"If Jesus Was a Jew, Why Does He Have a Puerto Rican First Name?"

A supposedly "offensive" quote from Michael Bloomberg -- but that just shows how easily some people are offended.

|The Volokh Conspiracy |

I am no fan at all of Michael Bloomberg, but I've got to come to his defense on this one (see here and here, giving this as an example of material that's "offensive" and "racist"). The point of the joke isn't to suggest anything bad about Jews or Puerto Ricans; rather, the humor is in the absurdity of the speaker's own implicit factual error: It's as if the speaker views Jesus Christ as being named after Hispanics named Jesus rather than vice versa.

This might be slightly insulting if the speaker is mocking others who make that error; much as "If English was good enough for Jesus, it's good enough for me" is used to mock those who are perceived as ill-educated Christian traditionalists, you can imagine the "If Jesus was a Jew" joke being used to mock ignorant anti-Semites (or perhaps anti-Puerto-Ricans). But more likely it's just absurd, and funny because of that. Nothing in it reflects any hostility on the joke-teller's part to either Jews or Puerto Ricans.

But the condemnation of the joke does reflect, I think, how knee-jerk and unreflective people have become on such matters, treating jokes about race, ethnicity, or religion as somehow per se offensive or prejudiced without seriously considering what the joke actually means.

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  1. Did he pronounce it “Hey-Soos?”

    1. He preferred Chuy.

  2. I assume he is also part Greek based on the last name Christ. Does anyone know his full middle name?

      1. So, like Truman, only an initial?

        1. It’s Hallowed, as in ‘Hallowed be thy name.’

          1. He probably received a lot of teasing with that name. No wonder he only used his initial.

          2. From one of my favorite books. I’m a bit surprised no one else here gets the reference.

      2. Well, if it was a certain Civil Rights icon responding, it would be “Hymie.”

    1. Full middle name is Juan Pablo Hernan Batista Iglesias del Santo Martírio de las Armas Carrasco Pachuco Pacheco y Coño…

  3. I laughed, and I was born in Puerto Rico, so gimme a quorta, white lamb, or I cut choo face.

  4. Maybe it wasn’t the joke per se. Maybe his delivery was just off?

  5. That’s actually not at all surprising, considering that God himself is Hispanic. As it says in Zachariah 14:9 “God will be one and his name is Juan”

    1. “…and his name is Juan”

      Who is a baseball player, because as we all know “In the big inning, G*d created the heavens and the earth.”

  6. I’m both gay and disabled, and over the years I’ve heard plenty of jokes about both (and told a few myself). I can tell if someone is being a mean spirited bigot, or engaged in friendly ribbing, and if the latter I give as good as I get.

    The real problem, from my perspective, with most non-pc jokes is that they aren’t all that funny. They tend toward juvenile potty humor, and only a case of arrested development would find them amusing. On those occasions when I hear a gay joke or a disabled joke that I do think is funny, I’ll probably repeat it to the next ten people I meet.

    So on that note, can somebody please explain why, if God hates gays, did he make so many of them? Or did I mention my friend Jose, who went to the eye doctor? The eye doctor asked him, “Jose, can you see?”

    1. So on that note, can somebody please explain why, if God hates gays, did he make so many of them?
      He loves theater.

      1. Well, He didn’t; Don’t confuse TV with a representative sample.

        1. I don’t think anyone confuses TV with a representative sample, but there are still far more than one would expect if he really doesn’t like them. I don’t like Brussels sprouts so I don’t plant them in my garden.

  7. Did Bloomberg pronunciate Jesus Hey Suess or Jeez us?

    Yeah. that joke is the least offensive thing I’ve heard from Bloomberg. It’s his serious statements that offend me.

    Plus the fact he seems to be trying out for the part of President Snow in a bad fan fic version of The Hunger Games.

