Laugh to Keep from Crying

This story. If you don’t want to click through, a white female news anchor watches a cute gorilla make faces at a camera and then tells her black male co-anchor that he “kinda looks like” him.

That’s bad enough, and she was internet-dragged for it (and made a tearful apology the next day, which he verbally accepted, and she will never think about it again).

But what I want to focus on is his response. He laughed, and said, “he kinda does.”

Now, I don’t need to teach you the history of black people being compared to various ape-like creatures. This man doesn’t need that explained to him in any way (although that lady surely does). Those stereotypical images are so ingrained in our national psyche that this person probably didn’t even think before she made the association (which just makes it a different kind of bad, to be clear).

I am focusing on this because, not to get too deep, but I think about my own experiences in various educational institutions, where classmates or teachers have done some really messed up things, and my response was usually just to laugh.

The sad thing is, though I remember a lot of these, how many occurred that I just blocked out of my mind because it was easier to go along to get along?

The time my history teacher, for no particular reason, made a point of describing how, during his time in the Army, black solders walked “with a hippity-hop,” and, far worse, how everyone turned to look at me to see what I thought, but no one said anything. What could I have really done? He was beloved. And frankly, I liked him – I still do, I saw him briefly last year. It’s easier just to laugh.

There are a few studies on racial microaggressions, cataloguing experiences, but the laughter, I think is an interesting subject. As I bat around ideas to fully focus on when it becomes dissertation time, the exploration of laughter as both protection for the marginalized and weapons for the majoritized is a topic I feel deserves further scrutiny.

We’ll see if there’s something I can do with this.