Do we really "need to relax?"
When someone makes a racist joke and people get upset about it do we respond with, "Sheesh--just relax--it's a joke. The intent wasn't to insult."
And when someone makes a crack at a certain ethnicity's expense and people jump to let that person know the joke was inappropriate would anyone (really) respond with, "It was a joke. Everyone knows they didn't really mean it. Relax."
And does anyone really appreciate a long-drawn out explanation from someone regarding why they thought a joke about someone's race was funny and they couldn't in a million years have predicted people would have a problem with it--but they're sorry now?
The answer is NO.
Nor do you hear people running to defend someone who just told an off color joke with, "I'm African American and black jokes don't bother me, so keep telling them," "My husband is Mexican and I don't mind derogatory jokes about Mexicans--they're funny."
We don't post 'funny' racist or ethnicity bashing jokes on our Facebook walls, tweet about them, or pin them to our Pinterest boards. And we don't teach them to our children or show them that we condone them by laughing at them in front of our kids.
We just don't. We all know it's wrong.......and really........it's not even a temptation to joke about because it's such a non-issue......what somebody's race or ethnicity is. To make demeaning, inappropriate, insensitive, or crass jokes about it shows a lack of decorum in a fairly civil society. It shows insensitivity to an individuals station in life--one that they did not choose, but were born into.
There's also this intrinsic force that just tells you it's wrong. So you don't do it.
Unfortunately, oddly, surprisingly, dishearteningly, and sadly the same does not hold true with adoption jokes.........even in 2012 when adoption is so prevalent, wonderful, touching, life altering...........and normal.........there are those that still think it's okay to joke about being adopted as if it's a negative thing.
And almost more frustrating to me, there are those that rush to the defense of the one who told the joke after it's clear that others didn't think the joke was funny with, "People need to relax, it was was just a joke," "I'm adopted and I think adoption jokes are hilarious," "My daughter is adopted and I'm going to teach her to relax and laugh at jokes like this," "I know you didn't mean any harm so it's okay."
Exchange the word 'adopted' with African American, Jewish, Chinese, or any other race or ethnicity. I'm guessing the support for whoever told that joke would quickly fall by the way-side.......as it should.
Bad judgement is bad judgement. Period. It doesn't need rallying troops to smooth it over and make it 'okay.' It doesn't need cheerleaders to make people who (rightly) had a problem with it feel like they are uptight, judgmental, and sheltered. It just needs to be corrected with a simple, "I'm sorry, I was wrong. I had a lapse in good judgement."
And that goes for when people tell adoption jokes too.
Children who are adopted don't generally have a choice over being adopted--because it happens when they're babies or toddlers, or very young. Many of them are born into it. And most of them are fine with it.....hopefully even proud of it. They may have questions about their identify, the details of the adoption, or how it effects them going forward, but they're usually not ashamed of it and they certainly aren't into making jokes about how it's a terrible and dreadful thing.
And I firmly believe they shouldn't be made to feel like adoption jokes are something they need to learn to tolerate because they're "just jokes," and they need to "relax" about them.
I know I've written about this before. I know I sound a little fiery. I know I'm on a soapbox......and I won't get down when it comes to this topic.
Sometimes this issue crosses my path again though--where I least expect it and I have to grab that bull by the horns. Writing about it helps solidify my thoughts on it. Writing about it is me--exercising my voice on a topic that I now have the life experience to write about.
If we have a voice on something--we should not silence it.
As a society we need to strike adoption jokes from our vocabulary--in any context, however light-hearted they may seem. They are always inappropriate, they do not demonstrate any kind of sensitivity, and they are more than just politically incorrect--they are rude and mean-spirited. They make fun of something that an adoptee has no control over; something they can't help.
And I believe that just like we intrinsically know we shouldn't make racist jokes, we know we shouldn't make adoption jokes. And when you hear someone making one tell them to 'knock it off.' Don't tell them 'it's okay--you know they meant no harm--or that others need to relax.'
Because this adoptive mama? I'm not relaxing. Not about this.