Is It Wrong For A Blind Guy To Tell Blind Jokes?
Yesterday, I was posed with a question from my old Camp Miniwanca buddy, Hank. He and his wife were having a disagreement and asked me to be the judge. This is not a position I relish! But, hey, I’m here to help. Anyway, here’s the scenario:
Hank asked if a certain joke was offensive to me as a person who is blind. Here’s the joke: Blind guy walks into his store, led by his guide dog. In the middle of the store, he picks the dog up by his collar and starts swinging him around his head. A clerk runs over and, alarmed, asks, “Sir, what are you doing?!” To which the blind guy replies, “I’m just looking around.”
As I told Hank, the only reason this is offensive is purely based on lack of creativity. This was kinda clever when I heard it back in the early 90s. Now, I’ve just heard it so many times that it’s no longer funny. But offensive to me as a blind person? No.
Here’s how I see this idea of being offended: Some people look for ways to be offended. They seem hyper-sensitive to their lot in life. I’ve certainly met folks who are blind who would be offended by this. I also know plenty of blind people who’ve told me this joke. Can you think of someone in your life with whom you’ve gotta watch everything you say because he/she is looking for ways to be offended? Betcha do!
We are all individuals, right? But, we’re all drawn together with others by some strands; race, religion, gender identification, sexual orientation, political views, whatever. And within these factions of society, there are trends and stereotypes. Sometimes, these trends and stereotypes are called “culture.”
Frankly, I absolutely love it when someone within a certain faction can identify a stereotype or cultural trend, talk about it and actually poke fun at this dynamic. Here are a couple examples:
Last season on SNL, Elton John was a guest host. Every single skit was a gay joke. Elton John has been an “out” homosexual man for decades and I love that he can laugh at himself and even at the culture and stereotypes surrounding gay men.
My late friend, James Henry, was a ginormous African American dude who I met through church camp when I was a teenager. While at a youth dance, James and I were hanging out being wallflowers when a group of dancers encouraged James to come get in their circle. James was reluctant and loudly exclaimed, “I’m a failure! I’m a black man who can’t dance!”
My fav radio show host, Dave Glover, in St. Louis refers to anything to do with corporate America as “white.” He refers to the FCC regulations as “the white man having his foot on our necks” and will say, “He’s so white” if there’s some do gooder who follows the rules to the T. Thing is, Dave is a 48 year old former attorney…who is also Caucasian.
Another friend who is Asian American refers to herself as “math impaired” and “an embarrassment to my people” for not being a genius. And my friend Sara, another Asian American, within 10 minutes of meeting me, made a reference to my Seeing Eye dog and how she wasn’t going to eat him. I found this especially funny!
My wife, Marvelyne, often refers to herself as “the anti-girl.” While she’s a girlie girl in a lot of senses, she also loves football, loves shooting, loves power tools and carpentry and a ton of other stuff that is traditionally considered male.
My stepson, Jordan, went with his Muslim friend to a gun range here in Orlando. His friend is of Middle Eastern descent. I asked Jordan if anyone hassled them at the gun range because of his friend’s heritage. No, he said, but he and Mohammad were joking about it on the way end. Mohammad said, “Don’t worry, they haven’t recruited me yet.” Obviously referring to the fundamentalist Islamic terrorists.
There are any number of people who could get offended by these references. Personally, just having individuals recognize that they are part of the stereotype makes me feel more comfortable. And I hope by me joking about my blindness, it makes people more comfortable with me. Do we need to take ourselves so seriously and watch every little thing we say? Yeah, kinda, we do. I put this blame at the feet of the hyper-sensitive. Those who are looking to be offended. Those who are just looking for a reason, ANY reason, to call someone a racist, a sexist, a homophobe, an anti-seimitic. Frankly, I keep these hyper-sensitive people at arm’s length. If you’re that vulnerable to your own position in life, there are likely some other issues with identification, too.
I want to befriend people who can laugh at themselves. I want to be with people who don’t take life so seriously. I want to have dinner with those who can joke about the stereotypes associated with their faction of society. I don’t want to have to walk on eggshells constantly for fear of being called something that ends in “ist.”
Simply put, I choose not to be offended. Do you?