Joke – Irvine, California

“Why doesn’t Mexico have an Olympic team?

Because everyone who can run, jump, and swim is already out of the country!”

Hearing this joke from one of his cross-country teammates during one of their warm-up stretches during senior year, Aaron said that telling racist and sexist jokes were often ways to pass the time and bond with each other, albeit over jokes that “were so bad [ethically], but you couldn’t help but laugh.”  In sharing politically incorrect jokes about different ethnicities and genders, this group of high school boys was perpetuating blason populaires, or popular conceptions and stereotypes of peoples.

In particular, this ethnic joke that Aaron told me is not directly negative, but could be viewed as negative towards Mexicans in the ideas that it implies.  The joke presents stereotypes of all Mexicans in America or countries besides Mexico as illegal immigrants, and it alludes to such ideas as Mexicans crossing borders by running from authorities, swimming across rivers, and leaping over fences to escape to America.  Yet to what extent could the joke’s implications be true, if at all?  Is it a self-fulfilling prophecy?  For the joke to emerge and circulate in the first place means that the popular conceptions surrounding the joke’s subject may be true, or at least a topic of debate.  While it is a fact that large numbers of Mexicans have come to America as illegal immigrants, what makes the joke controversial is its inclusion of the word “everyone” and its implication that all Mexicans with Olympic-worthy athletic skills have left to become illegal immigrants.

With all the current political issues surrounding illegal immigration laws and the influx of foreigners into the United States, the joke’s reference to the lengths that some immigrants will go to to create new lives in a new country are relevant, understandable, and able to be seen as humorous.  Simply the fact that Aaron was able to understand the joke and laugh with his peers proves that he is part of that community, that group which he can identify with.  This is further evidence that blason populaires can indeed create ideas of identity by categorizing people as “them” and “us.”