Tag Archives: jokes

When someone’s offended you tell them to “take a joke.”

  Episode #9: When someone’s offended you tell them to “take a joke”.

 With Australia’s laid back culture, it’s easy to dismiss those offended as uptight people who ‘can’t take a joke’. This often masks the real meaning behind what is said, or intended. The backlash of pointing out that a ‘joke’ is racist can lead to accusations of not being ‘Aussie’ enough. Being light-hearted does not mean accepting racism. Indeed, being Aussie means accepting and enjoying the multi-ethnic diversity of the culture of migrants that make up the modern Australian landscape.Casual Racism_9_joke (1)

I’m Not Racist, but…

Coming from our blog last year about “10 signs you might be a casual racist” we have designed some easy to use step-by-step infographics you can use and share around. Here is part 1 of the new visual series:

Episode #1: “I’m not racist, but…”

Casual Racism_1_Racist

Interview Transcript: Jen Carnovale



All Together Now: Jen, you’re a comedian and you are going to be working with All Together Now on our Firth Year Anniversary [event], so we would just like to discuss with you a bit about why you wanted to be involved in the anniversary celebrations?

Jen: Well Jennifer Wong originally told me about it all and I think it is important. I like to talk about things on stage with comedy that I think need to be discussed and aren’t, and sometimes people joke off and pretend that they don’t–that they aren’t problems.

But obviously racism in Australia is [a problem] and it is nice to sort of bring it to thj3ce forefront and to be part of it. I think it is important to be part of it, you know? It is easy to sit quietly and be like ‘Well I don’t think racism is good’ and all those types of things. But, unless you are actually doing something sometimes it is kind of pointless.

All Together Now: How do you then incorporate racism into your comedic acts or other taboo issues?

Jen: I like to talk about stuff people won’t talk about and so, I talk about things that have happened to me personally or my family and I just discuss it in a normal way like how we are talking now. I don’t like making them a big deal on stage because that doesn’t help to open the conversation up. So, I like to talk about bigger topics the same way I talk about going for coffee, cause then it is just speaking about it in an effortless way. That’s kind of how it should be brought up I think.

All Together Now: So, people are more receptive to the discussion then if you were, like, yelling or talking at them?

Jen: Yeah, I don’t like to scream it at people because I think, I mean what’s the point? Because if you are being that aggressive people who don’t agree with you are going to switch off to the conversation. So, if you just talk about it in a relaxed way at least it might trigger something in someone’s brain or they might talk about it with someone else or it just kind of puts it on the table as a conversation that should be had.

All Together Now: So, how have you personally dealt with incidents of racism in your life?

Jen: Well, we were talking about this before, I look white. I am white. I have European parents. They are from Hungary and Italy. They both came to Australia on boats when they were younger. And in High School one of my them very close male friends didn’t know that and I didn’t think it was a big deal…It came up one day because someone made a racist comment about someone else coming on a boat.

I said, “Oh, both my parents actually same here on boats you know?” And he found that at and he literally stopped speaking to me. And it wasn’t even casual jokey racism where you may question like ‘Oh he’s being silly and trying to tease me and it’s kind of hurting.’ No—it was…blatant! He was just like, “Oh my god!  You are gross! I had no idea you were one of those people.” I was so young I didn’t know what to do with it.

All Together Now: It’s the shock.

Jen: Yeah! Cause I was like ‘If I’m getting this, looking how I look from someone who I considered quite a good friend…then what the hell is everyone else getting?’ Do you know what I mean?

All Together Now: Yeah, yeah.

All Together Now: It was weird. He’s a moron and obviously hated himself a lot but yeah I just didn’t know what to do with it. It was the weirdest—it was really odd.

All Together Now: It is very unusual when someone is so open and blatant about it.

Jen: Yeah, that’s what’s so shocking!

All Together Now: [It’s like] ‘What? I can’t believe this is happening?!”

Jen: In the beginning, [I was thinking] ‘Oh, it’s just a weird joke that he’s not letting go of?’ The logical part of your brain would be: Why would someone’s opinion of you do a 360 purely because something that doesn’t really matter to me? But then you realise: Oh it matters to them, in a really strange way that I don’t get in any way.

I just didn’t know what to do with it as a young person. It was just gross.

All Together Now: Obviously, how important do you think to the Australian society is to to have an open conversation on racism and how it is effecting us?

Jen: Very very important. ‘Cause Australians, like, mask it in other things. They try and mask it in humor and they try and–

There’s loads of, like, casual racism that happens. I mean I worked with a girl the other day who made some comment about Asian people. Like, and I was sort of stumped; like are you serious?

‘Cause it’s so common that people just say things that are inappropriate. So, unless you call them on it they don’t even notice. (yeah) And when I did, cause I was sort of quite shocked; are you seriously saying that to me? And then, I thought about it: ‘Even if she was jocking it is still doesn’t make it okay. It’s still totally messed up.’ You know what I mean?

All Together Now: Yeah, of course.

Jen: But, because we are so attuned to, like, ‘Well they’re just kidding when they say something completely horrible’ it sort of justifies it in some weird way. Which it doesn’t.

