“What’s the difference between a black Jew and a white Jew?

The black Jew sits at the back of the oven.”

Caleb said that he heard this joke about two or three years ago from his older brother who also resides in Leona Valley, California.  Typically this joke is told in an atmosphere away from either people of African descent or Jewish people so it will not offend them.  Caleb said that he knows many other versions of Jewish and black jokes that he learned from his brother and from his friends in high school and college.  A joke such as this would typically arise on an occasion with a group of anywhere from two to five people, as it is something that shows racism and hatred, even in a joking manner.  Often the way that this specific joke in particular would be told is if a group is trading jokes either of a racial or denigrating manner.

Clearly, this joke refers to two separate points in history that dealt with the degradation of black and Jewish people.  The fact that the black Jew sits at the back of the oven refers to the fact that before racial laws were enacted in America, black people were often forced to sit in the back of the bus.  Also, the generalization of Jews being put into ovens refers to the ovens that were used to kill so many Jewish people during the Holocaust in the midst of World War II.  Although it has been a long time since either of these occurrences, the visible moment of the joke is hard to define, because of the fact that there is still racism that exists and the pain and suffering endured by these two groups were so great that it is hard for some people to find this type of joke funny, even if they recognize the context.

Like many jokes, this joke does have a punch line that reveals the cleverness of the teller.  After the original question is posed, the listener expects a dirty response, which the joke teller will wittingly express.  I believe that the reason the joke is told is not to necessarily make fun of Jewish or black people but instead is told to portray the wit of the one telling it.  Over time, it is been considered easy to make fun of Jewish or black people due to the fact that they have been suppressed so much that they are easy targets of jokes such as these.

It is possible that due to the fact that Caleb is of German descent that he possibly relates to his own heritage and the way that the German’s treated Jews during World War II.  However, as is customary in California and the United States in general, racism is a subject that is often shied away from because most people do not want to be judged as “racist” even if they are or are not.