It’s just a joke.
Words are strange. They can mean so much but be said so fast. They can form feelings, stories, and patterns.
We’ve all heard it. The jokes. Not a knock-knock joke, or a dad joke. No. The Jokes.
“That’s so gay”
“You are so retarded”
“You guys are cancer”
“What a Schizo”
Those ones. The ones that when confronted, end with the recurring “Chill. It’s just a joke”.
Jokes you say?
Funny. Because I wasn’t laughing. Did I miss the memo?
I wonder, when did mental and physical illness become a joke, or when did sexual orientation become a joke?
Walking down the halls, that’s all I ever hear. Left, right and center my brain is blasted by these “jokes”.
I see all those cancer victims who’ve triumphed even the toughest of times, laughing.
I see all those people with real mental illnesses who have a hard time getting out of bed most days, laughing.
I see all those LGBTQ+ members still in the closet afraid of getting shunned by everyone they love, laughing.
Yes. They are all laughing.
Because it’s just a joke…right?
Wrong. It’s a joke to you. I’m sure you’re laughing at how clever it was to call you friend an illness that just killed 200 children that day, but if you actually took a look around, no one else is laughing.
What if I were gay? Am I? Do you know? Can you tell?
When you call your friend gay, did you check the room for all the LGBTQ+ people before screaming their title as an insult?
What if I were going through severe depression? How could you ever know?
So when you joke about how your friend would be better off hanging themselves, did you make sure that I didn’t want to?
And if I had cancer? Did you need my head to be shaved and to wear a hospital gown to see?
Would it not have been enough to just not call that chair, that inanimate chair, cancerous because you fell off it?
It might seem fine to say these jokes, but as you can see, it’s not.
Jokes like these are what create stigma and negativity around these topics. It strips away the seriousness of the situation and plasters it over in rainbows and sparkles. It tells the world that these things are not real and not to be taken seriously. It says that they are just jokes.
Plain and simple, these jokes are wrong. They hurt people in the worst of ways. These jokes you’ve engrained in your vocabulary break even the closest people to you and make all their problems feel worthless. It’s a cycle of trying to feel valid in this world, but no one can feel valid if everyone surrounding them tells them their problems and struggles are jokes.
No matter what situation, these words are never meant to be used as insults. Treat every person like a mystery. You don’t know what they are going through, so you have no right to joke about the things that could be dangling them off a cliff or keeping them on the edge.
We don’t really care until the person we care for the most is affected. Even then, once you built up this habit of speech, those words won’t split away so easily. When it is real and happening right in front of your face or to you, will you stop? Will you be able to spot the difference that you’ve been lacking to see? Will you know that is isn’t just a joke?
By: Madeleine M.K