Not so Funny: How we Fuel Intolerance in our Daily Lives

by Waleed Ali Khan

A friend of mine once said that I should become a script writer for South Park. Yes, I am infamous for racist jokes; they always seem to crack everyone up. They are also a way for someone with limited sense of humor such as myself to make everyone laugh. Yet I don’t really find it funny when the media or my friends make fun of Pakistanis or Muslims. No matter how good a sport you are, making fun of your heritage and race can never feel good.

I know, we all think that we incapable of being truly racist. I mean we still hang out with people from all races, and think we don’t treat them differently. We overestimate ourselves. In fact, we overestimate the good that is built in to our humanity. My ethics professor says that ethics can is learnt, and that it is a person’s conscious decisions that makes one ethical.

Let’s face it – we all get our kicks from jokes based on cultural prejudices. The Lahore-Karachi jokes, the terrorist Pakistani/Arab Jokes, the African American “hood” jokes etc. We think of them as nothing more than jokes. What we don’t realize is that these jokes are spread again and again, until the cement themselves into our general stereotype. Aren’t you more likely to think that a terrorist attack is done by a Muslim? or that a stingy person is more likely a Jew? Or that a person from Karachi is less Pakistani than a Lahori? I am not saying that humor is responsible for this, but it can propagate this. I am sure a part of you believes that the person cracking that racist joke believes in what he or she saying to a small degree.

The same goes with how we are just “okay” with intolerance when it comes to suffering of others. We have become “okay” with migrant workers being treated as ghosts in blue as we walk between classes. We have become okay with them not being able to go movies, or be integrated into our daily lives. These little things can truly make the world better. Preposterous lapses in our humanity such as islamophobia or antisemistism don’t happen over night. Gradual increases in our intolerance makes us forget why things get so far.

Yet, when Muslims are mistreated, we believe that we are being insulted. I would like to direct you to the video that has Keith Olbermann addressing the “Ground Zero” mosque issue:

I feel like a hypocrite writing this, because I am a part of the problem I have described above. Therefore, all I am saying is that one should be conscious when one does such actions, because they are just a microcosm of something much bigger. Being politically correct really does do wonders.