Let me begin by saying that observers who say we’re glib about the legacy of Jonestown because of systemic racism have a point and nothing I’m about to write should be seen as an attempt to refute that belief. Having said that, I would like to make some idle observations about the legacy of Jonestown from someone who was alive — albeit very young — at the time this tragic event took place.
I totally get the point of people who say, in essence, had most of the victims of Jonestown been white that we probably wouldn’t crack jokes about “drinking the Kool-aid.” I get it. They have a point. It’s just, I’d like to observer idly that it’s been a long time since Jonestown — 40 years now — and if you asked the average person on the street about who died at Jonestown, they would struggle to tell you anything about it other than crack a joke about drinking the Kool-aid. It seems to me that it doesn’t register with the average person that many of the victims were not only minorities but children. It’s horrible that this is the case, but I think it was inevitable that the tragedy of Jonestown would become a punchline. How much of that is because of systemic racism is up for you to decide on a personal level.
Or, put another another way, if you scratch the surface and have even a basic knowledge of what happened, then, yes, it’s pretty obvious that it’s a tragic event and we shouldn’t make any jokes about not only because of systemic racism but because of the children who died.
But, like I said, the average person just doesn’t know enough about what happened at Jonestown for those issues to be at the forefront of their mind when they make “glib” jokes about such a tragic event. If they were better educated about what happened, then it’s likely they wouldn’t joke about it at all.
There are no easy answers on this one. Or maybe there are if you bone up on what happened on even a basic level. But if you aren’t well-versed in what happened, THEN there are no easy answers.