Yo, do we have to decide if something is “racist” or not?

From the website Yo, Is This Racist? 

“Anonymous wrote:  Instead of calling someone a racist and peacing out [like you] I’m trying to explain why they’re racist.  They aren’t getting it.

YITR Answered:   Well, good luck!”

On the otherwise humor-driven site run by photographer Andrew Ti, this is one of the ‘straightest’ answers I have seen.

Paying attention to and trying to challenge racism does often feel less than humorous— it can seem endless, futile, and exhausting.  One wishes for time (or a lifetime) off, but there’s really no un-seeing white supremacy once one has become aware of its pervasiveness in U.S. society.  But at one of the recent Conversation Salons sponsored by WWHAT’S UP?! Pittsburgh, the topic was how humor can certainly be used in discriminatory ways but can also be effective in deflecting discrimination.

So, humor is an antidote one needs to keep readily to hand.  But humor can be tricky and lead right back to bigotry, divisiveness, and dehumanizing others…

That’s why I I love “Yo, Is This Racist?”

The blog is hilarious.  It is unapologetic, unforgiving, and consistently brash.  Just like institutional racism and hierarchical ideologies justifying inequality, the blog works by not asking  anyone’s permission and not trying to make anyone feel good.  Instead, YITR is very matter of fact.  If you have to ask the question, the answer is yes.  Move on.  YITR is not there to enlighten, raise consciousness, empower readers— but it does allow one to let off a little steam and laugh at the silliness of racist discourse.

So:  If you find yourself asking, “Is this racist?,” assume the answer is yes.  The more interesting and important things to ask are, “What does this tell me about the world?  About my place in the world?  About my relationship to other people?  About privilege, assumptions?  About the possibility of common humanity, etc.?”

Answering those questions is a good use of our time.

For a cathartic laugh, meanwhile, visit the YITR blog for the inevitable response accompanied by the usual profanities.

Writer:  anupama jain

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