White People and Racism…

Sometimes It’s Okay to Laugh

By Seth Leuck

On Friday April 10, at Evergreen’s Longhouse, comedy was king. In front of a packed house, headliner and famous Australian comic Aamer Rahman, and openers Khadija Hassan and Abraham Tadesse brought the audience to their knees with jokes about everything from race, religion, and privilege, to masturbation and  Mormons.

As part of Day of Presence, comedians of color were invited to perform stand up routines, and the results were nothing less than fantastic. Day of Absence and its counterpart Day of Presence are two days of campus activities designed to encourage discussion about race, inclusion, diversity and allyship.

The night opened with Evergreen alum Abraham Tadesse, whose jokes ranged from stories about blacking after a series of Bacardi 151 shots, an episode of public urination,  and running from the police. If you’re guessing these things are directly related, you are correct.  He also relived some of his most notorious moments as an Evergreen student. It seemed, if raucous laughter is any indication, that his stories really hit home for the audience, particularly students. One could assume that many there may have had similar experiences with RA’s and the oh-so-notorious Evergreen institution that is the grievance system.

Evergreen student Khadija Hassan was next to perform. With a sharp wit and an eye for the truth, she called out everyone from self-described “non-privileged” white boys to the way Mormons always catch you at the most inopportune times. She had the audience rolling in laughter as she described being interrupted mid-masturbation by a duo of Mormons. It seemed clear to her that they had boned up on marketing tactics, as the sexiest Mormon seemed to be doing all the talking. Hassan’s  is an Olympia resident, and having previously performed at Vomity, Le Voyeur’s open mic night, we can look forward to more of her comedy.

Aamer Rahman, an Australian comic of Bangladeshi descent, headlined the comedy show. He is best know as a former member of the comedy duo Fear of a Brown Planet, and his now famous for his jokes about “reverse racism.” Spoiler alert: it’s not a real thing. He immediately set up the tone of his performance by giving white people the proverbial go-ahead to laugh, and then nailing them when they did, in a way that broke the ice and had everyone laughing. His routine ribbed everyone from Israel, to Muslims, to the “ass hole that is Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott.” He also took time to laugh at his own life by retrospectively exploring some of his misadventures, which ranged from angry Facebook posting to inadvertently taking his Bangladeshi cousin to an Australian heavy metal concert for white supremacists.

Rahman finished out his set with a question and answer segment where he fielded the  question “what would you like to tell white comics?” with the immortal answer “just stop.” He also hinted  that after he finishes his current comedy tour we may have a brand new TV show or comedy routine to look forward to in the future.

With all good jokes, it is the truth at the heart of their subject that makes them funny. All of the comics who performed took opportunities to focus on the disparity in the way people of color are treated in both the United States and abroad. Privilege, race and sexuality also played an important role, and though the jokes had people literally grabbing their sides, there was something painful and honest about their experiences. Funny though their jokes may be, hopefully this brand of political and cultural satire makes people take a moment to think about why they’re laughing and where they stand in today’s world.