Racism Is Never 'Just a Joke'

HOLLYWOOD, CA - FEBRUARY 22:  Actor Sean Penn speaks onstage during the 87th Annual Academy Awards at Dolby Theatre on Februa
HOLLYWOOD, CA - FEBRUARY 22: Actor Sean Penn speaks onstage during the 87th Annual Academy Awards at Dolby Theatre on February 22, 2015 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)

At what point exactly does it stop being "just a joke," "take it easy," "you're being oversensitive!"? When does it become blatant and inexcusable racism?

Apparently, Sean Penn questioning, "who gave this son of a bitch his green card?" before presenting Mexican Director Alejandro Iñárritu with his third and most coveted Academy Award of the night makes the cut.

Considering that green cards are the document that allow immigrants to escape the "alien" reputation assigned to them and become, at least de jure, finally considered human and worthy in the U.S., Penn's unwarranted remark is as obscene as questioning, "who gave blacks the right to vote?" or "who gave women the right to pursue an education?"

It seems white dudes are getting progressively savvier with disguising their racist remarks as innocuous jokes. It's an art, really, how decade after decade the ways to ensure that minorities are cemented at the bottom are revolutionizing. And those who refuse to accept the joke-concealed racism, they're chastised for "lacking a sense of humor."

The struggle of immigrants is not a punch line. Hijacking Iñárritu's career-highlight moment by mocking his ethnicity undermines his raw talent. It's never just a joke.