You’re Not Funny

Hy Khong
December 8, 2014

Today, I called someone out for making a bad joke. It wasn’t a “knock-knock-who’s-there,” it was about race and sexuality, and their insensitivity was laced throughout the entire delivery. I won’t say what it was because, to be honest, it was so foolishly narrow-minded that it made me wonder if they’re actually a real person.

Usually, I let a bad race joke slide. I tend to give people the benefit of the doubt, telling myself they’re well-intentioned before lashing out. But because they’ve repeatedly made these kinds of remarks, I’m beginning to think it’s less naivety and more ignorance. So I called them out.

Of course it was awkward – it’s always awkward to draw attention to yourself and say what’s on your mind. But relentlessly confronting issues that are oftentimes difficult to discuss – race, sexuality, citizenship, nationality, among others – is one of the best ways to ameliorate people’s world views.

My experience in France thus far has been tremendous, so I can’t really complain. As with any abroad experience, I’ve been placed out of my comfort-zone plenty of times, which has been immensely valuable for my personal growth and learning. The most crucial of these moments during my semester have been, I think, the ones that confront my race and nationality.

There have been many nights when someone screamed “Chinois” at me, pulled their eyelids back into slits, and ran away cackling. I’m not crushed by instances like these, but they do make me think a lot about being a minority abroad. Of course, different cultures have different ways of treating issues of “political-correctness,” but what do you do when it’s a fellow American? Thats’s why it’s so surprising to me that there are American students here, attending very open-minded and progressive-thinking universities, who are almost as ignorant as the inebriated youngsters passing by me at night. This student’s bad jokes wouldn’t be tolerated at their university, so why should they be tolerated here? It’s so important to confront these issues in light of the injustice surrounding Ferguson and Eric Garner stateside. It’s my hope that every student abroad now and to come will confront any prejudices, biases, insensitivities, or just down-right stupid remarks head-on – it doesn’t matter if you’re in Thailand, South Africa, or Germany, we can all improve our world views a little wherever we are.

I wrote more about this for my college paper here:


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Hy Khong

<p><span style="color: rgb(29, 29, 29); font-family: Arial, Verdana, sans-serif; font-size: 12px; line-height: normal; background-color: rgb(237, 237, 237);">I&#39;m a third-year student at Bowdoin College studying Visual Arts and dabbling in anything else that seems interesting. Always carrying around a camera, I&#39;m one to believe that even the smallest moments are ones we should preserve. I&#39;ve been to France before, but I was unfortunately too naïve and young to appreciate it. I&#39;m hoping this time I&#39;ll be able to thoroughly experience the Nantais way of life, and have the musings and photos to share with you all along the way.</span></p>

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