I’m probably just behaving like a silly Danish senior citizen, but a reader offended me the other day.
A fellow elder emailed me what he considered a joke about black people and brown people going to heaven where they stole the Pearly Gates.
I was doubly irked. My children and grandchildren are part Mexican. And the careless jokester thought I was the sort of oddball who would enjoy a joke that paints my little peeps as thieves because of what color they are.
When I emailed the guy back and called him out on it, he asked me an allegedly naive question, one that I frequently hear from people my age. Bear in mind, racist jokes were rampant during our childhood in the 1940s and 1950s. Jokes at the expense of minority groups (and of women) were constant themes in the humor of the movies, the radio and in everyday life among people we knew back then — the white people we knew then.
And yes, before I learned better about 60 years ago, I used to laugh at some of those jokes.
So when I emailed the guy, telling him that it’s long past the time when we should have cleaned up our acts — and our jokes — he responded with a common defense among members of my age group. He wanted to know why English or Danish jokes are generally tolerated in today’s world while jokes about black and brown people are still considered offensive.
We are dealing with insult humor, and that’s a tricky business. It’s partly a matter of whether it’s a friend and you are truly and plainly kidding.
For instance, if my friends and family joke with me about my stunning lack of hair, I take that as good-natured and even affectionate. But if you blatantly hate my guts and call me “baldy,” then the word may sting a bit (though I should be an adult and feel sorry for someone so overhaired).
But why can an ethnic joke be tolerable if it is about people like me who are part Danish — while such a gag usually offends people of color?
The difference is that few people in the world still believe that Danish or other Western European peoples are racially inferior. They are not routinely accused of being capable of stealing the Pearly Gates. Deserve it or not, they have arrived.
But there are quite a few white inhabitants of this country who still look down on other races. So a joke based on that ignorant view is still uncouth.
Meanwhile, sad to say, most of these black and brown (and dumb-female) jokes that are sent to me are sent by my fellow senior citizens. That’s ironic because there are quite a few young twits in this country who believe that we elders are pretty much washed up and stupid.
We are laughed at in ways that are unflattering. And some age bigots among young comics on television make jokes about how gross it is that anyone past 50 would have the poor taste and the gall to enjoy sex.
I’m not saying that some young twits think we would steal the Pearly Gates, but we might rust them if we did.
Meanwhile, if you respect me no matter what my age and are plainly just kidding, then have at me with your geezer jokes — but only if you agree that bald and old are not the afflictions of inferior beings.
And yes, I consider myself a shining example of the elderly, but it’s probably just an effect created by the yellow sun bouncing off my white head.Contact columnist Bill Hall at email@example.com or 1012 Prospect Ave., Lewiston, ID 83501.