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ABSTRACT. Some humor, while making us laugh, contains shadows of hostility toward those who cause strife – the racists, the bigots, the unaware and uneducated. Believe it or not, humor does have the ability to educate, to counter stereotypes and, if all else fails, to get even. Although humor can perpetuate and preserve stereotypes, it can also redress a wide variety of prejudices and preconceptions. Humor may not have been a powerful enough weapon to overthrow despotic regimes such as, for example, the US during slavery, Nazi Germany, or the former Soviet Union, but it did provide hope to the oppressed. This paper examines humor used by all kinds of oppressed people including African-Americans, Asians, women, Moslems, the disabled, and Jews. The authors conclude that society is better off if people get even with bullies and persecutors using humor rather than violence. Humor can educate the educable. Humor provides victims with psychological strength, and enables them to rise above despair and hopelessness.

Keywords: social justice; charged humor; subversive humor; getting even; stress; African-American slave; bigot; racist; anti-Semites; sexist

How to cite: Friedman, Hershey H., and Linda Weiser Friedman (2020). “The Pen Is Mightier than the Sword: Humor as a Social Justice Tool,” Review of Contemporary Philosophy 19: 26–42. doi:10.22381/RCP1920202

Received 17 October 2019 • Received in revised form 17 November 2019
Accepted 20 November 2019 • Available online 1 December 2019

Hershey H. Friedman
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Business Management Department,
Koppelman School of Business,
Brooklyn College of the City University of New York,
New York City, USA
Linda Weiser Friedman
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Baruch College Zicklin School of Business and
the Graduate Center of the City University of New York,
New York City, USA

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