that the Chancellor was prompted to apologize for, the Faculty Senate at that university has requested his resignation. Stand by. We have not heard the last about this incident. If he has to step down it will not be funny.

Jokes, improvised or not, have no place in our relationships. Some folks have the misguided notion that adding racial epithets to a comment loses its offensive flavor when we dress them with humor, even a winking of the eye. Well, they don’t folks.

Most, if not all, of the humor addressed against others is part of the erroneous assumption that we are responsible for the condition being made fun of… foreign accents, nationalities, sexual orientations, gender, race, family religious beliefs, intelligence, seem to attract the insensitive joker.

When I grew up, physical disabilities were weaknesses, and disabled children were the targets of painful jokes. Calling another person “gay” was an offense and being gay forced many to hide their sexual orientation in the infamous closet because it could be costly to one’s reputation. Today, gayness is not a negative orientation. We have openly gay political, business, and entertainment individuals. And, of course, same-sex marriage is the law of the land, of many lands I’d say.

This brings me back to the title of this article: “Jokes ain’t.” They shouldn’t attack or offend others even in jest. Jokes are supposed to be self-directed comments, not targeted against anybody else.

And That is My point of view Today. So long.

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