Manufacturing prejudice

There’s a tra­di­tion in England—I don’t know how old—of abus­ing red-headed peo­ple. It’s a gen­uine prej­u­dice in England. From this face­book page:

‘Ginger’ in England ba­si­cally is like say­ing:

”Look there’s an ugly, smelly, no friends, so­cially un­ac­cept­able, nega­tive, ag­gres­sive, an­gry, vi­o­lent, un­clean, nasty, non boyfriend ma­te­rial, low self es­teem, unattrac­tive, so­cial mis­fit, nerdy, mo­ron, low ed­u­ca­tion, non hu­man...etc etc etc”

The term ‘gin­ger’ didn’t be­come ‘main­stream’ just be­cause of that South Park epi­sode, I was be­ing shot at, hav­ing acid thrown over me, stabbed, head­but­ted, punched, spat on, kicked, de­hu­man­ised, sin­gled out, so­cially ex­cluded, avoided, be­lit­tled, char­ac­ter as­sas­si­nated etc since I can re­mem­ber and to be fair I found that treat­ment was at its peak years be­fore that South Park epi­sode was even thought up.

This spread to the US in 2005, when Cart­man tried to in­cite vi­o­lence against red­heads in a South Park epi­sode with “Kick a Ginger Day”.

What’s in­ter­est­ing is how this meme is spread­ing in the US: As hu­mor. This meme is pro­moted by sites like Col­legeHu­ and MyLifeIsAver­, which mine it as a source of ironic hu­mor. The Cheezburger Net­work is push­ing gin­ger-ha­tred al­most as ag­gres­sively as they push pe­dophilia as a fount of hu­mor.

Are hu­mans ca­pa­ble of, col­lec­tively, keep­ing real and hu­morous/​ironic racism sep­a­rate? No, they are not. What South Park “kicked” off as an ironic com­men­tary on racism is be­com­ing ac­tual racism.

One clue that you’re go­ing too far in your ironic hu­mor is when you start find­ing the real thing funny.

Do hu­mans have an in­stinc­tive need to bond over shared prej­u­dices? Is com­bat­ing racism a game of whack-a-mole, in which so­ciety in­vents new prej­u­dices to re­place the ones be­ing taken away?