on race, humor, and subjectivity.

if you laugh, you're racist!

i don’t know if you’ve been peeking at it or not, but each year here at the blog, i have what i call a Black History Month Extravaganza.  this consists of made up black history month facts and fictional interviews with black celebrities (or their body parts).  this year i took the party to the Twitterverse and some random tweets there led to this:  a Little Known Black History Month Facts blog that i started on tumblr.  again, made up black history month facts.  all in fun.

not everybody found it funny, which was not surprising to me.  humor is a very subjective thing, and my brand ain’t for everybody.  i get that.  i got a total of two angry comments left for me there, one of which was anonymous.  the other had an email address associated with it, so after he (i am assuming this person is male given his name) left his initial comment, i reached out to him, thanking him for his comment, and encouraging any further questions or comments he may have.  i don’t give a shit about pissing people off, but it’s not (always) my aim; and issues of humor and race have always interested me, so if he wanted constructive discussion, i was very up to giving it to him.  i won’t lie:  my first instinct was to be an asshole about it and fire off some smart-ass ‘satire, motherfucker, do you understand it??!’ response.  but i’m civil sometimes.  welcome to one of those times.

i want to share the exchange with you and welcome your thoughts and opinions on the matter.  largely because the gentleman complaining demanded challenged asked me to.  read his initial email here, my initial response here, and his reply to that response here.  what follows is my response to his response.  confused yet?  lol.  it’s kind of repetitive but…that sort of felt necessary.  mayhaps you’ll see why.

Dear ________,

Thank you again for your response.  I feel that we’ve embarked on an engaging and enlightening discussion here.  I’d like to respond to some specific points that you made in your last email.

If that is your real name(please Brokey McPoverty?)  try putting REAL FACTS about BLACK PEOPLE doing positive things!   The inventions, creations, discoveries that have been kept secret far too long from AFRICAN AMERICAN or BLACK people.    Try teaching them about Crispis, George Washington Carver, President Obama, Malcolm, Harriett Tubman or many of the positive people.

…I’d assume that it’s pretty obvious that my birth name is not actually Brokey McPoverty.  That is an internet moniker, a funny little name intended for nothing more than a few giggles here and there.  That is also the intent of my Little Known Black History Facts blog, and again, that’s something that I would assume is evident; so far, I haven’t had to explicitly state that to anyone.  It’s satirical.  There are no actual facts here because that’s not the point.  The blog itself was borne of a joke, not a desire to educate anyone.  The blog is not entitled “Little Known Pretend Black History Facts” because I don’t want to insult readers by assuming that they are unable to detect sarcasm/humor/jokes/etc.  That, in my opinion, would also take away from the humor therein.  Again:  There are no legitimate facts because that is neither the point nor the purpose of the site (incidentally, if I really was going to teach about unknown black figures, Harriet Tubman and Malcolm X would be the last folks I’d choose since they are among the few that schools become obsessed with during black history month).

As a Black Man or so you say;  You should not promote the usual bias that non-blacks have of us.   you are just adding fuel to the fire!   And what makes it worse is that we are helping without really knowing that we are the brunt of our own jokes…How sad.

Lol.  Firstly, I never said that I was a man, and I find it interesting that you assume so.  I am a woman, and I am black whether you choose to believe it or not.  Secondly, this is where we differ; I have somewhat of a post-modern view of race and subjectivity, one that values individuality as much as it does culture/race/blackness/etc.  Example:  I know some black folk who will not, under any circumstances, eat fried chicken or  bananas in the presence of white people because they don’t want to look like stereotypes.  My problem with this:  what if I genuinely like fried chicken or bananas?  How unfair is it that even after my predecessors have fought and died to give me the right to eat anywhere that I want regardless of my race, I still can’t truly do it?  How long am I expected to let my race continue to restrict and deny me the most basic things?  This is not something I want for myself, and much like I will eat a piece of fried chicken anywhere I please regardless of company, also will I make a few statements that I personally find funny on the internet, regardless of who may see it.  I can’t control what people are going to think of me or you by putting up or taking down a website.  If a few one liners will make a white person think that all black people are stupid and shiftless, then that white person needs a whole lot more help than not seeing this website will provide.  I am not promoting anything.  I am very simply laughing and making the same jokes online that I  do in my actual life, behind closed doors.  These are my people, too.  I have the cultural authority to shake my head at how ridiculous we can be, and I have the right to do that in the public eye.

There was a time when I would have had the same response to a site like LKBHF that you did, but since then, I have grown tired.  Not of being black.  Not of fighting on behalf of my race.  But of living my life according to what white folks, or any other folks, think of me and what I do.  At this point in my life, though, I know the importance of picking my battles, and lashing out at other black people joking around on the internet is not one worthwhile to me.  That’s not how I choose to effect change; I do that via volunteering, education, community involvement, and speaking out, battlegrounds that yield far weightier results than taking down a satirical website.

Remember:   If you are not part of the solution them your are part of the problem.  If you were attacked, almost run down with a car by a group of caucasians saying “Kill The NIgger” then you too might feel the same way as I do!

