Monday, September 12, 2005

The Lampanelli Paradox

Let me take a brief brake from all things political to describe a theorum (or paradox) I've just developed. Please pardon me if this theorum is offensive. The Lampanelli Paradox is named for the offensive racial comic and skilled Comedy Central roaster Lisa Lampanelli. It's a theorum about race relations, and it's named for Lampanelli because she has the highest index score of anyone on earth in the following equation:

(Level of offensiveness of one's discourse about minorities) X (Certainty that minorities have that one is not actually a racist in any meaningful way) = Score

The Lampanelli Paradox is this:
1.The more comfortable a person is joking, even about racial stereotypes, with people of other races, the less likely they are to actually be racist in their attitudes towards those other races. (Related assumption: people tend to joke most freely around those with whom they feel comfortable, and to feel most comfortable with those around who they can joke most freely).
2.If one wants to promote racial harmony, one should create an environment where such joking (which acts as a vent of natural tensions about race just as it does as a vent of natural tensions about sex, death, etc) is not punished and is tolerated. Just as people identify their friends as the people they can joke around with almost entirely freely, they will feel more friendly toward other races where a freer discourse is tolerated. This would have the effect of alleviating somewhat the private racism that can flourish behind closed doors.
3. Conversely, if one wishes to instill racial disharmony and tension, one should create an environment where people of one race feel uncomfortable when speaking in the company of people of another race, where they feel they must "walk on eggshells." This would have the effect of creating increased race-based dislike behind closed doors.

This theorum was inspired by my recent viewing of Lampanelli's ridiculously offensive special ( link) on Comedy Central, "Take it Like a Man." I had not guessed from her excellent insult comedy at the various roasts that her entire act was basically racial insult humor a la Don Rickles. I'm not a big fan of almost any creative work that has the scientifically meaningless concept of race as its main theme (I found the movie "Crash" to be ridiculous and boorish, for instance), and certainly Lampanelli's act occasionally got as dull and inevitable as Rickles' often does.

But I was struck by the fact that a racial comic as brutally rude as Lampanelli was toward every minority group was clearly more comfortable with minorities (and vice-versa) than most white people I know. Lampanelli also tells jokes about hating actual racists and hating the "n-word with the r at the end." She tells many (too many) jokes about how, as an overweight white woman, she loves to date black men who don't mind a fuller figured woman. She's in a 2 year relationship with a black man; they plan to adopt a child together. This doesn't mean she's devoid of racial discrimination offstage, but I think it carries more weight than the old standby, "I have friends who are black."

The racial harmony, the sense of comfort in the comedy club where Lampanelli was dispensing one extremely offensive racial joke after another seemed paradoxically to be very strong.

Now, I am not suggesting that the solution to America's problems of racial tension can be solved by encouraging offensive racial jokes. I am suggesting that the freer people are to speak casually around people of a different race, the less likely they will be to harbor actual racial intolerance. Like many people who've attended an American college, I've been exposed to a great deal of political correctness and extreme racial sensitivity in the college environment (almost always imposed by the handful of rich white folks who control the college). I'm suggesting that a racial policy that focuses on semantics and an adherence to strict codes of speech is not only useless but counterproductive in terms of actual racial harmony. That is the bold claim of the Lampanelli Paradox.

Ok, enough stuff that may piss off my constituency. Back to the fight against George Bush, who, according to KanyeWest (and Jacob Weisberg of Slate), doesn't care about black people.


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