The Worse Hate Often Starts as a Joke

Walter Mwasi Williams III
3 min readMar 24, 2020
Image by Tracy Lundgren from Pixabay

Joking can be used to diffuse tense situations, to add levity, or even discuss otherwise uncomfortable topics through humor. However, it can also be used for the complete opposite.

Much of the worse hate starts as a joke.

It first begins this way to test the waters. It is meant to feel the room and keep plausible deniability. There is no responsibility when one is joking. When confronted or challenged, there is still room to escape with things like, “You are taking this too seriously”, “Everyone is so sensitive these days”, “Your generation don’t know how to laugh”, or “I am a comedian, not a sociologist”. In a simpler translation this normally means, “I am not responsible for things I say unless you like them”.

People like this joke for more than laughter. Laughter signifies what is permissible. Because they are not a racist if it is a joke. They are not a transphobe or a T.E.R.F when it’s a joke. They are not sexist, xenophobic, or homophobic, when they are always just joking. No one expects truth in humor, exaggerations are allowed in comedy, they exploit this. Things otherwise hurtful are now allowed because it’s all just a joke.

Joking is safe because they disguise all the ugly things, they normally cannot say with a bit humor.

“He never said he hated Trans people. He said he thinks their situation and circumstances are kind of funny.”

“She never said she hated Blacks. She is only using the word Nigger to emphasize the joke.”

“They never said anything about hating Asians. The Virus did start in China. They are just joking about that fact when they call it Asian Sickness or Kung Fu Fever.”

Joking is the sneaky way to fish for allies. It signals to others where one stands but without the responsibility that the courage of convictions brings. Racists, Sexist, and homophobic jokes are the best sort of way to nudge those already on the fence. Humor lowers the guard of the audience and endears them to the listener. It is all in fun. It encourages others to join in by trolling. Trolling is just teasing. They are only teasing when they make rape threats to women online. They are only teasing when they send gas chamber and oven memes to Jewish people. Everyone is just taking it too seriously.

The worse kinds of hate start as a joke to downplay mockery. It casually emboldens and encourages prejudice. The jokes are meant to dehumanize already marginalized groups of people by degrees until the targets are viewed as worthless. The jokes are meant to quietly mute the empathy and lower inhibitions in all those participating until they view the targeted group as nothing but caricatures.

It is easier to disregard the feelings of caricatures. Easier to justify cruelty towards caricatures. It is easier to hurt or even destroy caricatures.

Much of the worse hate starts as a joke because laughter makes it palpable. Even palpable enough to cause people, who are not normally sexists, homophobic, or racists, to defend them as “only joking”.