'Why is it the Irish and the blacks never get married? Because they are afraid their children will be too lazy to steal.' Is this joke racist? What does it depend on? If the person delivering the joke is Irish, does that make it any better? What if the joke teller is black? Mixed Irish/black heritage? Does it matter if the joke's told to white English people, Irish people, black people?
Many of these issues get an airing in an article by Simon Fanshawe in The Observer which looks at humour, political correctness and whether or not jokes about anybody - regardless of their ethnic background, ability/disability, sexuality, gender etc - are fair game. As it happens, the man who told that joke was Irish and the (gay) writer of the article goes on to look at The Sun's headline about Elton John marrying his gay lover David Furnish ("Elton takes David up the aisle"), the furore around the negative stereotyping of Kazakhstan in the new Borat film, and many other issues.
The article itself is thought-provoking and funny, but the readers' comments that follow it redress the balance a little and are worth a look too.
ENA1 - Language & Representation