    1. … Hey Seuss …

  8. I agree completely. There are far too many complaints that a perfectly innocuous joke or comment is bigoted because it merely mentions a “protected class”, without any analysis of the meaning of the joke or the speech act intended by the teller. Far too many people get worked up about jokes that contain a word that someone has decided is offensive, even if it was not so when the joke was created or learned by the teller, or even if it is currently considered offensive only by a tiny minority. Objections to such jokes seem almost always to be intended to signal virtue on the part of the critic and degrade the teller rather than actually counter bigotry.

    1. Doesn’t matter what Bloomberg says because hey look over here Rush Limbaugh said something about this gay guy!

        1. Rush said: Buttagieg can’t beat Trump because of the contrast of a “thirty-seven year old gay guy kissing his husband on stage, next to Mr. Man, Donald Trump,”.

          I can see that being offensive, but I’m not sure how off base that is as election analysis. Large segments of the Democratic coalition are more socially conservative that the white liberal activist core, that’s just a fact, and I’m sure Buttigieg and his campaign also candidly discuss strategies for dealing with that too, at least they should be if they want to win.

          1. Kazinski: I agree with you on that quote, though I’m not sure that’s even particularly offensive. But Bill Poser’s and my point wasnn’t to say (as Jimmy the Dane suggested), “Doesn’t matter what Bloomberg says because” Rush Limbaugh said something offensive. Rather, it was that Bloomberg’s joke doesn’t matter because the joke itself isn’t offensive.

            1. Well you are mostly right about that, some people will choose to be offended no matter how innocuous the joke, but they probably were not Bloomberg supporters anyway.

              1. See Lathrop below for a good example.

    2. Agreed.

  9. If you are surprised that a New York business man has a foul mouth and is not an exceptionally tolerant person, then you probably also think Epstein hanged himself.

    1. I’m not sure where in the post, or in the comments, there’s any indication that anyone is surprised that Bloomberg has a foul mouth and is intolerant. The point of the post is that there’s nothing foul-mouthed or intolerant about this joke.

  10. Eugene is right. But what do we tell our children about how to conduct themselves? Don’t we have to teach self censorship?

  11. It’s his farmer “joke” that’s going to sink him:

    “I could teach anybody, even the people in this room… to be a farmer. You dig a hole, you put a seed in, you put dirt on top, add water, up comes the corn.”

    And factory workers:

    “You put the piece of metal in the lathe, you turn the crank in the direction of the arrow, and you can have a job,”

    1. AOC said basically the same thing about billionaires.

      Apparently, you just hire a bunch of black and brown people to make widgets, sit on the couch, and soon you’ll have a billion dollars.

      1. Idea for a reality show: give Bloomberg and AOC a lathe and blueprints for something really simple, like a bolt, and watch them figure it out.

        1. What’s the over/under on how many fingers they lose?

  12. Bloomberg is a disgusting, vile Judenrat and a petty, foul-mouthed authoritarian. But on this particular joke, I agree with this post.

  13. In this one, EV adopts as his own the tone-deafness which puts Bloomberg’s other racist remarks over the line. It has to do with invoking the virtue of pure reason to explain away and excuse a belittling historical and sociological reality. Other comments above pick up on that tone-deafness, and repeat it.

    Sure, as a question of reason, nobody can much criticize these remarks. But as a question of history and social reality, these are remarks which mostly occur among folks who enjoy class advantages over a group that many of them have long disparaged. That is what makes it tone-deaf and actually racist—the association of class, history, and disparagement, invoked by someone with power to make it hurt.

    Had the same remark been told among Puerto Ricans, those dynamics would have been different, and the offense would not arise. That is another fact which has power to mislead the tone-deaf, who are inclined to assert that equality among everyone, radically interpreted, must wipe away any sense of offense. It is the same confusion which insists if black rappers can use “nigger,” without giving offense, then so can everyone else.

