"That's Racist!" as a Punch Line
It's a comedic catchphrase these days, popularized by an online clip from a 2005 TV show "Wonder Showzen" on MTV2. It's not as iconic as Gary Coleman's "What 'chu talkin' 'bout, Willis?" or Fonzie's "Ayyyyyy" or even Bart Simpson's "Don't have a cow, man." But what it lacks in pedigree, it makes up for in ubiquity and social relevance.
Across the country, it's a staple of schoolyards, Internet discussion groups, Twitter and sitcoms.
For instance, when a character on NBC's "Parks and Recreation" explains to a co-worker how to do laundry, he says, "OK, so you always separate your lights from your darks."
She responds, "That's racist."
Perhaps the greatest sign that the punch line has gone mainstream came last week when NPR's "All Things Considered" reported on "that's racist." Correspondent Neda Ulaby explored how a phrase once considered one of the most serious accusations possible has become a gag line. The only problem? It's not clear she actually gets the joke....
But what's the joke? We don't find out until a 14-year-old-boy says it plainly: "I think I or other people just sort of do it as a way of mocking people who are overly sensitive about race issues."