It could only happen in South Carolina

Since we had a good discussion on the Intel ad, I thought I’d share something else from our Monday Riley Institute session in Charleston.

Our facilitator, Juan Johnson, decided to add something new, something experimental, in Monday’s session: humor as it relates to diversity. He didn’t get into any of my favorites, such as:

Q: How  many feminists does it take to screw in a light bulb?


He set up a scenario: He said, suppose you’re at a party with a diverse bunch of co-workers, and somebody starts showing some videos he thinks are funny. In each one, the humor derived from differences of gender or race or religion or regional background.

We didn’t have much of a discussion, because no one thought any of the videos were offensive or would make us uncomfortable in a group. We all just laughed our heads off. (He should have tried something a little edgier, like this. OK, maybe without the language…)

The closest anyone came to discomfort was watching the one above. I said I always feel a little bad when someone is being made fun of for being eccentric when they can’t help it. But I laughed anyway. And someone else said she wouldn’t want to watch it with friends from Boston because it might reinforce their disdain for Southerners, but she was fine watching it with fellow South Carolinians.

But that’s not why I’m telling you this story. I’m telling you because, after we’d all watched it and laughed (I’d seen it before, but still found it funny), someone called over to Jack Bass to say, “Jack, you’re from North, aren’t you?”

Jack Bass is the author, professor and ex-journalist who wrote, among other books, “The Orangeburg Massacre.” I’d known him for a bunch of years before we were in this class together. But neither I nor anyone else in the room knew what he was about to say:

“I’m the brother in Oxford she’s talking about. That’s my sister.”

Suddenly, some of us did feel a little awkward for the first time in the discussion. But it rolled right off Jack; he had seen the video loads of times over the years. In a very Southern summation, he said of his sister, “That’s just Marsha being Marsha.”

Couple of things you have to know if you come to South Carolina from elsewhere. One, each and every one of us has a tendency to be… colorful.

And two: Always, always, ALWAYS assume, when you say something about a South Carolinian, that someone else in the room is a close relative.

4 thoughts on “It could only happen in South Carolina

  1. Brad

    Yeah, Burl, that’s another thing — after saying I felt a little uncomfortable for her, I got to thinking — maybe she was the one sending Cosby up…

  2. Steven Davis

    So what exactly does one who attends these classes expect to get out of them? When I attend things like this I at least learn something that I can use in my job or for a certification. This sounds like a lot of watching videos or looking at ads and digging for things that might make one person out of a thousand uncomfortable.


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