Racial Paralysis: Responses to Racial Humor in Interracial Context

Somadina Iworisha, The College of Wooster


Humor is a mood or state of mind when one is amused (usually by a joke) and laughter is produced. Humor also works to alleviate stress, boredom, or sadness. In an intergroup setting, humor can take the form of a racial joke. A racial joke calls attention to stereotypes, while allowing space to discuss between those of different races. This study examines racial paralysis, which is the occurrence of uneasiness one may find with a racial joke, making it difficult to respond with laughter. The goal is to determine whether White Americans experience racial paralysis. It is hypothesized that Whites will laugh more at White jokes than Black jokes. Overall, laughter will occur mainly with a White confederate than a Black confederate or solo. Results did not yield any significance of condition, however some indications were found that supports the hypotheses.