Harmful Humor

By Elizabeth Fitzgerald
NEWS Reporter



umor when discussing significant matters such as discrimination can be beneficial in transforming a controversial and sensitive topic into an openly debatable issue between communities. Dean Obeidallah, a Muslim-American comedian, addressed the student body this past Friday through humor. His comic anecdotes challenged Mercersburg Academy students to break down preconceived societal beliefs about Arabs, Middle-Easterners, and Muslims, and direct them in a positive direction.

He stated, “Dress brown, never leave town. Dress white, make your flight.” This light approach to the sad state of affairs allowed viewers to understand the restrictions of expression placed on Arab-Muslims due to the religious and racial stereotypes of all Arabs or Muslims as terrorists.

Obeidallah joked that often times when people find out he is Arab, they laugh and say “Oh you’re Arab? I love hummus.” The noncritical humor within this joke exposes Americans to that fact that they are largely ignorant to Islamic or Middle-Eastern cultures, despite the coincidence that most Arab nations embody much of American cultural. Americans simply turn a blind eye to the Middle East, unwilling to further their understanding and disband Islamophobia.   

Despite the joy that his talk brought, a fine line is walked when combining humor and oppression. Comedy creates a sense of detachment, which ultimately desensitizes our society to the extreme Muslim and Arab hate within the world today. However, Obeidallah connected well with his audience through the consistent shifts in his tone designed to personalize his message.

As the talk began to seem trivial, he declared in a solemn voice that “On September 10, I went to sleep a white guy. On September 11, I woke up an Arab.” This simple fact opened Mercersburg Academy’s eyes to the drastic societal transformation in which every day Arab-Americans were no longer viewed as our friends and allies but as terrorists in search of a “Target.” It is safe to say that Obeidallah’s performance brought a great deal of knowledge to Mercersburg students, and with that alone students are well prepared to work towards an inclusive world.

Posted in: Opinion

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