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-The Five Spot

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Equal Opportunity Offender

It has been a slow news day today. Sure the media world is all atwitter about the historic healthcare bill. I really don’t have too much to add except to say Yay! Especially for the kids and for my current family members who are uninsured and are navigating the joys that are free health clinics. Now if they can just hang on for a few more years until it’s implemented.

And it’s been the usual at work. Meetings after meetings. Monday morning blues. Wishes to be anywhere but here in the office. Oh, did I tell ya’ll about the joke my older white male co-worker told me? Some background, I call said coworker about an upcoming meeting on budget. I basically voiced my opinion that our manager was pretty much clueless in the ways of budget things and while we were in our meeting I was pretty much going to be doodling on my paper while my boss spoke. Well my action plan turned into the perfect segue for him to say that he would be thinking of jokes like the following:

Vladimere Putin, Queen Elizabeth and George W. Bush are all in hell. There is a red telephone. The devil informs them that they can use the phone to make one call. Putin call Russia, speaks for 10 minutes, once his call is over the devil says that call will cost him 1 million dollars. So Putin strokes out a check. Next Queen Elizabeth calls England, speaks for 30 minutes, once her call is over the devil say that call will cost her 4 million dollars. So Queen Elizabeth strokes out a check. Then George gets on the phone, calls America, speaks for 4 hours, hangs up and has a seat. Putin asks the devil why doesn’t George have to pay? Then the devil says Well since Obama has become president the United States has gone to hell, so that was a local call.

*Ba dump ching*

Are ya’ll laughing yet?

I chuckled to be polite, hung up and then sat in my cube for like 5 minutes trying to assess what just happened. I know I say this often, but for real no schoolin’ can prepare a person for this world of working! And I work for the equal employment opportunity good ole government! This ain’t even corporate America where anything goes.

Be it your Black, White, Asian, Latino, mix breed boss or coworker…you just never know what can happen in a work week! And surely my childhood stints as 1 of 4 Black people in a class never prepared me for this type of sh*t. I state this because I often fancy myself a white folks expert, but yet I can still be surprised by the things they say… I mean this joke was soooooooooo not appropriate for work. But beyond that, older white man and I are not even cool like that. Not saying that I am one of those ride or die Obama for life Black people Rum spoke about on Friday, but older white man didn’t know that!

It just doesn’t seem fair that I can’t even think to make a white people joke to a white person at here at work. Yet he does it without so much as pausing. I mean the thought doesn’t even come into or cross my mind. And that’s just part of the complexities that are woven into the minority’s experience in America. And I think it’s something that White folks just can’t grasp, or don’t want to grasp, or don’t get because hey, they don’t have to get it!

Maybe in 2042, I can call a white coworker up and tell them a joke about White people! After all
they will be a minority then and won’t be able to do anything but laugh politely. Won’t that be a historic day?

See You In Seven


Sevesteen said...

That joke could have been told with Clinton in hell, and Bush being the reason it is a local call--or pretty much any set of presidents where the administration changed parties. It is a political joke, not a racist joke. Are you saying that because I am a white man, I can't make fun of Obama like I did Bush without being branded racist? I'm Libertarian, and as far as I'm concerned, Obama is different in specifics, but well on his way to being just as bad for the US as Bush.

Amaretto said...

Hmmmm. Good comment Sevesteen.

Unfortunately because I am a Black woman, Obama is partially Black and my co worker is significantly older than I am, male and white it was hard to know where he was coming from. If more things had been equal (ie coworker was Black or if the joke has been about Clinton) then I could view it as solely political joke. But since American race relations are still convoluted and complicated things get skewed and people are still sensitive. As a member of the minority community it can be difficult not to think of race first in these type of situations.

Believe me I know that I have said some ignorant things about others and I have said things that I didn’t think were offensive but turned out to be. I think it's about knowing the audience, any good comedian would say the same. You can joke about whatever you want, but if your audience doesn't have that shared humor, isn't coming from the same reference point, the laughter can be lost. Like people who do stand up because their family says they are funny, but bomb at the comedy club. True they may be funny to their family because of that shared background.

So maybe my coworker was coming from a spirit of political joke telling… I don’t know, I do know I didn't think it was funny.

I appreciate you sharing your view and commentary!

Sevesteen said...

I can see your point--That probably isn't a joke I'd tell around Black co-workers, unless we often talked politics. I would also agree that there are things that separately aren't an indication of racism, but together could be.