Derek: What’s the most confusing day in Harlem?

Me: I don’t know, what day?

Derek: Father’s Day

Derek told me this joke but before doing so he gave a disclaimer warning me it was racist and that he learned the joke from a friend here at USC.  Folklore in the form of jokes can reveal a great deal about a culture because knowing what a culture thinks is funny helps one better understand a particular culture.  In a way jokes are a significant window into a specific culture.  If you look at jokes in a Freudian way it can be said that jokes offer an outlet for people to express or explore things that are not normally or socially acceptable to talk about such as aggression, sexuality, stereotypes, etc.  This joke in particular is a racist joke based on stereotypes.  It is implying that black people have many illegitimate children, or children out of wedlock.  This is implied through the joke, because having an illegitimate child or being one could make a holiday like Father’s Day confusing if you did not know who your father because he is not married to your mother.  Also, the joke set in Harlem, which is a predominantly black neighborhood.  The telling of these types of jokes are pretty common and popular which could be because it does express something that is in a way “forbidden” or at least not acceptable to talk casually about in the real world such as racial stereotypes.  But like Derek, most people give a disclaimer before or after the telling of the joke saying that the joke is not theirs, but they heard it from a friend or a friend of a friend (FOAF).  This is suppose to excuse them from the fact that they are telling an offensive joke but they should not be held accountable for it because it is not their joke and they are therefore not racist.  In a way these types of jokes could be seen as an anti-authority lash back because we are constantly being taught and told that you cannot judge people based on their race or assume something about a person based on racial stereotypes.

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