If people take a joke out of context and make it racist, is the joke maker racist or is the person who saw it that way racist for looking at the joke in a way it wasn’t intended? What if the joke maker is ‘ignorant’ of the racial undertones of their joke? Does that make them or their joke racist? Is it ignorance or insensitivity? Or both?
Four first-grade teachers in Southern California got in some hot water after they posted a picture of themselves at the end of last school year with a mini-noose as part of a joke they had amongst themselves.
In the interest of having context before making a judgment, the Associated Press (AP) reported the following about the teachers and the “joke”:
The noose was discovered about a month before the end of the school year when a classroom used for storage was being cleared and the principal asked teachers to look for decorations or materials they could use in their classrooms.
The teachers began making such jokes as “hang in there until summer” and “we’ve reached the end of our rope,” the report said.
The report said a teacher took the noose as they went to the teachers’ lounge and showed it to the principal.
That led to the picture being taken, and eventually the teacher tacked it to a wall in the lounge. The report said the teacher couldn’t explain why she did that, other than that she didn’t know what to do with it.
The next day, someone who didn’t like it threw it in the trash, according to the report.
Now that we all have a little more context, is this racist? Why was the noose in the storage closet in the first place? Maybe the randomness of such an object existing in a grade school closet spurred on the joke. Who knows?
Even if one determines that the joke isn’t racist — which if you believe the teachers’ story, it isn’t — how do educators not know the historical racial significance of a noose? Second, why is a noose automatically racist? The hanging of anyone, for any reason, is horrible. But plenty of people of all races have been hung throughout history. Until 1965, death by hanging was the “main form of capital punishment” in Britain.
It turns out that the principal who took the picture resigned in July, and the teachers actions were deemed “ignorant, lacked judgment, and exhibited a gross disregard for professional decorum in a school setting,” according to report released an investigator.
H/T: Fox 32 - Chicago