Pérez considers pervasiveness of racist humor

Assistant Professor of Sociology Raúl Pérez presents his book, “The Souls of White Jokes: How Racist Humor Fuels White Supremacy,” at the faculty lecture Tuesday in the Quay Davis Executive Boardroom. Pérez spoke about how alt-right groups use humor to influence others to join. / photo by Hailey Martinez
Assistant Professor of Sociology Raúl Pérez presents his book, “The Souls of White Jokes: How Racist Humor Fuels White Supremacy,” at the faculty lecture Tuesday in the Quay Davis Executive Board Room. Pérez spoke about how alt-right groups use humor to influence others to join. / photo by Hailey Martinez

Candice Pages
Staff Writer

Raúl Pérez, author and assistant professor of sociology, discussed his new book “The Souls of White Jokes,” during his lecture at noon Tuesday in the Quay Davis Executive Board Room. 

In his book, published in July, Pérez focuses on how racist humor fuels white supremacy. 

“Racism is a social and political construct,” Pérez said.

In his talk, before faculty colleagues and students, he traced the start of movements such as Black Lives Matter, as protests against racism and racist humor.

“Racist humor was so pervasive,” Pérez said. “It was a form of entertainment that influenced other forms of entertainment.”

This hateful form of entertainment has reached children in children’s books and children’s cartoons, Pérez said.

He also talked about harmful political cartoons. One example was around the time of former President Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential election, when one cartoon portrayed him as a monkey. 

Such images spread fast across social media and foster and reinforce hate, Pérez said.

Racist humor was not constrained until the late 1980s, Pérez said.

Before then it was not even considered to be negative.

Humor has always been a way for communities to come together and form bonds on shared interests and beliefs, Pérez said. Unfortunately, racial humor has not been excluded from this way to form alliances.  

“Racist humor didn’t go away, it became a forbidden pleasure,” Pérez said, adding that racist humor is alive today, not only in memes on social media, but also in stand-up comedy.

“Students need a place to find anti-racist humor,” said Alessandro Morosin, assistant professor of sociology and anthropology, who attended the lecture.

Candice Pages can be reached at candice.Pages@laverne.edu

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Candice Pages is a senior communications major who aspires to be a journalist on television interviewing serial killers.

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Hailey Martinez is a junior journalism major with a photography minor. She is a staff writer for the Campus Times and a staff photographer for the Campus Times and La Verne Magazine.

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