    Ultimately the root of the offense is the tone-deafness itself—the confusion which demonstrates how little thought someone in a position of relative privilege needs to give to historical facts which for others signify material oppression and emotional pain. Each such tone-deaf remark, and self-justifying reasonable explanation, is painful proof that those conditions abide, and that the tone-deaf speakers don’t much need to care about that.

    it is worth noting that this essentially sociological complication is probably not fixed forever in the same form, nor with the same normative power. There was a time—as recently as the 1930s, and demonstrably for a long time before—when the norms about racial interactions (and other group interactions) were understood according to a tougher and more accepting normative structure.

    This by Ralph Berger captures nicely that earlier reality, and thus highlights the change which neither Bloomberg nor EV appears to want to notice. It is about a pretty good professional baseball player with a physical handicap, who played out his career mostly in the late 19th century:

    If William Ellsworth Hoy were playing today, he would not be called “Dummy”–not by players nor by fans nor by the media. He’d be “Bill” or “Billy,” perhaps “Will” or “Willie,” maybe even “Ellie.” He wouldn’t be a deaf mute, either. He’d be “aurally and vocally challenged.” But back when Hoy was playing, nicknames were descriptive, often to the point of cruelty. To Hoy, his condition wasn’t an excuse; it was what it was. Indeed, he referred to himself as “Dummy” and politely corrected those who, for whatever reason, called him “William.”

    There is a good deal more to this capsule biography, worth reading and reflecting on. Google, “Dummy Hoy” and it comes up near the top.

    1. People you like, like Trudeau and Gov. Ralph KKKlansman can wear blackface and white hoods.

      People you don’t like can’t even tell a mildly retarded joke.

      1. Uh oh, the “R” word….

    2. When your comment is three times longer than the blog post, stop and reevaluate.

    3. This type of post has to be written by a person with an advanced sociological degree. If you don’t have one, I will grant you an honorary one. Note that he got in the obligatory P word. He should get this comment submitted to a journal.

    4. And they say leftists have no sense of humor. I can’t figure out where people get this idea.

  14. “Sure, as a question of reason, nobody can much criticize these remarks. But as a question of history and social reality, these are remarks which mostly occur among folks who enjoy class advantages over a group that many of them have long disparaged. That is what makes it tone-deaf and actually racist—the association of class, history, and disparagement, invoked by someone with power to make it hurt.”

    Excellent paragraph. If you ever decide to teach a seminar on virtue signalling I would love to attend and learn from an expert.

  15. Seems like we have evolved quite a bit on this topic. I’m old enough to remember 1991 and the offense when Bob Kerrey and Jerry Brown shared a joke about lesbians.

  16. Americans are largely culturally naive, at best.

    Attend (to) Dr. Jackson W. Crawford on Old Norse Viking’s culture. They had no identifiable religion, contra ritual, no word even for tattoo, fighting men cannot survive long hair and beards, never horned helmets, and on and on.

    Praise Kek.

  17. Oh, for Christ’s sake. These quotes are from 30 years ago. Really?

    I am no fan of Mini-Mikey but this is ridiculous. You know, at some point, there is a statute of limitations on ‘outrage’. You’re going to haul out quotes made from 30 years, most made in jest, and somehow ascribe a different intent and meaning 30 years later.

    That is just dumb. Let the first person who is willing to have ALL their quotes for the last 30 years dissected, be the first to throw a stone.

    1. That stone was hurled long ago. This site has had aticles about journalists who scour everything ancient looking for something “problematic” they can report as news…for every little person with 15 minutes of fame in the news, to say nothing of politicians.

      It’s more cases of “weaponizing our attack ideas…against us?!?!?”

  18. I’d advise him not to quit his day job, but, yeah, it’s not terribly offensive.

    OTOH, I don’t think the point here is what sane people would find offensive. It’s what Democrats would.

    1. “It’s what Democrats would.”

      Whatever Trump says.

      1. Pretty good default assumption, since most of what Trump says conflicts with reality.

      2. yawn

    2. I agree that political correctness sometimes produces absurd results. However, given a choice between doing too much or too little to make everyone feel included, I’ll go with too much. It’s a big improvement over the blatant racism coming from some quarters on the right.

