One of the shows my kids keep talking about, and I keep meaning to get to, is It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia. Apparently it is brilliant, edgy, goofy, the best show on TV, etc etc. But it is hard to find, and I don't watch a lot of TV, and so I have never seen it. Why am I talking about it now, then? Because one of the early episodes (it may even be the pilot) sounded super funny when my kids were telling me about it, and the idea is interesting. The episode is called, The Gang Gets Racist.I like the idea of racial-based humour (wait -- don't hang up. I will explain) because it shows that we as a society are loosening up a bit, trying hard to get a sense of perspective on our component parts. Getting rid of racism may be a first step (and no, we haven't quite managed that). But getting rid of, or at least laughing at, a knee-jerk humorless intolerance towards seemingly racist language is a good idea for a second step. Clear? I'll try to concretize. I am not a fan of the n-bomb (is it capped? N-Bomb? I have never seen it written down. Since it can only be derogatory, there'd be no point in capitalizing it, would there?) But occasionally talking about the n bomb -- shaking our heads at it, even simply referring to it as the n bomb -- is better, I think, than shutting our eyes to the situation and talking about the weather instead. The witness who describes a suspect to the cops as male, early twenties, two hundred pounds, shaved head, white t shirt, black jeans -- and neglects to mention the fact that the suspect happened to be Asian as well -- is not helping. Self-conscious correctness is one step removed from racism.
Speaking of Asians (wait again -- this is not going to be a joke), I was driving my son Ed and his friend Frederico to the movies a few nights ago, and Frederico said, Why do Asians only drive Asian cars?
I didn't know what to say. We were at a stop light. The Honda van next to us was driven by a lady with Asian features. This hardly seemed conclusive.Ford and GM are making lots of money in China right now, I said.
I was feeling uncomfortable with this conversation -- perhaps a sign of my own racism.I don't know that you have that entirely right, Frederico, I said. First, most the Japanese and Korean cars you see here are made in North America. Second, Toyota had to recall a whole bunch of cars last year. Third, the idea of Asians as geniuses is --
At this point we arrived at the mall, and Ed climbed out hurriedly. Frederico followed. For the rest of the day I played race detective, furtively checking out other drivers. (I don't know about Asian Canadians, but as a European Canadian I felt kind of stupid.) Next time I see Frederico I'll tell him about the Hummer driver with the South Korean flag decal on his bumper sticker. Bastard cut me off and then drove for ten blocks with his blinker on....