melissa harris perry (red dress)*MSNBC host Melissa Harris-Perry, an African American, made a bold move when she invited a panel of guests on her Sunday show to dissect the importance of racial jokes in society.

“Maybe race jokes are the place where we can actually talk about race?” Harris-Perry asked her guests; which consisted of a mixture of social commentators, scholars and comedians. They agreed, noting that humor is an effective tool to introduce sensitive topics like race. Harris-Perry credited comedian Dave Chappelle as one of the few who possesses the ability to deconstruct race unlike any other.

When some of the guests decided to try their hand at race jokes, things got a little…well… weird. Comedian Dean Obeidallah said that one of his best jokes about race poked fun at white people. Obviously recalling recent remarks from a Wisconsin senator about the African-American holiday Kwanzaa, he said that when whites become a minority in the United States, they can look forward to having a month to celebrate their heritage – or maybe just a week. “Whitey week,” Obeidallah suggested.

Then Daily Show co-creator Lizz Winstead told her joke: “It would have been kind of fun to see Herman Cain as the presidential nominee, because there would have been mass suicides in the Klan,” making her fellow panelists groan. University of Pennsylvania Professor Anthea Butler’s joke is said to have brought the house down. She poked fun at her days in grad school when she and most of her fellow students were impoverished.

“If a black person said they were broke, it meant that they had negative in their bank account,” Butler began. “A white person says they’re broke, we never believed them, because it meant that they had $500 in their bank account. They don’t know the meaning of being broke.”

But it was Harris-Perry, the host, that got the most props for telling what was termed ‘a genuine ethnic joke.’

In her joke, a young, Jewish man brings three women home to his mother and asks her to determine which woman he will be marrying. After talking to all of the women, the mother correctly identifies her son’s bride on the first try. When the son asks how she accomplished this feat, the mother replies, “I don’t like her.”