Q: Why can’t Stevie Wonder read?

A: Because he’s black.

The informant asked that I withhold his name from the project.  He told me that he heard this joke in high school from another student.   He was about 15 or 16 years old when he heard it.  The individual who told him the joke was a white student.  He said that he was offended when he heard the joke because it made him feel that his white classmates were getting to comfortable with him. He happened to be one of the few minority students in upper level classes, and the majority of his classmates were white.  He asked me not to attach his name to this piece because he feared that he would be viewed as condoning racism and bigotry by sharing the joke.

The joke itself combines more than one taboo in its telling.  It expresses long held stereotypes about black people as uneducated and illiterate.  The other politically incorrect topic that this joke touches upon is mocking the disabled.  It is generally known that it is unacceptable to make disparaging comments about the condition or abilities of those who have physical or mental handicaps.

This joke once again exemplifies the lure of taboo.  The individual thought that the joke was funny because of the taboos it addressed, whether or not he agreed with the stereotype or the derogation of Stevie Wonder and his disability.  The situation in which this joke was shared is a very interesting one.  Although the informant is a part of the group being disparaged in the joke, the teller believed that because they were both part of a specific social group, the informant would not be offended.  This illustrates the ability of any one of us to play a role in several different definitive groups at once.  The informant stated that his identity as a member of his racial group conflicted with his identity as a member of the social group that he was involved with at school.  This was often manifested by jokes such as this one, which his peers seemed to enjoy more that he did.

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