What Happened to Racial and Ethnic Humor? 

Bob Weir Community, History, National, Texas 18 Comments

Bob Weir is a veteran of 20 years with the New York Police Dept. (NYPD), ten of which were performed in plainclothes undercover assignments. Bob began a writing career about 16 years ago and had his first book published in 1999. He also became a syndicated columnist under the title “Weir Only Human.” Photo by and courtesy of Netsky Rodriguez.

FLOWER MOUND, TX — June 1, 2021 —  Remember when we used to be able to make ethnic and racial jokes that were funny, while not being hurtful? There was a time when humor was a major source of social engagement between people who enjoyed laughing at themselves and the stereotypes attributed to them. In other words, they weren’t so sensitive that they couldn’t see the humor in a few innocuous manifestations of witty dialogue. My old buddy, Leroy Spivey, a cop I worked with in a radio car for a few years, didn’t have any hang-ups about racial comedy. In addition, he wasn’t so narcissistic about his color that he wouldn’t get a kick out of a funny story.

One story he used to tell was about a black guy who was crossing a street and got hit by a car driven by a white guy who was speeding. He said the black guy was thrown about 50 feet because of the impact. The people listening to the story would be appropriately shocked, asking what happened to the driver? “Well,” Leroy said, feigning outrage, but readying the punch line, “when the cops got to the scene, they picked up the black guy and arrested him for leaving the scene of an accident.” After the initial look of bewilderment, everyone in the room, including Leroy, would bust our laughing.

They weren’t laughing at the authenticity of the story, which was in fact apocryphal, but at the silliness of it. My erstwhile partner was making a joke out of the serious issue of race discrimination. It was a clever way of illustrating actual race prejudice by using an absurd example. There’s a trait attributed to the Irish which says they have a propensity toward liquid vegetables such as barley corn, rye and hops.

Moreover, the descendants of the old sod have a reputation for being quick to temper after a few gulps of a distilled beverage. If you referred to an Irish as “Mick” you’d better get your dukes up. Some believe the word “Mick” is derogatory because it sounds like a drunken hiccup. Interestingly, the Urban Dictionary tells us that the derogatory word “Spick” came from Mick. It seems that in the early 1900s, when Irish and Spanish immigrants were equally hated by many Americans, they shared Catholic churches because both nationalities had the same faith and moral values. Therefore, they began referring to Latinos as Spanish Micks, or “Spicks.” 

Irish bar brawls in my old neighborhood in lower Manhattan were as routine as egg rolls in a Chinese restaurant. Speaking of our Asian brothers and sisters, we’ve all heard the comedic reference to their names. For example, “My friend is so overweight, he has more chins than a Chinese phone book. 

When we had a taste for Asian cuisine we’d generally say, “How eating about Chinks tonight?” We had no idea that it was offensive, and to this day its derivation is murky. 

Italians are often portrayed as mobsters in movies, consequently, when I had an argument with one of my Italian buddies I used to ask if he was going to put a horse’s head in my bed. Jews are often depicted as stingy and greedy. When my wife and I visit the home of my Jewish brother-in-law, who lives in another state, he jokingly says we can stay at his place, but there’ll be a small fee. Puerto Ricans are often associated with spicy food and sensual dancing. When people meet my wife, they commonly ask about rice and beans, and the Pachanga. 

When Leroy and I had time for a meal during many busy nights on patrol, I would jokingly ask what chicken or rib joint he wanted to dine in. He knew me well enough to know there was no racial animus contained in that comment. Besides, he also knew I loved that food as much as he did. His retort might be, “Bob, I’ve heard about the 7 course Irish dinner; a six-pack and a boiled potato.” We found humor in our respective heritage and used it affectionately, without ever a hint of malice. 

Being able to accomplish that melding of cultures is what this great experiment called the USA used to be about. It took a long time to discover that our differences were no match for our similarities. If you’ve ever taken part in one of those DNA research companies, you’re likely to discover that you are a mixture of numerous races and nationalities. When I received a report from 23 and Me, a genomics and biotechnology company, I found, among other genetic attributes, that I had a small percentage of African ancestry. Since then, I’ve been jumping higher and scoring more baskets than ever before.    

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Bob Weir is a veteran of 20 years with the New York Police Dept. (NYPD), ten of which were performed in plainclothes undercover assignments. Bob began a writing career about 16 years ago and had his first book published in 1999. He also became a syndicated columnist under the title “Weir Only Human.”


Bob WeirWhat Happened to Racial and Ethnic Humor? 

Comments 18

  1. portraying Barack Obama as a monkey wasn’t funny….you would condone it….more conservative garbage that longs for the days when minstrals entertained us

    1. Obama and Biden did the impossible by enabling Islamist Armageddon theology Shiite Persian nuclear Iran, the Sunni Arabs had no choice but to become allies with the Israelis. The Israeli hit squads are legendary.

