I CANNOT BE SUPERIOR IF YOU ARE NOT INFERIOR

Black-Deaths-Matter

In 1956 the celebrated author Robert Penn Warren wrote about racism in America. He described how there is a “national rhythm” related to race matters that sways gratuitously between “complacency and panic.” We certainly know which way the pendulum is swinging at the moment. If Warren is right in his analysis, then the question arises as to how do you find your way out of this rhythm? Warren himself spoke of needing leadership grounded in “moral identity” in order to “break out”, and God only knows what “moral identity” means in this post-Trump universe we all seem to be imprisoned in.

Another way to “break out” is to inject your intellect with new ideas and new perspectives, told by voices old or new. The most obvious voices belong to the serious people, be they historians, academics, and such like. Joseph Harker is one such example. Harker is the Guardian newspaper’s deputy opinion editor as well as the former editor and publisher of the weekly newspaper Black Briton. He recently made the following observation:

If I hear one more white person say “Black Lives Matter” I think my head will explode. The slogan, powerful when first popularised by black people after the shooting of Trayvon Martin in 2012 in the US, has now become so ubiquitous as to have lost almost all meaning. A way for people to endlessly repeat “I hate racism” while doing nothing to actually stop it…You can say “Black Lives Matter” a million times but it will change nothing…To make lasting change, we ultimately have to get off the streets and into the rooms where these decision-makers operate…Black Lives Matter is a catchy slogan. But right now, action is what really matters. – Joseph Harker, 11 Jun 2020, theguardian.com

As well as Trayvon Martin, Harker was also referring to the murder of George Floyd, the aftermath of which has unleashed an international conversation on questions of race and racism. And it seems everybody has an opinion, a voice they wish to share. Here we have the American-Korean designer Courtney Ahn with her simple but honest take on ‘white privilege’:

White privilege doesn’t mean your life hasn’t been hard, it doesn’t mean you haven’t experienced prejudice, hardship, or earned your successes, but it does mean that your life hasn’t been harder because of your skin tone. – Courtney Ahn

But there are other voices that I think should be heard too. These voices belong to comedians and satirists who, believe it or not, have also expressed deep and thoughtful pronouncements regarding the murder of George Floyd. But why listen to the non-serious people? Well, during a crisis comedians do the impossible task of finding what’s funny about a dire scenario, thus giving us permission to laugh. They also keep us informed about important issues in an entertaining and digestible way.

For example, the Marx Brothers released classic movies like Duck Soup during the Great Depression, providing a cheap laugh (in a good way) amid grave economic uncertainty. The black American stand-up Dick Gregory satirized the inequality and discrimination faced by black Americans during the height of the civil rights struggle (he also managed to back up his words with sustained activism). And in the sombre days after 9/11, the return of comedy institutions like Saturday Night Live signalled that irony was far from dead. And today we need humour more than usual, a fact that is not lost on the black actress Taylor Garron:

Even as a satirist, it’s admittedly not the easiest (or the most helpful) thing for me to find humour in police brutality, white supremacy, and the seemingly endless fight for Black people’s rights. It can feel hopeless, inappropriate, and sometimes even damaging to use comedy to bring attention to something so serious and so urgent. But at the same time, I think that using humour is an effective way to highlight the hypocrisy and cast light onto blind spots that even the best-intentioned allies can perpetuate. – Taylor Garron

With that in mind, here are a few quotes from comedians related to current events. We begin with the late-night talk show host Jimmy Kimmel who recently said something similar to Courtney Ahn:

White privilege doesn’t mean your life hasn’t been hard, it just means the colour of your skin isn’t one of the things that makes it harder. – Jimmy Kimmel

And then you have comments such as these:

