Crazy Faith Ministries
When this nation’s president apparently gave permission to police officers to rough up people they arrest – in front of an audience of police officers – there was an audible gasp which came from the group of friends with whom I was sitting.
“Did you hear that?” asked one. Nobody answered, though some nodded their heads. In this country which has a history of police officers being anything but gentle with suspects, especially African Americans, and with police departments all over the country being under investigation for officers using excessive force, it was hard to hear the so-called leader of this nation seem to sanction that behavior.
It’s not that he sanctioned it that was so troubling – at least not to me – because the lack of involvement in and speaking about excessive police force by presidents of this nation is no secret. African Americans have not had “friends” in the federal government for the most part.
But was his brazen, arrogant elocution of his approval of what they do that was startling. By a number of things he has done and said before and after his election to the presidency, we have seen how he has appealed directly to the racist belief system held by many. He has not cared if the public knew it or not. Incidences of hate crimes are rising, right-wing hate groups are starting to sprout up and boldly share their vision of a “White America,” and this president continues to feed their racist and xenophobic worldview and opinions.
All that being said, however, this president did something which people frequently do in this country when they say something that is offensive against a group of people, be they African American or female or Muslim.
His office proclaimed that the president was joking.
This president and his surrogates are quick to say he was or is joking when he says something offensive. Ted Nugent said he was “joking” when in 2012 he said the heads of members of the Obama administration should be “chopped off.” Someone said then-candidate Trump was “joking” when he made a bizarre statement. about Hillary Clinton and how people who believed in the Second Amendment might take issue with her stance on gun control.
In 2007, then Sen. Joe Biden made offensive remarks about then Sen. Barack Obama which were later attributed to being a “joke.” Howard Stern has said a number of offensive things which he said were “jokes,” and Don Imus found himself in hot water after calling African American women “nappy-headed jigaboos.”
These statements seem to roll off the tongues of far too many public people, and when there is an outcry, they feign surprise and make the insipid statement that what they said were just “jokes.”
There is a problem here. Jokes are supposed to be funny. The dictionary says that a joke is “something said that is meant cause amusement or laughter, especially one with a good punchline.” The funniest jokes are those which take truths which we all experience and know about, and just talk about them in a way which makes us laugh. The object is generally not to offend anyone. The most effective jokes make us not point fingers at someone else, but rather laugh our ourselves and our own lives.
The statements that this president and his supporters have spouted off do none of that; they make us all look at the differences between us and for some, justify their feelings of bigotry and hatred. These statements, rather than making people laugh, make some people worried and others sit with a sense of self-righteousness in the way they think.
And if someone’s violent bone is triggered and someone gets hurt, it’s OK. It’s not because of anything other than they responded to a joke.
It is a sick way to condone racism, sexism, anti-Semitism or any of the feelings too many people carry. Unfortunately, we hear much of this kind of language from White people in power, but they are not the only ones who do it. There are plenty of people of all ilk who use the word “joke” to justify hateful rhetoric.
What the president said to the police was not a joke. Police officers in this country have already hurt and killed too many people by using excessive force and have, for the most part, gotten away with it. The last thing they need is permission from the nation’s Chief Executive to keep on doing as they have done for too long.
And that is no joke.
Rev. Dr. Susan K. Smith is a preacher, writer and organizer She is available for speaking. She can be contacted through firstname.lastname@example.org.