  2. As much as it may be easy to believe that “everyone” in the room is laughing with you when these jokes are made, the point is to “punch up” with these jokes, to poke fun at more privileged people than the person making the joke and the audience who hears it. However, often more privileged people “punch down” with their humor, leading to jokes about marginalized people. You may still think that being Sicilian and Irish (I am both myself) makes one a part of a marginalized group, but culture has changed over the past 3 decades. Those jokes don’t cut it anymore. It’s one thing to laugh at power structures, but not while you uphold them and others suffer. Sometimes you just need to update your material.

    1. You are marginalized white boy, but are Sicilians really white? Does it matter? Probably only to you, because nobody is more racist than a self righteous white liberal.

      1. what a stupid remark…nobody is more racist than a self righteous white liberal” right…and that means more than the KKK the proud boys, the 3 percenters the alt right marchers at charlottesville, the oath takers..and on and on…but you have it all figured out…NOT

          1. The lunatics you mentioned are just that fringe lunatics but woke white liberals actually believe that they’re helping minorities who they believe to be incompetent and incapable of helping themselves. I’m a retired nypd detective pushing 60 with 3-1/2 decades of experience and I’ve never met a self described card carrying ridiculous costume wearing “white supremacist.” Every major city was in flames last summer because of leftist woke lunacy, well now you’re realizing that you can’t control the mob and being white liberals you’re not armed and can’t defend yourselves from the criminal elements and you’ve neutered the police and you’re realizing that like lawyers, everyone hates the police until they need them. Burn baby burn that’s what Black Panther leader Stokley Carmichael used to say and yes I actually met him in Columbia Presbyterian hospital when he came here from the Cuban tropical paradise for real medical care before he went back to Africa and passed away except he had no idea that I was a cop. Please enjoy the fruits of your labor this summer because my neighbors in Orange County unlike you are armed to the teeth and completely prepared for your communist insurrection. I’ve been all over rural America especially the southern states and they’ve always been prepared for this and the Democrats have no idea what they’re dealing with. Nobody here called Obama a monkey except for you, as a matter of fact he’s no monkey he’s an evil genius socialist and a socialist is just a communist without a gun.
          1. you are a very sick man who clearly carries chips on his shoulder from his years on the job….it doesn’t matter how many people you believe are ready to revolt…it doesn’t matter how many weapons of war they have squerriled away…There are far more people who want the US to remain a democracy..who want voting rights to extend to every American citizen and who understand that Trump and you a others on the fringe of the Republican party are a threat to the diversity and modernity that exists in the US…We have always had right wingers like you who dream of the day when an authoritarian strongman will lead the nation. Just as in other countries across the world where democracy is only a sham eg Turkey, Austria, Bolsinero, the US will join them if the anti democratic forces that you encourage are in charge..Trump is a very sick man who wants to regain power illegally..It is illegal for him to be reinstated in August..It is illegal for the state of Arizona to allow a private firm with zero election experience to conduct a post election audit with no controls over ballot integrity..It is illegal for states to attempt to cut off minorites from voting by eliminating early voting and the number of drop boxes in counties where minorities have a large number of registered voters and it is illegal for states controlled by Republicans to be able to over rule the results of an election. All of what you threaten leads to an olgarchy…You blindly follow a man who has no ethics who will be under indictment soon because you have been preached to by Fox news talking heads about how the democratic party is socialist..Do you even understand what socialism is…And if you accept social security and medicare I assume you would be willing to give it back under your definition of socialism…Bottom line is that your name should be given to the FBI and you should be questioned as to your knowledge of just exactly whom in Orange county is ready to engage in insurrection.And just understand one thing Jan 6th was an attack on our democracy and on the constitution. 465 people have already been charged.. The congress will find out 1.which of the members of the House colluded with the insurrectionists who invaded the capitol that day. Who among them aided and abeted them. 2.Where did Trump go after he invited the mob to stop the counting of electoral votes…Did he watch the whole thing on tv in the white house and was he cheering for them to succeed. 3.Did Kevin McCarthy speak to Trump during the riot and did he plead for Trump to call it off…and finally 4. what took the national guard so long to respond to the attack…and who, if anyone, delayed their arrival. US history is littered with attempts by various people to lie to the American public in order to gain power….and guess what it has never worked and it won’t work this time either