The police are a reflection of a society. They’re not a rogue alien organization that came down to torment the black community. They’re enforcing segregation. Segregation is legally over, but it never ended. The police are, in some respects, a border patrol, and they patrol the border between the two Americas. We have that so that the rest of us don’t have to deal with it. Then that situation erupts, and we express our shock and indignation…The root of this problem is the society that we’ve created that contains this schism, and we don’t deal with it, because we’ve outsourced our accountability to the police…We use the police as surrogates to quarantine these racial and economic inequalities so that we don’t have to deal with them. – Jon Stewart, 15 Jun 2020, nytimes.com

It actually makes me feel good that white people are showing the level of passion for black people that they normally reserve for animals. – Larry Wilmore, 12 Jun 2020, from the TV show Real Time With Bill Maher, referring to white people joining Black Lives Matter protests

I’m mixed race. If there are reparations for slavery, I’ll owe myself a fortune. – Andy J White, 19 Jun 2020

And then you have the following videos, all featuring well known comedians, that have really helped me to understand these complex issues in a new way. I hope they help you too. As best as one can in these turbulent times, enjoy…


Dave Chappelle

Arguably the greatest living stand-up on the planet, Chappelle delivers a blistering 27-minute set that cuts straight to the brutality of the murder of an innocent African-American. At one point he muses “Why would anyone care what their favourite comedian thinks after they saw a police officer kneel on a man’s neck for 8 minutes and 46 seconds?” After listening to his passionate and urgent lament, it is clear that we should all care.


Trevor Noah

Noah, a bi-racial South African who has made it big in the States, spends 18 reflective minutes telling us about the domino effect, or how some things are more connected than you may realise. He also discusses the “unspoken contract” that exists between us all, and how this contract seems to be broken for black people in America.


Hasan Minhaj

Minhaj, a Muslim like his fellow comedian Dave Chappelle, offers many home truths in just 12 minutes about how we all perhaps need to reflect more, including Muslims as well as angsty white teenagers.


Bill Maher

You have polytheism (belief in more than one God), monotheism (belief in only one God), agnosticism (belief in sitting on some imaginary theological fence), and atheism (belief in no God). And then you have your anti-theists, a militant form of atheism where people believe that believing in God in any way is completely stupid, and they’re not afraid to speak their mind about it. Maher is just such a guy, so perhaps I, a practising Muslim, should steer clear of anything he has to say. Trouble is he often says things I happen to agree with, and this 5-minute rant about how easy it is for white people to be “helping wrong” because of the “guardians of ‘gotcha’” is a perfect example.


Honorary mentions go out to an 8-minute video of Keegan-Michael Key, one half of comedy duo Key and Peele, who, in an interview with Stephen Colbert, gives his thoughts on racism, with reference to Trevor Noah and the aforementioned “unspoken contract.”

Likewise, author Kimberly Jones very passionately explains the difference between protesting, rioting, and looting, all in under 7 minutes. She too refers to Trevor Noah and some of his earlier comments.

And finally, Dr Robin DiAngelo, author of White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard For White People To Talk About Racism, shares many of her thoughts and experiences in an interview on CNN. The 17-minute interview took place in September of 2018, but CNN consider it so relevant they recently released an extended version of it. A few selected quotes are also presented.

It takes very little to set white people off, to set us off into defensiveness. So, for many white people, the mere suggestion that white has meaning will cause us to erupt in defensiveness. For many of your listeners, the fact that I’m generalizing right now about white people, will set off the defensiveness. Individualism is a really precious ideology for white people, and we do not like to be generalized about.

It’s a kind of delusion. I think that some people have said when you’re used to 100 percent, 98 feels oppressive. As a white person I was just raised to expect the world to be mine, in absolutely any field. I see myself represented. I see myself represented in all my teachers and my curriculum and my heroes and heroines. And so, just even a suggestion that we need to make sure we’re being fair and including other people, seems to set the white collective off.

Toni Morrison beautifully argues that white people need black people. There is no white without black. I cannot be superior if you are not inferior. And so, there’s a kind of investment in those positions. And it’s the bedrock of this country. It’s maybe buried in a way that it wasn’t in the past, but it sure looks like it’s coming back up.

MUSLIMS DON’T EAT TOYS. FACT.

