In the recent viewpoint, “When Race is the Joke, the Punchline Hurts” (The Hoya, Feb. 16, 2007, A3), Brittany Suprenard criticizes the Georgetown community because of the way a few students have tossed around racial jokes and rearranged the letters on a sign in Red Square to make it read, “Slavery is Good, Chocolate is Bad.” There is no doubt that some racial jokes are inappropriate and all slavery jokes are tasteless, but these are hardly reasons to worry about racial tension on campus. The recent slavery sign may have been done by a few Georgetown students, but on a campus of 6,000 undergraduates, this should not be a cause of concern for the community as a whole. I take larger exception to Suprenard’s more general comments concerning racial jokes. Suprenard says that when she hears jokes about race, she is “expected to realize these terms are not meant to offend.” That’s because they aren’t! Is she also offended that black comedians make many of the black jokes among comics? Or is there a double standard? I wasn’t offended in August when Mike Bribiglia (COL ’00) briefly made fun of white people in his comedy routine. I personally find Dave Chappelle’s impersonations of white people hilarious. If we take racial issues so seriously that joking is banned, then race will most likely persist as a divisive issue. Suprenard posits that people will be less likely to make racial jokes in her presence. As she acknowledges, they have a good reason. When one tells a joke, there’s always the chance that the audience won’t take it in the spirit it was intended. Like Glenn Beck, many people are afraid to, “say something that somebody would take wrong,” – and that is unfortunate. A recent joke I heard conveys the problem accurately: “How does every black joke start?”By looking over your shoulder.” Whether or not you find that funny or not, it seems true, which is sad. People who overreact to racial jokes prevent others from simply having a good time and laughing at our many similarities and differences. Some racial jokes, however, don’t even make fun of a particular race, but of racists and bigots themselves. For instance, when I joke that women should stay in the kitchen, I’m not really saying that women are inferior and should stay home and cook – I’m making fun of people who really feel that way, and using sarcasm to assert my own belief in gender equality. Anyone who is offended by the above comments, or by most racial jokes, is overreacting and needs to calm down. Remember: It’s only a joke. Of course, I must concede that not all jokes are inoffensive. Some may actually be bigoted, but I suspect that these comments are rare at Georgetown. I can’t speak for everyone, but based on my own experiences, I do not feel that we live in an overly racist community. I also could not understand Suprenard’s belief that the student in a Duke lacrosse player costume was uncomfortable around her, because if anything, the costume mocks white, upper-class elitism and not African Americans. That’s not to say that everything can be a joke and nothing should be taken seriously. Rape, of course, is never funny. I would invite the wearer of the Duke lacrosse player costume to wear the same costume next Halloween and spend the night with the Georgetown lacrosse team. That person will be in the presence of three people who played high school lacrosse with Reade Seligmann, one of the lacrosse players against whom rape charges were recently dropped, as well as his younger brother Max Seligmann, who signed a letter of intent to play lacrosse for Georgetown next year. Hopefully the complete and utter lack of evidence in the case and Max’s future spot on the team will be enough to prevent students from inappropriate cheers when Duke comes to play here on March 24. But a tarred-and-feathered costume of Mike Nifong, the district attorney who filed the charges – now that could be funny. Tom Liguori is a freshman in the McDonough School of Business.

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