Racial slurs and jokes based around stereotypes, whether intended to hurt or not, are always going to impact people of color more than white people.

While both may have the same intention from an outside party, one must consider the context, history and connotation of various words and stereotypes. In some instances, “lightweight” phrases with no malicious direction can, in certain groups, be completely fine, but one must be careful and self-aware of how they are going to be perceived.

People have been demeaning others through derogatory jokes for thousands of years, but that doesn’t mean that it’s okay. Many black jokes, when compared to white jokes, contain a double standard because of the history and connotation of some phrases, and sometimes that double standard can apply without any backlash.

For example, the N-word is never going to be a wholly positive word due to the originality of that phrase and its negative connotation of being racist and demeaning for much of its history. Of course, some may not be bothered by it, but that doesn’t make it okay to use openly and freely among all groups of people. Only black people can use the N-word, because the term has always affected their community, and they may use this term as a means of reclaiming the lexicon in spite of its origins. It is well-known that we get used to certain stimulus the more they are presented to us, and their meaning tends to change. Check out cuss words from the Victorian era versus today’s.

Is there a way to heal these lasting pains caused by slur words and phrases? In certain contexts, humor can be a great solution, but again, only the community these slurs and stereotypes affect can use them.

So what about black people making white jokes? Most people can agree it’s still racist to make a white joke (some people refer to this as reverse racism), but even then, white people can never feel as oppressed by a white joke as other minority groups do about jokes and slurs made around them. There simply isn’t a history of oppression and negativity surrounding white jokes the same way other minorities have experienced. Even in jest, these jokes and slurs can hurt an individual because of the way it was used in the past, sometimes even just growing up as a minority.

White jokes and slurs are never going to be as harmful as black jokes and slurs, because racist language has been used negatively and hurtfully throughout so much of history that it can’t be erased in a day. As a society, we must be conscious of how our words and phrases might affect others. If they were demeaning at one time, they probably still are to some individuals. It’s important for everyone to check their privilege and understand how individual opinion doesn’t erase the harmful effects an entire community has faced.