      1. I wouldn’t, because it’s a bad incentive to give people the power to silence others any time they’re offended. It produces an arms race towards ever thinner skin, exactly what we don’t want.

        1. Brett, if your point is that people with eggshell sensibilities should not have the ability to silence speech that is objectively not offensive then I agree with you. That’s kinda the whole point of this thread.

          By the same token, there is a long list of types of speech that is socially unacceptable and I’m fine with overtly racist and sexist speech being on that list. If I tell me secretary that she’s old,fat and ugly, I won’t go to jail but I might well lose my job. I’m fine with the same outcome for bigoted speech.

          1. Because “she” wasn’t her preferred pronoun?

      2. the blatant racism coming from some quarters on the right.

        Agreed. Case in point: Chicago, which has not had a Republican mayor since 1931:

        NBC News: ‘Crook County’ Author: Judicial System Stacked Against Blacks, Latinos

        Quote:
        Van Cleve documents how minority defendants in Chicago were referred to as “Mopes,” a term with the same derogatory intent as the N-word. Fabricated police reports were overlooked.

        Rather than a case of rogue officers and “a few bad apples,” Van Cleve presents a searing picture of systemic and deeply entrenched racism – including among defense attorneys. Those within the system who try to fight its defects often risk retaliation and isolation.

        Minority defendants, she writes, were often viewed as objects with no humanity. Van Cleve shows how even members of the public, such as defendants’ family members, were routinely disrespected and subjected to humiliation and abuse.

  19. That’s a great book. Although, 1990s Bloomberg does come off as slightly sexist, given the jokes. But those were the 90’s.

    “”You know why computers will never take the place of people? Because a computer would say that the sex of the person giving you a blow job doesn’t matter”

    “It (The bloomberg terminal) will do everything, including give you a blowjob. I guess that puts a lot of you girls out of business.”

  20. Bloomberg will get away with saying things Trump would be crucified for because he (now) has the magic (D) behind his name.

  21. Apparently it makes me tone deaf, but I’m with Eugene on this one.

    1. Me too.

      Some people really do lack a sense of humor.

  22. I wonder if a certain amount of fake outrage isn’t being ginned up about this particular joke, just to crowd out coverage the genuinely offensive things he’s had to say?

  23. Could Bloomberg (and many other men of his generation) have benefited from sensitivity training thirty years ago? Sure.

    1. Sensitivity training isn’t to make you more sensitive it’s to intimidate you both socially and institutionally into falling into line. Sensitivity classes are always mandatory joyless affairs run by a apparatchiks from HR.

  24. Reminds me of the great Kinky Friedman singing:
    “They ain’t makin’ Jews like Jesus anymore,
    They ain’t makin’ carpenters who know what nails are for.”

    He faced much more intolerance for his song “Get Your Biscuits in the Oven and Your Buns in the Bed.”

  25. Under the new rules, any mention of a minority group by name is “racist.” What Bloomberg should have is “If Jesus was a person of the Hebrew persuasion, why is he named after a person of color.”

    1. Nope. Bloomberg is a Jew, so he can use the word in a joke. He just can’t say “Puerto Rican.”

  26. If memory serves me correctly this was first voiced by the great Jewish comedian George Jessel.

    Funny then, funny now. PC be damned.

  27. Puerto Rican? And I thought Jesus was Spanish!

  28. EV, you miss the offense in the joke completely. You fail to even try to deal with the fact that many Christians would and do find the joke offensive as demeaning the status and stature of Jesus. The joke indirectly places Jesus (the son of God and living word of God to Christians) below ordinary man (in this case ordinary Puerto Ricans) by saying Jesus was named after ordinary man (Puerto Ricans).

  29. I read the whole booklet of Bloomberg quotes — it’s online. Crude and arrogant, but at least some of them are funny.

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