Lots of comedy is based on stereotypes, such as dumb Polacks ( I’m Polish) drunken Irishmen or Italian Mafioso. Stereotypes could be an element of racism, but let’s not dilute the horror of racism, which is the firm conviction that my “race” is superior to all others. This was the Nazi idea, but they didn’t invent it, nor did it die with their defeat. It’s ugly and demonic.
Prejudice, on the other hand, is everywhere. We all can be prejudiced, which means we “pre-judge”- we judge before. Before what? Before we know a dang thing about a person beyond their appearance. We all do this and the best we can do is be aware that we all do it.
Back to stereotypes. A black colleague came into my office, disgusted. “Sex, watermelon and fried chicken. I’m never eating watermelon or fried chicken again.” “Why not?” It’s a black stereotype.” “But everybody likes watermelon and fried chicken.” It’s a stereotype, I’m not eating them ever again.” I thought this was a bit sad. “Have you given up sex, too?” He laughed. There are limits.
I think stereotypes are kind of funny. We Poles used to tell each other Polish jokes. Because we knew we weren’t dumb. And because I know stereotypes are stinkin’ thinkin’ and we should laugh at OURSELVES for being guilty of over-generalization.
Having explained all that, here’s some stinkin’ thinkin’ stereotypes in a little joke.
Before air conditioning, a rule existed that train windows should not be opened until June 15th.
June 13th was unseasonably hot.
The Germans said “A rule is a rule” and suffered in the heat.
The Frenchmen shouted “Liberte!” and broke out the windows with their shoes.
The Americans said nothing and opened the windows.