More thoughts on race in America and the bland, anodyne “humor” of supposed “allies”
Re-posting from a comment I made on a friend’s post regarding Tina Fey’s cake-sketch. Thank you to my friend for letting me yap all over her wall. I may be beating a dead horse at this point, but I feel like I have to try. This unwillingness to accept, acknowledge, and understand the hurt of others is awful. I want to see walls broken down even before statues of racist traitors. Once those walls come down, the statues are a foregone conclusion. In that spirit, I say this:
The only thing I can think to say to those who find Tina Fey’s “humor” humorous, is to change “people who’ve experienced racism” in the equation to “cancer patients.” We are victims of a disease that is permeating our society at speed and insidiously. This disease is KILLING US. Bluntly, without prevarication, it is KILLING US. Women, children, men — anyone it can. And then, someone who’s never had cancer, and maybe doesn’t know anyone who’s had it, decides to make a joke that isn’t taking a shot at the cancer itself, but cavalierly making fun of the people cancer is striking down. The people it has piled suffering onto. If other cancer patients said that such jokes weren’t funny — the ones still alive to say it — no one would disagree. “Cancer is a terrible thing and must not be taken lightly,” would be the rallying cry. “We must not make unfunny jokes, we must fight it! Cure it!”
So, no. Do the majority of dark-skinned folk who have to deal hourly with the disease of systemic racism find Tina Fey’s self-referential way of turning OUR PAIN into her funny, her spotlight, her chance to be “clever” on a show that has two people of color on it at most, at any given time, funny? Spot-on? Do we “get it”? Probably not. We understand humor and there’s nothing funny about a disease that kills innocent people every damn day. And has for centuries. And might for centuries more. Excuse us if we’re not rolling in the aisles over Tina Fey’s white feminist-funny. Laugh at it if YOU want, but don’t tell black people and POCs that they’re not getting something that’s funny or not seeing subtleties. Because if you can’t even acknowledge the BROAD-ASS primary colors of the battle-lines between not benefiting from racism vs. benefiting from racism, can’t see and empathize with WHY WE, BLACK PEOPLE, DON’T THINK death-due-to-skin-color is hilarious in the hands of a person with so much privilege, she can’t even back off it for five seconds to acknowledge that she has HURT PEOPLE with her “humor,” then there’s really nothing to do but agree to disagree and call it a day. I don’t see how you can be allies without that basic empathy, but seriously: you don’t have to agree with me that Tina Fey isn’t funny, just ACCEPT that you can’t understand where people like me are coming from. Just as I can’t understand the POV of “haha, I’m privileged and eat cake while people die, and it’s funny, ’cause it’s true!” We’ll do our best not to invalidate each other while engaging, and not claiming the other lacks subtlety because our POVs differ. At this point, that may be all there is to do, sad though that makes me and surely others.
Is Tina Fey directly making fun of innocents who’ve been murdered over the course of centuries and as recently as within the hour of her performance? Not intentionally. But is her “humor” entirely dependent on the fact that RACISM IS KILLING DARK PEOPLE HOURLY, AT LEAST, and it’s not yet a priority in this world and may never be? YES. YES, IT IS. So, laugh. I’m not saying you shouldn’t. But know and accept that the foundation of what you find funny, at least half this planet would find horrifying and tragic. And close to home. And frightening because they may be the next butt of some privileged person’s “sketch.”
Laugh. But don’t expect us to join you. Don’t expect our gratitude and admiration, our forbearance and understanding, our continued free-pass to be amused at passive racism and the baggage of a violent, evil history that NO ONE has made amends for, with a smile and a soft-shoe routine. Because that’s not gonna happen. Peace, and once again, enjoy your “discourse” and enjoy your sheet cake.