“It Was Just a Joke”

When I was younger, I used to believe that racism could not be found in most places, and especially not in my hometown of Princeton, New Jersey. Now, I realize how wrong I was. Not only is racism expressed in violent forms all over the US, but it is also expressed everywhere in smaller, less overt ways. At my school I have heard comments ranging from “Well, no duh they did well on that test! They’re Asian!” to “Yo mama’s so ugly that, with her face, she could blow up an entire country. Oh wait, she’s Muslim, so she already did that!” Though neither comment was directed at me, I still felt somewhat disturbed after hearing them. The first is obviously more innocent than the second, but neither of them is really an okay thing to say. The former might seem like a compliment at first, but if you really think about it, does someone’s telling you that you did well only because of your race make you feel good? That comment completely takes away the sense that you completed something with YOUR hard work and skill, and instead makes you feel as if your intelligence is a result of your racial background alone. The latter of the two examples I gave was obviously not an appropriate thing to say, as it is basically stating that all Muslims MUST be terrorists just because a few are. It is statements like these that confine people to doing one type of thing because it places them in a box grounded in stereotypes, where they feel obligated to conform to the stereotype and aren’t free to truly be themselves.

I’ll admit, when I heard that comment, I knew it was not meant in a mean or hurtful way, and the person who said it quickly apologized, saying, “Sorry, sorry! I didn’t mean it like that! It was just a joke!” But these “jokes” can hurt people. They are as cruel as saying, “You don’t have a choice in your life because of how you were born. You’re going to be this or do that just because that’s what people associate your race, religion, or sex with,” and this is not okay because we all deserve the freedom to be who we want to be.