Stereotype in Satire: Is it still offensive?
Several of Paul Beatty's essays in Hokum, an anthology of African American Humor, contain stereotypes of black people, among others. Some stereotypes come from people around him, and others come from Beatty himself. But Beatty employs stereotype in in a manner that the former does not, by using it self-deprecatingly and humorously in a manner that might be described as satire. Because a stereotype is a preconceived notion about a group of people who happen to share similar ethnic, racial or cultural characteristics, it is an oversimplification that can often be harmful when used in a certain way, such as to discriminate or to fortify racist views; and even if used without any particular malice, it can encourage or affirm existing stereotypes. In addition, Beatty points out how some tend to perceive particular groups as being monolithic in thinking, which make it possible for stereotype to thrive.
His own early resentment of his heritage is a theme in the essays, one that is fueled by his fear that there is some truth to that perception. But by exhibiting self-deprecation, using stereotype to poke fun at himself and his race, and recounting how he came to appreciate Black literature, he demonstrates the difference between stereotype as basis for satire, and stereotype used for disposable and meaningless humor. The readers do not have to make a distinction as Beatty's intention is pretty clear. He satirizes himself and in the process, whatever he says becomes satire.
An anecdote by Beatty about his first experiences with racially charged humor helps make the distinction between the two different uses of stereotype by acting as an analogue. Targeted by the white kids who make jokes about his skin, Beatty engages in "Polack" jokes to direct attention away...