Think before you speak

Contribute to the solution, not the problem

Atmika+Iyer
Back to Article
Back to Article

Think before you speak

Atmika Iyer

Atmika Iyer

Atmika Iyer

Atmika Iyer

Hang on for a minute...we're trying to find some more stories you might like.


Email This Story






During Awareness Week last month, we had a guest speaker who came before us in a school-wide assembly and talked about her late son. She spoke of how he was beaten to death simply because of his sexuality, how she has since been advocating diversity and acceptance through various platforms, and how she has noticed the lack of diversity within her own community —which is mostly white.

At this comment, someone in the crowd thought it would be OK to whoop in celebration. This is what happened in the second session; however, I unfortunately heard of inappropriate questions asked during the first assembly as well.

I’m sorry, but when a brave woman comes to speak of her loss, close to none of us can even begin to comprehend what she went through. So when someone finds it appropriate to whoop at one part of her speech, this is nothing but a prime example of levity — disrespectful, inappropriate humor — at its worst.

If you can’t think of a single thing to say that doesn’t belittle another human being, or make light of a terrible situation, then perhaps you shouldn’t say anything at all — that is, until you equip yourself with a better sense of humor,”

Awareness Week was not the only time I’ve witnessed incidents of uncalled-for humor. I’ve heard “North Korea, best Korea,” from kids hanging around my math class. I’ve even heard “Heil Hitler,” in our school’s open walkways.

Those are words that should not be coming out of our mouths, ingrained into our modern-day sense of “humor.” Violent homophobia is not a joke. The humanitarian crisis in North Korea is not a joke. And for goodness’ sake, the Holocaust is not a joke.

I still remember hearing from a Holocaust survivor in the seventh grade — of how he was stripped of his identity, tattooed and turned into an object rather than a person. He had to hide under dead bodies to live. I remember crying as this man spoke of all he had been through.

So when this kind of nightmarish pain is turned into a twisted joke, my blood boils. To belittle a pain you have never experienced is utterly inexcusable.

When you make a joke about the Holocaust, I hope you remember the people who were trapped in internment camps, tattooed, gassed and murdered simply because of their religion, sexuality or disabilities. Or when you make a joke about 9/11, I hope you remember the 3,000 lives that were lost in an extremist group’s attack on our country. And when you make a joke about North Korea, I hope you remember the 24 million people there living in extreme poverty, as well as the countless others indoctrinated into believing that fear and starvation are normal in daily life.

I realize how my little spiel may elicit a: “Stop being such a buzzkill and just take a joke, jeez,” reaction. I promise you that I’m not here to discourage every budding school jokester. But I am here to draw a line between what’s actually funny and what will never be — between humor and plain obscenity.

I understand that people slip up sometimes. Admittedly, we all do and say things we shouldn’t: I am just as guilty in this respect as everyone else is.

But at the end of the day, admitting your mistakes and learning from them — and hopefully never repeating them — is what matters most. Making insensitive comments doesn’t make you a bad person, but realizing what’s wrong with them, yet continuing to say them, does.

Believe it or not, jokes don’t have to be made at the expense of another in order to be funny. If you can’t think of a single thing to say that doesn’t belittle another human being, or make light of a terrible situation, then perhaps you shouldn’t say anything at all — that is, until you equip yourself with a better sense of humor.

As HBO’s “The Newsroom” has so eloquently put it, “Freedom of speech is not a license to be stupid.”

Print Friendly, PDF & Email