Stop Calling Ape Jokes Racist
In America's days of slavery and with the birth of Charles Darwin's theory of evolution, a "scientific" justification for the enslavement of Africans and blacks was that they were sub-human and genetically inferior to whites. The theory was that blacks were genetically more similar to apes and that their cranium structure was different and more similar to primates. If you remember Django Unchained and Calvin Candie's description of the "negro" skull, you would be remembering a terrible piece of American history in which scientists and doctors tried to claim the biological inferiority of blacks using debunked, false science. It is because of this racially deplorable history that sensitivities to ape references among the African American community are red hot in 2018. However, clinging to historical prejudices of this nature is far from progressive and expressing outrage over such jokes and references only acts to validate the racism and faulty science from the past.
To be offended by ape jokes made at the expense of blacks is to give credence to the disgusting and disproven idea that blacks are inferior and similar to apes. Politics is filled with ape references aimed against George Bush, Donald Trump and various leaders in the Senate and Judiciary. These references are usually criticisms of the target's intellect, but could be considered equally offensive under specific conditions. Not batting a single eye at such references made against whites only exemplifies the racism and racial implications of this reference, when it would be better off forgotten.
1. When we express outrage over an ape joke or ape reference that targets a black politician or activist, we are assuming a person's intent. To call a comedian or pundit racist for making such a reference in 2018 implies and assumes that the person was aware of the history mentioned in the opening paragraph and, therefore, intended to be racist. Without having any secondary evidence to corroborate said person's racism, we have absolutely no basis to assume a racial or racist intent. In fact, most of us could very easily conclude that the joke or reference is not intended to be any different than similar references and jokes made about white politicians and activists.
2. Besides the problem of assuming intent, we run into another troubling problem when calling those who use ape jokes and references racist. The science behind the old theory has been widely debunked and has no basis in modern science, discourse or politics. Because the science has been debunked, there is absolutely no reason to continue expressing rage and outrage over such references when a majority of the scientific community disregards the idea that blacks are at all closer or more similar than whites to primates. This brings us to the third point, which compares outrage over ape references to more justified outrage that is expressed against genuinely heinous slurs and historical references.
3. Not like the infamous N word, the ape reference is widely used against individuals, politicians and leaders of all stripes, races and types. The N word, as well as the M word used against "little people", have all been deemed derogatory and offensive for various reasons, some more seriously than others. The N word, much different from the ape reference, has only one known definition in the English language. This makes the N word's historical intent and prejudice clear and well defined, whereas the ape reference has no clear definition and is just as often used to attack a white person's character, appearance and intelligence.
When a person uses the N word, the racial intent is explicit and clear. The N word has no other definition or history and was conceived only to mean one thing and to refer to only one type of person. The same cannot be said about the ape.
4. Lastly, it is important to forget and move on from the racial history of the ape reference for reasons of social, racial and comedic harmony. If we continue being outraged by this joke and reference, where do we draw the line and what date in history acts as the furthest we can go to find references and slurs that offend us? If we go further backward in history, we would likely find even more references, jokes and comparisons to be outraged by. If we go far enough, we would most definitely find something for every race, culture and creed.
Let's stop now.
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