The time has come to give people like Halle Berry a break.
Berry reportedly made a Jewish joke during her recent appearance on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, while showing distorted photos of herself. One photo enlarged the size of her nose, and the award-winning actress commented, "Here's where I look like my Jewish cousin!"
Ok. So she made a joke. Was it an appropriate one? No. Was it a smart choice? Based on the backlash, it obviously wasn't. But was it really all that bad?
Let me start by saying that racist and ethnic jokes are inappropriate for a reason, and that reason being that they perpetuate negative stereotypes - especially when told while recording a nationally-televised show.
Then again, if Halle Berry were Jewish, nobody would care that she had made a Jewish joke (or alternatively, had the African American actress told a joke about African Americans), but it would have perpetuated the stereotype just the same.
The fact is this was not Mel Gibson's drunken diatribe about the Jews, or Michael Richards' racist rant. Let's be honest, Berry is not the first person to make an ethnic joke about a group that is not her own. In fact, most of us have probably done it at one point or another.
Years ago, I made a certain joke about African Americans and Mexicans - the one about how if there is an African American and a Mexican in a car, the police must be driving. Ironically enough, I told the joke while riding in a car driven by my good friend - who happened to be African American.
No sooner had I had blurted it out than I realized my mistake, and apologized to my friend sheepishly. It's impossible to know if he truly wasn't insulted, or just pretended not to be, but the fact of the matter is we remained good friends. At no point did he conclude that the fact that I had told a racist joke meant that I really hated African Americans.
Admittedly, and unfortunately, I don't know Halle Berry personally. But to label her an anti-Semite based solely on one momentary lapse in judgment in her choice of jokes is completely unfair. It's also grossly irresponsible, because it detracts from the severity and danger of true anti-Semitism.
The time has come to realize that a Jewish joke, inappropriate as it may be, does not an anti-Semite make. The time has come to let people like Halle Berry off the hook, and focus attention on the true anti-Semites, racists, and bigots of this world.
Want to enjoy 'Zen' reading - with no ads and just the article? Subscribe todaySubscribe now