People often use jokes to test the boundaries of what is considered offensive. Under the guise of humor, the joke teller can attempt to minimize any offense taken by defending the humor as “just a joke.”
Clearly, an attempt to belittle or demean others as a form of humor is distasteful. And in every culture, one can encounter humor that, to be understood, relies on prejudice—whether that prejudice be about race, sexual orientation, gender, ethnicity, or nationality. What others might find funny, some find tasteless and indefensible. Simply because an offensive statement is clothed as a joke does not make the joke funny nor does it mean that the joke teller cannot be confronted by someone who finds the comment offensive or inappropriate. Even so, confronting someone about an inappropriate joke can present a social risk; the person being called out is likely to feel defensive and retaliate against whomever exposed them.
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For this Discussion, you will draw on your own experience and social psychology theory to examine responses to prejudiced comments.
- Review the Learning Resources for this week and think about how social psychology theory and research explains the responses that people have when they hear prejudiced comments.
- Recall a time when you have been present when someone made a racist comment or “joke,” and no one confronted the joke teller.
Post a time when you have been present when someone made a prejudiced “joke” or comment, and no one confronted the joke teller. Were you offended by the joke? How can a decision to stay mute be explained by social psychology theory?
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