Satire’s aim was to lambast ignorant attitudes, not the downtrodden

To the Editor:

I am the author of one of the passages in the Yale Record’s Blue Book parody that an Undergraduate Organizing Committee member singled out as offensive. I would like to respond to this accusation. The description of the fake course, entitled “Practical Applications of Spanish for WASPs,” reads in full:

“This one-semester course will provide a brief introduction to Spanish phrases that are useful in everyday WASP life. Students will learn how to interact with gardeners, housekeepers, and other low-income workers. Crucial phrases, such as ‘No, the outsides of the windows do have to be cleaned,’ and ‘Rosa, are you stealing change again?’ will help prepare Yale students for their post-graduate position far above America’s underpaid service economy.”

What is the satirical target of these three sentences, and where do their sympathies lie? I’m no Jonathan Swift, but it seems pretty clear that, since this is satire, the sympathy of this paragraph lies a lot more with the “underpaid service economy” than with the nameless white speaker who reminds her housekeeper to clean the outsides of the windows, too. Explaining a joke makes it not funny, but I’ll take the risk: These lines were meant to mock the fact that the only interaction many rich white people have with Latinos is through cheap manual labor. I’ll admit that this is not a particularly original observation, but that’s why it’s couched in the form of comedy — hopefully, the backwards reality of the joke both grabs your attention and surprises you into thinking differently for a moment.

One of the ironies of this whole kerfuffle is that the political view expressed by this “offensive” joke is, I would guess, the same one held by many members of the UOC.

Aryeh Cohen-Wade ’05

Sept. 27, 2006

The writer is a former editor-in-chief of the Yale Record.

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