On March 18, 2015, my co-worker walked into my office and announced, "I have a Spanish Question."
This is an older lady. She is at least in her fifties and I was caught off guard and chuckled.
"Well, I might have a Spanish Answer."
She asked me the difference between bien, bueno, y buen. So, I gave her an improvised lesson from my past experiences with the Spanish language because unfortunately I was not taught Spanish in the classroom setting but picked it up on the street. Then after the improvised lesson I Googled for a concrete reference and quickly found an educational site that used great examples to explain in a great way what I was struggling to teach.
She was very pleased with the lesson; smiled and thanked me before leaving my office.
So, Today, I am busy at my desk and in walks my co-worker.
"Do you want to hear something funny?"
She looked at me with much anticipation, but I could feel my eyes get really big as I raised my eyebrows as high as possible as I tried to tell her with my face,"Not really. Is it going to be something "Mexican" related?" There was a genuine fear that washed over me as she asked this simple question and before I could say no she plopped into the armchair by the doorway and proclaimed, "Yes. You do."
Now, shock washed away my fear. She waited for me to say something. I didn't. I was waiting for her to tell me something funny.
Finally, after moments of awkward silence she began to tell me about her Aunt Teresa.
"Did I ever tell you about my Aunt Teresa? No? Well, she's Mexican... She's my mom's brother's wife. Well, she has two full blood Mexican kids that she had with another Mexican before she married my mom's brother. A boy and a girl. When the boy went to college he got married to a black woman." She takes a breath and reads the confusion off my face and says, "This isn't the funny part." I nod slowly... Not sure if I am going to find any of this funny. "So the sister is introducing us to her brother's wife, the black woman and she turns away from her and tells me "Now, we are a bi-racial family.""
Then my co-worker began to cackle. I hesitantly chuckled. I didn't get it.
Then she said, "This Mexican girl that has been in our family all these years was introducing us to a black girl and she says that as if we haven't already been bi-racial. I wanted to ask her haven't we already been bi-racial all these years."
Finally I got it! But I don't think I got it the joke she was telling. I started guffawing. I said, "Poor girl she thought you guys were the same. She thought she had the same privilege as white people." I was being as caustic as possible, but none of it registered with my coworker she just laughed along and said, "Isn't that funny?" I would reply, "Yeah. That's pretty funny," while I was thinking, "Not really." I played along by saying, "she thought she was white. She thought she was equal. Wow." Then she said "Her last name is German like ours so I guess she thought she was German." Which provoked me to say, "Wow, she thought she was a part of the Aryan race." Then I scoffed and she laughed. Then she walked out and I was about to sigh with relief that she was gone, but at the last second she turned around and pointed at me while she said, "I knew you'd like that!" Then walked away.
Now, am I being the epitome of hypocrisy by picking apart her innocent anecdote and inserting my racial bias into her story?
Maybe it should be funny because a mexican girl thought she was white because she lived with white people her whole life.
Maybe it's funny that a white woman found that confusion funny.
Maybe it's not funny and just sad. I am all for comedy. I love comedy. I don't think I have ever found racist humor that enjoyable. If anything I have found it hurtful for all parties involved, yet enlightening because I think racist jokes show people's personal views and illuminate dark hallways within their psyches. Again, is my coworker a terrible person? No! Definitely not a cannibal that eats little kids... Maybe she is, but not to my knowledge....
Anyway, she isn't terrible and she isn't wrong mexicans are different from white people. We do have an ancestral difference. Yet I don't think I found the situation as humorous as she did, and a part of me would like to know why she found this scenario so entertaining....
Let me know what you think.