          2. I’ve lived a harsh reality while you’ve lived a posh fantasy. You’re either a nutty college professor or Hezi is playing devil’s advocate.
            I’m a “very sick man” because I don’t agree with you? The problem is that you don’t know anyone who doesn’t agree with you, I do and I don’t care unless they’re malicious.
            I don’t mean to be trite but I have “friends of Color” and a gay sister and I even have Jewish friends if you can imagine. I was very close friends with liberal attorney journalist Richard Blassberg and spent about 15 years with him exposing conservative Republican Jeanine Pirro’s wrongful convictions. I don’t watch FOX because she’s on it and I left the Republican Party for the Conservative party in the 90’s when the NYPD Unions got Rudy elected and re-elected and that cross dressing drunken pervert screwed us on our contracts. I actually consider myself a Conservative Libertarian meaning I don’t want Cuomo and Fauci lying as we’re dying from Covid. All successful politicians are narcissistic but some like Pirro and Cuomo cross the line into sociopathic and I’ll add in that creepy little organ grinder MONKEY “Doctor” Fauci as well. Nobody normal on the right wants to take away the right of CITIZENS to vote but we don’t want illegal aliens pouring over a now open border, dead people and violent felons voting either. You need ID to adopt a cat but not to vote for the leader of the free world, just let that sink in a little. I never liked Trump and thought his campaign was a joke until he knocked all of his Republican competition out of the water because he understands strategy and knows how to win. Trump is a narcissistic sociopathic pathological liar and exactly what we need to deal with the communists and Islamists as the cognitively impaired Biden is clearly out of his league as is his elder care assistant VP Harris. Every major city was in flames last summer and crime is completely out of control now nationwide as the police are “defunded. The heterosexual Christian American white male who has been vilified non stop is arming themselves LEGALLY across the country such as in Orange County in case the ANTIFA/BLM “mostly peaceful” rioters and looters come calling from the Democratic People’s Republic of Newburgh to the north or Spring Valley and Paterson, NJ to the south. I’ve been to socialist, communist and Islamic countries and have close personal friends that have lived under these regimes.
            Bernie and “The Squad” are telling you who they are and they’re becoming the face of the once great Democratic Party. I should be “questioned by the FBI” for informing you that everyone right of center is LEGALLY arming themselves as left winger mobs attack anyone and everything they don’t agree with? So the FBI now investigates people not crimes as they did to Trump for four years and still have nothing? This is what goes on in the communist and Islamic countries. I’ve dealt with F-amous B-ut I-ncompetent. If they were any good the WTC would still be standing, and yes I’m suffering health effects from being there due to FBI incompetence. Additionally you have the left wingers Manhattan DA Cyrus Vance and NYS AG Leticia James launching their own ridiculous Trump witch hunts while violent crime surges across NYC/NYS. Did you know Westchester cops won’t pursue felons into the Bronx anymore? This is resulting in a surge in burglaries and home invasions but the Left winger Westchester media isn’t going to tell you that in much the same way they won’t give you perpetrator descriptions unless of course they’re white. The only person killed on January 6th was an unarmed white female career military veteran by a black Capital “cop!” Where’s the outrage now? The 2020 summer long ANTIFA//BLM violence was and is far more serious, so where’s the hearings into that?
            You have to realize that the feds are notoriously incompetent and the Capital “police” are little more than armed guards. They had the intelligence from the FBI/NYPD JTTF that there were going to be problems but the Capital police as well as Washington DC Metropolitan PD and the mayor declined the National Guard’s help not Trump or his minions. I don’t know what Trump did on January 6th or if Trump spoke to McCarthy as I wasn’t there. There was obviously fraud in the election as in all elections. Was it enough to change the outcome? I don’t know and I don’t care, hopefully 2022 and 2024 aren’t another circus. You see there are two types of people in the world, people who do things like myself and people who talk about things like you. With 3 plus decades in urban law enforcement and two masters degrees I can beat you with experience as well as intellect. Please enjoy your violent summer “LEFT WINGER” because you’ve earned it

      2. Everyone exhibits bias, it’s a basic human condition and an artifact of living on a diverse planet. Those who claim to be totally bias or prejudice free are lying to themselves and to those around them,

    2. Political correctness goes out the window when true warriors are facing pure evil as soldiers or inner city cops. You’re never going to experience this because you’re a woke wussy who has probably never been in a physical altercation never mind life or death struggle, but of course you’re going to dial 911 first before you defend yourself because you were taught not to “hit back.”

      1. So by your standards if you havent been in a fight you are a woke pussy! Exactly why people like you shouldnt be running the show!

  3. It’s what real men do in the military and law enforcement as a sign of affection for each other. I fondly remember the practical jokes we played on each other in the NYPD. Before I retired from a Bronx detective squad a new Irish American Chief from 1 Police Plaza walked into the office and was shocked to see a cardboard leprechaun on the wall with the moveable arms and legs with my Irish face superimposed and “truck nuts 🥜 “ hanging from between its legs. Well the Chief admonished me for not taking it down and I replied “I didn’t put it there and I didn’t take it down because I think it’s funny!” I also thought being a leprechaun with big “truck nuts 🥜 “ was a compliment. I’m guessing it was a Dominican detective that I had an ongoing practical joke war with but it had been there so long I forgot about it. We were kinda busy clearing Homicides. In 20 years and almost 40,000 cops I can count the real racist cops of all colors I’ve worked with on one maybe two hands and NYC mayoral candidate Eric Adams was one of them.

  4. I enjoyed the article. Bob, It’s A bygone era, when we used to laugh with each other and at our differences and the stereotypes we each resembled. We laughed and respected each other and enjoyed our friendships along the way.

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