“You Have No Right To Discriminate”: Of ‘Yo Mama’ Jokes And Cyber Racism

Posted on September 11, 2013 in Society

By Chriss Matthews:

So the other day this friend of mine, who came to the class wearing a short skirt was nicknamed Venus Williams. And what was meant to be a jab at her hemline, escalated to a debate of sorts about racism. It was during this discussion that I got to know of the ‘Yo Mama’ jokes and cyber racism. These so called ‘jokes’ range from entertaining to downright offensive. Cyber racism entails using online platforms to propagate racially offensive content and most of this is aimed at those of African origin, aboriginal tribes and Muslims.


Most people who propagate such racial cyber bullying do so under the guise of the ‘freedom of speech argument’. Yes, we are entitled to our opinions but it should not be used to belittle anyone. So what if a person is dark or fat? Each of us could easily have been in their position. It is hard to forget the Monkey-Gate racial abuse scandal, involving our own Harbhajan Singh and Andrew Symonds that overshadowed the second test match of the Border- Gavaskar Trophy (2007-2008).

However it is not the case that the internet is solely responsible for such offensive behaviour. Even before the internet, the purveyors of racism were active, albeit in the form of posters, graffiti etc. The internet became a catalyst in the dissemination of such derogatory content on a large scale. Although racist attacks that are commonly heard of in predominantly Caucasian societies manifest themselves in other forms in the rest of the world as well. ‘Kala Madrasi’, ‘Chinki’ are few of the words used to abuse South Indians and people from the north-eastern part of our country.

I have often failed to understand what gratification people derive from being racially abusive. Rather than the satisfaction that they get from putting another person down, I think it satisfies their constant need to project one’s own race and other similar attributes as superior. And the online space, with its cover of anonymity provides the perfect platform for such tendencies. One of the case studies presented in the book, ‘Blink’, by Malcolm Gladwell, demonstrated that when college students were asked to mention their races just before an exam, they did significantly worse than an identical control group.

Just because certain people have a darker complexion or have a fuller body structure, we have no right to comment or joke about it. A fat person knows that he or she is fat; a person with a dark complexion knows it too. You do not have to rub it in.This should start at the school level. The colour of skin or a person’s physical attributes should not be the yardstick with which we measure a person. Imagine if the MENSA members got together and started calling the rest of the world stupid and ignorant. Well, they might think the same, but at least they don’t post it in every other web site imaginable.