You’re assuming too much here.  How can you know whether or not I’m “part of the solution?”  How do you know what I’ve done or am a part of in the way of activism?  This one website does not define me, my interests, or my status as “part of the problem.”  As previously stated, I am active in my community and attempt to effect change when and where I can/deem necessary.  Also, as far as you stating that I may feel the way you do if I’d gone through XYZ…I’m fairly sure that it’s impossible for you to know exactly what I have been through and dealt with in my life or what effect they’ve had on me.  I feel that the implication here is that I’ve never experienced anything hurtful on the basis of my race, that I’ve never had to struggle or deal with racism head on, and that if I had, I wouldn’t do anything as callous as making race-based jokes in the view of white folk.  If this is indeed the implication, it is wholly unfounded and untrue.  I have never been run down by a care full of white folks yelling “kill the nigger,” this is true.  But I did grow up and still reside in the largely white city of Louisville in the even whiter state of Kentucky.  I was one of only 20 other black people at a very small, very southern, very racist southern college.  I know what it’s like to have a group of frat boys singing “Dixie” across the street from my dorm while wrapped in Confederate flags and what it’s like to have to comfort a friend after he’s had the word “nigger” scrawled across his door.  I know what it’s like to be faced with squaring off against both history and the present to make it so that things like this don’t happen anymore in our world, see how hard a fight it is, and decide to take it up anyway.  The point that I’m making is that I know what racism  feels like, no matter what form it came in.  And I still don’t feel the way you do.  I did, but I grew out of it.  And that’s okay, because I have that right as an individual.

I will add I do have caucasian friends who understand my opinion and my view of this web site.

Lol.  I feel compelled to note that I am not in the least moved by or interested in what your white companions think of the site, and am a little confused at what credibility you think that lends your argument.  If white people are offended by it, then it really must be offensive?  Is that the implication?  To this, I can only say again that I cannot let the opinions of a race of people–any race–govern what I do, what I think, the art I make, or the jokes I make.  This is essentially my entire argument.  I’m tired of living a certain way because of what white folk will think. If anyone finds reason in any of the jokes I’ve made to think a particular thought about black people, they’ll find it in anything because that sort of thinking is rooted in them, and the way to get rid of a tree is not to simply cut down branches.  You have to dig down and kill those roots.  Taking down this website is just plucking leaves.  If you/we want to make real change, we’ll have to work harder.

In conclusion:  as a black woman, I have the cultural authority to make the jokes that I have been making, and it is sad to me that I should be deprived of one of the most essential human rights that exist–the right to laugh, to have autonomy over my own sense of humor–because of who may be watching and what they may think.  The site will stay up and continue to be updated, and per your suggestion/invitation, I will be putting this exchange up at my main blog, https://brokeymcpoverty.wordpress.com, and invite others to weigh in.

If any of this response seemed curt or short, I apologize; that is not my intent.  I am very thankful for this chance at open dialogue, and welcome further discussion.


see?  i was nice.

14 responses to “on race, humor, and subjectivity.

  1. Brokey, you’re one of the funniest people on all of TEH INTARNETWEBS, and your satire cuts to the (funny) bone.

    F this D if he can’t take J.

  2. I do not believe as he does.

  3. Meh.

    Folks spend way too much time on the internet trying to act like authorities on issues. This is an exchange of ideas and yes, humor. So… do you, brokey, do you (damn, I HATE when people say that, but it was appropriate).

    I say this guy should do some extra community service if he feels like you’re dropping the ball. It’s a waste of time to go back and forth. There’s no one saying you have to like LKBHF, but trying to alter the author’s opinion? Fruitless. Start your own blog with “quality” Black history facts and be done with it.

    ::shrug:: Maybe I’m simplifying this too much.

  4. I’m White and …

    I lost my thought.

  5. Litey, when don’t you lose your thought, fam? lol

    Ok, here’s the beauty of the intrawebs… it’s like books, music, tv, theatre, art… don’t like it? Don’t look. Freedom of speech, freedom of choice to ignore that speech. Kinda cool how that works.

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  7. so i’ll make my second point here.

    “I will add I do have caucasian friends who understand my opinion and my view of this web site. ”

    i’m not sure what type of validation this is supposed to give to the argument.
    ..this, which seems to be seeking validation in others, is even more evidence to a mindset which can be self-destructive.
    if in seeing the website your friends think as you do, they also have a lot to learn to say the least.
    by no means does their race make them experts on what people will think when they see the website.

    i also have to agree with load of assumptions on what brokey mcpoverty has experienced or does for the black community has no basis and frankly weakens the argument even more so.

    again, the jokes on the website do not define what anyone is capable of unless of course a person allows it to. they are just jokes.

  8. AmyMay …

  9. I realize that all of these comments come from places of pain, anger and frustration. And I can see and respect both view points. I would just like to add my little perspective…

    I became disabled 5 years ago. I spend 20 hours each day in bed, feeling like I’m rotting from the inside out. The computer keeps me from checking out. Today I stumbled onto this site, and it has kept me laughing for several hours.

    Humor may not lead to social justice (a premise I don’t truly accept). But it has certainly relieved this human’s suffering. And I thank you for that.

  10. LOL so ridiculous. I don’t even know how you had the patience to respond to such a wackjob string of comments. The random caps were enough to turn me off. I have no patience for people who can’t catch the most obvious of satires.

  11. “Try teaching them about Crispis, George Washington Carver, President Obama, Malcolm, Harriett Tubman”

    …. LOL what the fuck? I thought this part was a joke, naming like the 4 most obvious black people you can think of, including a guy who’s only famous for getting shot. There’s more to black history than Harriet Tubman. SMH/wtf

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  13. Don’t you love flaming idiots?

    I honestly wonder if Sir Douchebag is related to Ward Connerly and is trying to negate that fact by being so pro-black, he’s hurting himself in the process.

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