Nana

Why is all of society basically dumb and bad and deserving of our contempt? Maybe it’s because we all now live in a political and media Bizarro World, a world where scepticism is the default, news is indistinguishable from entertainment, and entertainers have usurped public authority from the country’s political leaders (a footballer causes the British government to do an embarrassing political U-turn – need I say more). As such, the world has been reduced to something worth completely ignoring. This is a hard time, friends, a hard time indeed. But then again, what do I know? According to the wife, nothing, nothing at all. Less than useless, so I am repeatedly informed.

So how do we fight against this tide of moral regress? I have no idea. Maybe we could all take a pause every now and then and have a damn good chuckle at the craziness of it all. Maybe we could let some funny tweets and quotes take our anxiety-filled minds off the news for just a few minutes. Well, except for the tweets that are specifically about how hard this time is now, and how terribly everybody in power is acting. It’ll probably be hard to forget about the world when you’re reading those. Sorry about that. Aside from that, some of these tweets and quotes are surreal and stupid, but I guess them’s just the times we live in, baby. As best as one can, please enjoy!

PS I’ve also added in a few cartoons from the always on-point Mr Fish, as well as links to videos featuring two up and coming Muslim comedians, begging for stardom-scraps at homogenised reality TV talent shows. As previously stated, enjoy…

Tina

Black people are getting sick. I blame institutionalized racism and elaborate handshakes. – Mark Normand, Jun 2020, referring to COVID-19

CUSTOMER: Why has your colleague got a larger plastic face covering than you? SHOP ASSISTANT: That’s the supervisor. – Glenny Rodge, Jun 2020

Do we have any feminists here tonight, by applause? Wow! A lot of single ladies. It’s so hard if you’re on a date to be like “Whoo! The future is female! Are you still gonna pay for everything? Is that deal still on the table? I’m more of a feminist in the mornings when nobody’s trying to buy me anything.” Hey ladies, maybe we should start paying for our own dinner and drinks, really let guys know we’re serious about this equality thing. Really…I’m just kidding around! Why would we do that? No. I think it’s the responsibility of a man you just met online to feed you. He’s got the option to kill you later, so I feel like that’s fair. You put in all the risk. At least get a nice meal out of it. – Bonnie McFarlane

Don’t fight with Gen Z, you can’t win. Once when I was teaching an SAT prep class, I told everyone to “quiet down” and one girl just said “Haha, ok sweater!” (because I was wearing a sweater.) Every single one laughed at me. – Paul McCallion, Jun 2020

Due to this pandemic we’ve all been sitting at home watching Netflix for 6 months. People ask me “What are you watching?” and I’m like “I’m watching my life pass me by.” – Mark Normand, Jun 2020

I am a feminist and a vegan, so you know my sense of humour is top-shelf…I love being a vegan. I consume no animals or animal by-products of any kind. I do eat eggs though, because I’m also pro-choice. – Bonnie McFarlane

I don’t understand how COVID-19 is worse than ever after we’ve tried everything, from pretending it’s over to pretending it never happened. – Zack Bornstein, Jun 2020

I used to get teased quite a lot at school because I bore a slight resemblance to a bowl of custard, but luckily I had quite a thick skin. – Olaf Falafel

I’m officially leaving Twitter. I spend way too much time on here. Take care everyone. I’ll be back in 5 minutes. – @Iovejutsu

Imagine how excited barn owls were when humans invented barns. – Nate Swick

It’s a crazy country we live in. Eventually all this will be over. That’s something to look forward to. The pandemic will end, the police brutality will end, and then we’ll be right back to school shootings. What a nation! – Mark Normand, Jun 2020

I’ve FINALLY found out what chronology is. And it’s about time. – @NickMotown

John Bolton saving his story about Trump approving of concentration camps is like an aging sitcom actress writing a tell-all about what REALLY happened on the set of Designing Women. Thanks for the info and fuck off. – Billy Eichner, Jun 2020

