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I’m not offended

Christie Bolsen | Thursday, April 7, 2005

One hazy night in London, I mistakenly boarded bus number 23 without my lovely roommates. When they realized back in Flat 16 that I was missing, they “organized” a makeshift “search party” that consisted of them wandering around in a Strongbow-induced stupor, asking randoms if anyone had seen “the Asian.”

Judging by the offended reaction of passers-by, we apparently find ethnic jokes a bit too funny. I must have the sensitivity of a rhinoceros when it comes to the fine nuances of the diversity debate, since it’s okay for people to refer to me as “the Asian,” or to make me keep the cups score because “my kind” is “good with numbers,” or to tell me that we’re only good at Little League and hot dog eating contests.

We’re all careful about being politically correct, so saying you hate Asians in Scholastic is not received as humorous, and Latin Expressions emcees are perceived as alienating non-Latinos. Is it really the people making good-natured jokes we should worry about, when we know for a fact that they are not at all racist? Please, let’s rally our efforts instead against the boorishly ignorant, like people who try to find out what kind of Asian you are by asking, “Where are you from?” If you really want to know what kind of Asian someone is, the effectiveness of this question is clearly dependent on the assumption that we all recently stepped off a plane from Asia. I’m from Ohio. Back off.

I don’t know what the world is coming to when we can’t all gather round and have a nice hearty laugh at an ethnic joke. Sure, Latin Expressions featured Latino pride, sometimes at the expense of white people. Maybe it went too far, I’m obviously one of the least qualified people to judge that, but isn’t it better than the alternative of pretending we’re all the same? It’s funny because it’s true – when someone has a “you don’t understand us” attitude they’re usually right. I don’t know what it’s like to feel uncomfortable around white people, like one of my Mexican friends who expressed this sentiment to me, so I really don’t understand her situation. Let people have their harmless fun.

So the next time someone makes an inappropriate joke about your pocket abacus, it’s probably not because they’re prejudiced or because they’re trying to build up more barriers between ethnic groups. There’s already underlying differences in place, so commenting on them doesn’t mean you created them, it means you can acknowledge and maybe celebrate them. Discrimination is not funny; ridiculous stereotypes about minorities are.

But seriously, guys … stop making me keep score.