I think there needs to be, like, a shift in the mentality towards it…because you never know who’s around you never know…it’s, I mean, for the main reason that it’s completely wrong. But then–

One of the girls I work with, um, her mum’s from Malaysia [and] her dad is German. Looking at her you wouldn’t know her mum is from Malaysia. And we work in a place–er, at the airport, so loads of people come through. And you wouldn’t believe the amount of comments she gets that are racist towards just Asia, again, just the whole place.

And she just stands there gob smacked; just like, you know?

And it’s just done so casually. Cause they’re like, ‘Oh it’s harmless because it’s just between you and me, and you’re not Asian. So, who cares?’ It’s like, well not really! You know?

All Together Now: Yeah! Thanks very much for your time Jen and we look forward to seeing you at the Fifth [Year] Anniversary [event].

Jen: Thank you for having me.


Want to listen to the audio? You can do so here.

10 signs of casual racism

While everyone is quick to recognise overt racism when we see it—we share it on social media and read about it in the news—many of us overlook a subtle form of racism that’s often disguised as a joke, stereotype or subconscious decision we make. Here are 10 signs you might have inadvertently done something ‘casually’ racist:

1. You start a sentence with “I’m not racist but…”

Prefacing a potentially racist statement with “I’m not racist but” doesn’t make it less offensive. So next time you feel the need to start a sentence this way, remember: it’s unlikely anything good will follow those four words…

2. “I’m not a racist. I have black friends.”

Having friends from an ethnic minority background does not give you permission to make racist comments. What might be acceptable to your close friends, may be offensive to someone outside of your trusted circle.

3. “You speak so well for an Asian.”

While you genuinely think you’re giving someone a compliment, what you’re also saying is that Asian people (or other ethnicities) have an inferior grasp of English. And even as Australia continues to welcome new migrants into our society, the fact is many people of Asian backgrounds are Australians who were born or raised here.

4. “Yes but where are you really from.”

This innocent question stems out of curiosity, but also implies that people who don’t have white skin or an Australian accent can’t call Australia home or couldn’t possibly have grown up here. As a multicultural society, it’s important to respect every resident’s right to call Australia home. We suggest asking the less derisive question: What’s your cultural heritage or background?

5. You get nervous around Muslims or Hindus on airplanes.

Racial profiling happens every day and it’s not just by law enforcement officers or airport security staff; many regular Australians also hold prejudices towards people of certain cultural or religious identities. What you may call a ‘harmless stereotype’ often impacts the daily lives of entire groups of people.

6. You cross the road to avoid people of a certain race.

See number 5.

7. You don’t see color, just the human race.

While it may come from a well-intended place, this form of ‘colourblind racism’ dismisses society’s history of racism, system of white privilege, and the everyday experiences that people still face because of racism. Even if you can ignore skin colour, society does not.

8. You are more offended by “reverse-racism.”

Some white people get upset by what they call “reverse racism”. They believe white people are adversely affected by policies designed to help minority groups in society. If reverse-racism gets you upset and defensive, this educational video might help reverse the situation…

9. When someone’s offended, you tell them to “take a joke.”

With Australia’s laidback culture, it’s easy to dismiss those offended as uptight people who ‘can’t take a joke’. Instead, try to see it from their point of view or learn about their experiences. Remember: we don’t have the right to choose who gets offended by our jokes. Impact is more important than intent.

10. Avoiding somebody because of their race, nationality or ethnicity.

This is the subtlest form of casual racism but it can be as hurtful as calling people racist names. Avoiding somebody can make them feel as if they don’t belong in Australia.

What Exactly Is Casual Racism?

Casual racism is racially-insensitive behaviour that often goes unnoticed in everyday interactions. It’s often hard to spot, because casual racism is so commonplace and normalised that it sometimes forms part of our daily lives.

Casual racism can include jokes or statements that highlight (in a negative way) cultural differences such as physical appearance, cultural practices or accents. It can also be expressed through beliefs, prejudices or behaviours that we sometimes don’t realise we exhibit. To learn more, read Explainer: what is casual racism– a piece written by our academic partners Jacqueline Nelson from the University of Western Sydney and Jessica Walton from Deakin University.

How It Affects People

Casual racism is more than a ‘harmless joke’ or comment. It often leads to subconscious discrimination, marginalises those who stand up and ultimately helps real racists in our community validate their views. By normalising racial stereotypes in society, we also help to perpetuate the next generation of schoolyard and office bullies.
This evocative video, made by anti-depression organisation Beyond Blue, explains how casual racism can also affect people’s health.

Also Read: What is White supremacy and how do white supremacist groups operate in our community?

How Can You Help?

Empathise – Whatever your race, showing empathy is a good place to start. This means listening to people affected by racism, hearing about their everyday struggles, and understanding the effects of privilege. To put yourself in the shoes of someone experiencing racism, try our Everyday Racism app.

Speak up – Discover ways you can safely speak up against racism.

Keep the conversation going – One of the best ways to make casual racism more visible is to talk openly about it. We encourage you to share your experiences at work, in social situations and on social media. By speaking up together, we can work towards making casual racism unacceptable in our everyday lives. What do you think? Share your thoughts on our Facebook page.

Do racist jokes encourage racist behaviour?

Racism by definition is a generalisation: applying perceived characteristics and abilities of a race to everyone within that race, giving way to comparisons of superiority or inferiority. Is comedy that utilises racism—or other identity discrimination such as sexism—detrimental to the state of affairs? In other words, does it pronounce and encourage the behaviour of stereotyping?