Looting target is un-American. The real American thing to do is loot Iraq, Iran, Kuwait, Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, Syria, Afghanistan, Sudan, Vietnam, Mexico, Cuba, Panama, Haiti, Nicaragua, Jamaica, North Korea, Guatemala, the Philippines, the Dominican Republic, Guyana, Chile, Cambodia, Angola, El Salvador. – Jaboukie Young-White, May 2020

NEWS: Growing concerns about COVID-19 spikes because of protests. ALSO NEWS: The gym is open! Go on! They miss you! Hit up Vegas on your way! – Janelle James, Jun 2020

Nobody is walking up to a statue to learn history. Now, a pedestal with a statue missing? Something happened here. Time to learn what fucked up shit this guy did that got his metal ass removed. – @SwiftOnSecurity, Jun 2020

OMG LOL, my 4-year-old just put down her Legos and said “99% of Trump voters are worse off in every way now, but still support him, taking solace in the hollow victory of communal racism as they are willingly robbed blind and stripped of their constitutional rights.” – Zack Bornstein, May 2020

People are getting angry about this pandemic. Everybody’s pent up, everybody’s worked up. Some people are mad at Asian people. Asian people love the riots, they’re like “Woo! Heat’s off us for a minute.” I saw a bunch of people online saying racist shit to Asian people. Look, if you’re gonna type a bunch of racist shit to Asian people, don’t do it from an iPhone. Have some respect for the kid who made it. – Mark Normand, Jun 2020

So, I’m married. This is the sadder part of the show…At one point I got so mad at my husband that I gave him the silent treatment for a week. At the end of it he was like “We’ve been getting along pretty good lately.” – Bonnie McFarlane

Someone bought me a pair of skinny jeans for my birthday. A guy came up to me in the street and said “Take those jeans off! You look gay.” I said “I’ll tell you what’s gay mate, you asking me to take my jeans off.” And then he kicked the shit out of me. A couple of you got a bit tense there. You thought “Oh no, a Cockney guy talking about gays. He’s going to be offensive.” You can all relax, because I’m now going to do a bit about Muslims. No, I really am, so here we go. I try not to read newspapers. I’m sure we’re all smart enough to know newspapers are not about news anymore, they’re full of shit. It’s about keeping us divided. There was this headline from the worst newspaper of them all, the Sun. The headline was “This little piggy gets removed for religious reasons.” What happened was a toy shop removed the toy pig from a farm set so they didn’t offend Muslims. Now, I don’t know if anyone here knows this but Muslims don’t eat toys. That’s a fact. That is a fact. Nobody eats toys. – Wilson Milton

The day begins when I bring my charger from the bedroom into the couch area. – Natalie Walker

The sum of the shredded cabbage multiplied by the total amount of carrot is equal to the square root of the mayonnaise. That’s Cole’s Law. – @trouteyes

They interviewed R Kelly about this virus. He was like “COVID-19? Nope, too old for me.” – Mark Normand, Jun 2020

Trump only has two modes, menacing sociopath or limp French fry that’s been sitting in the bottom of the bag soaking up all the oil…I know our brains have all melted from the constant flagrant lawlessness and overall weirdness of this administration, and nothing feels real anymore, and we’re all just programmed to move on to the next thing because Trump will inevitably do something bizarre the next day, like throw a tantrum in the Rose Garden or rub up against the flag like a horny 16-year-old at prom. – Seth Meyers, Jun 2020

Very American to decide we are bored with COVID-19 and therefore it is over. – Jeff Kasanoff, May 2020

We’re fat here in America. We did it! [Waves her arm and chants] USA! USA! Oh no, my arm is tired. That was too much exercise. You know when someone breaks up with you, and they gain weight, and that makes you really happy? I bet that’s how England feels about us. “Hey America, you look different. How’s math and science?” [Winks] – Michelle Wolf

Monster

For more laughs please check out these videos featuring comedians Usama Siddiquee and Nabil Abdul Rashid…