Editor's Notes

How can this still be happening?

How can some people still think it is OK and even funny to ridicule someone simply because they are different from themselves?

And how can others still laugh when they do?

Last week’s Bloomsburg Fair mocking of state Health Secretary Rachel Levine, a transgender woman, in what was planned as a dunk tank fundraiser for area firefighters, was just the most recent example of this harmful and hurtful attitude.

Fair officials held a press conference on Tuesday to apologize for it, but as our Thursday editorial about the matter pointed out, they really seemed to be trying to get through the incident rather than really apologizing for it.

Yes, they deleted the post on the Fair’s official Facebook page that featured photos of the dunk tank and a man dressed as a woman standing in the water, along with the words. “Dr. Levine? Thank you. You were a hit and raised a lot of money for the local fire companies. Wonder why so many were trying to dunk you.”

But then, when asked about possibly donating any money raised to an LGBTQ organization, Bloomsburg Fair Association president Randy Karschner said, “The money raised was for the firemen, so I’d hate to turn around and throw it away.”

Incredible.

I’d like to hope they were really sorry. I’d like to hope they realized the hurt people feel when they are the subject of these and similar attempts at “humor.”

I have no plans to bet the ranch on it. 

There are people who, when it comes to something like this, will respond with something like:

“What’s the matter? Can’t take a joke?” Or maybe: “What’s wrong with people today? Everyone’s so sensitive these days.”

The fact is, jokes at the expense of others, whether it be for race, gender, looks, clothing or whatever, have never been appropriate.

As I researched this column this week, I came across an excellent piece written by Thomas E. Ford, Professor of Social Psychology at Western Carolina University, who researched what he called “disparagement humor.”

The piece was posted by one of our company’s partners, The Conversation, a network of not-for-profit media outlets that publish articles written by academics and researchers.

Ford defined disparagement humor as “any attempt to amuse through the denigration of a social group or its representatives.”

That includes, he wrote, sexist or racist jokes — basically anything that makes a punchline out of a marginalized group.

Disparagement humor, Ford wrote, “simultaneously communicates two conflicting messages. One is an explicit hostile or prejudiced message. The second message is that “it doesn’t count as hostility or prejudice because I didn’t mean it — it’s just a joke.”

Today’s edition of The Daily Item includes a story about what life is like for members of the LGTBQ communities who live around here.

In addition to the Bloomsburg Fair incident, I felt the recent anti-LGBTQ statement posted in a flier at Wenger’s Grocery Store in Mifflinburg, which stated the LGBTQ lifestyle “spreads deadly disease and sickness,” made this story an important one to do.

I hope it provides some understanding of the need to accept people for who they are.

And that being disparaged for your race, gender identification, faith or appearance should never be a laughing matter.

Email comments to dlyons@dailyitem.com.

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