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Stereotypes--when do you speak up?

post #1 of 26
Thread Starter 
This has been bugging me. It's come up several time recently IRL as well as on the internetz.

There have been numerous accounts of jokes circulating since President Obama was elected, jokes originating with national and local leaders as well as simply shared between family and friends in email forwards, jokes based on racial stereotypes. To most people that I know, those jokes are obviously offensive.

But, in the last few weeks, I've stumbled across several scenerios, entertainment related, that depend on using Mexican stereotypes (Pancho Villa, sombreros, Speedy Gonzales accent).

I don't think that's any better than joking about Obama growing watermelon, but, somehow, it seems to be more acceptable and people tend to assert that--if you find it offensive--you are looking to be offended and just need to lighten up.

I can't lighten up. Not about bigotry. I know to some people each incident seems like such a small thing, but it adds up and it feeds the current, increasingly aggressive bigotry against Mexican and other Latino immigrants. To me, that kind of "entertainment" desensitizes us, and allows groups like the MinuteMen to grow even stronger because, little by little, people are able to dehumanize others.

So even a little bit isn't okay or funny.

How often do you speak up? And to whom?
post #2 of 26
You know this is so relevant to post to MCF?
Because people hail from so many different cultural backgrounds you can't tell by a glance. You can guess, but you never know. So what might be a little funny to one group could be extremely offensive to another. (Can't tell you how many times I have had family members hear black jokes from friends who didn't realize they were talking to a black person).
And to nip it in the bud because it's wrong. You start in the home where you and your family to foster such imagery. You take your complaint to the company to bring it to their attention that as a consumer you don't appreciate their embracing such stereotypes.

It is very possible to enjoy life, have fun, giggle and laugh without pulling down the image of a group of people.
post #3 of 26
I speak up. If it's racist, it's racist. I've noticed that ppl are much more careful about saying anything racist against African Americans. However, when it comes to making racist comments/jokes about Hispanics, Asians or ppl of Middle Eastern descent, it's a free for all and ppl seem to think it's ok and will openly mock those cultures with the attitude that it's socially acceptable. Well, I'm Asian American and it just pisses me off when ppl think that it's ok. So, I don't care *what* kind of racism it is, I call them out on it. I don't care if they think I am being, "over-sensitive" or, "can't take a joke." As far as I am concerned, ppl like that need to be made aware that those types of comments and jokes are NOT acceptable, even if they think it is ok. A lot of ppl who makes those kinds of comments would NEVER make a racist comment about African Americans in front of others, but it blows my mind that they are ok making racist comments about other races/cultures. I don't really understand the, "hierarchy" of racist jokes/comments and why some are, "ok" and others are not. It seems to be a pretty common problem in America from my observations.
post #4 of 26
Quote:
Originally Posted by mags View Post
I speak up. If it's racist, it's racist. I've noticed that ppl are much more careful about saying anything racist against African Americans. However, when it comes to making racist comments/jokes about Hispanics, Asians or ppl of Middle Eastern descent, it's a free for all and ppl seem to think it's ok and will openly mock those cultures with the attitude that it's socially acceptable. Well, I'm Asian American and it just pisses me off when ppl think that it's ok. So, I don't care *what* kind of racism it is, I call them out on it. I don't care if they think I am being, "over-sensitive" or, "can't take a joke." As far as I am concerned, ppl like that need to be made aware that those types of comments and jokes are NOT acceptable, even if they think it is ok. A lot of ppl who makes those kinds of comments would NEVER make a racist comment about African Americans in front of others, but it blows my mind that they are ok making racist comments about other races/cultures. I don't really understand the, "hierarchy" of racist jokes/comments and why some are, "ok" and others are not. It seems to be a pretty common problem in America from my observations.
post #5 of 26
The other night I was at a get together and a limbo contest was started. One woman kept trying to get me to do it and saying how good I probably was at it. For the record, I suck at limbo and try my best not to participate...ever. She wouldn't drop how good I probably was so finally I said, "Just b/c I'm Jamaican doesn't mean I'd be good at it," thinking that was why she was pushing so hard. Then she said, "Oh, you're Jamaican? I didn't know that. I just thought you'd be good b/c you're so small."

It's hard to know where people are coming from sometimes...
post #6 of 26
I always speak up. I've dealt with this sort of thing most of my life. I am white, and often people will tell a joke or something "because we're all white here". Uggg! I know that I hear WAY more comments than my husband ever does.

My grandfather (not blood related) was a black man, my uncle was married to a Mexican woman and now I am married to a Mexican man. So lots of different cultures in my family

I always just calmly said "My grandfather is black" or "My husband is Mexican" and "I don't think those sorts of jokes are funny or appropriate.

Occasionally I've had people become hostile and tell me I was looking for trouble, but most of the time they are embarrassed and I hope it makes them think twice about saying something along those lines in the future. It irritates me, but I try to keep my calm because getting in an argument is unlikely to help matters.
post #7 of 26
I always speak up, to anyone with whom I am willing to have a conversation, or leave. If it is in a public place, I may not speak up to that person, but I will leave and tell my daughter why. That said, we live in Washington and you do not hear those kind of comments here that often. I didn't get the watermelon / African American thing until I was in college doing something in a class on racism. I had just never heard it. And I do not watch cable or anything, just PBS and the morning and evening news. So I guess it's easy for me to talk!
post #8 of 26
Most of the time, I don't speak up, and I don't feel that I need to. In most cases, the folks I am with making those jokes mean absolutely no disrespect and are instead using jokes/humor more common in their culture. Many stereotypes are harmless and are intended to group people together but not necessarily to put them down. We use them *all* the time, and I don't think it's helpful to immediately perceive them as negative. Some of the stereotypes that I hear frequently are that Japanese people are hard-working and respectful, the Irish can hold their liquor, blondes have more fun, white men can't dance, older people drive slowly, the French are sophisticated and romantic, Australians are fun-loving and laid-back, English accents are sexy, etc. Is this true in every case? Of course not. But I don't feel that these stereotypes are intended to put people down.

That said, there are lots of stereotypes that I absolutely won't tolerate, like the assumption that all Spanish-speakers are illegal immigrants. I do understand that stereotypes lump people together and gloss over the diversity each group has; but at the same time, I think that the popularity of some stereotypes and their origins can shed some light on the differences between us and how well we are appreciating that difference.
post #9 of 26
Thread Starter 
I'm going to try to explain my original question a little better.

I do think it's great that most of the people who responded would speak up if someone told a racist joke, especially given that, if the person telling or forwarding the joke thought it was funny, s/he was doing so with the full knowledge that it relied on racism or bigotry in order to be funny. IOW, you're not going to forward a joke about watermelons in the WH rose garden unless you get the joke.

But I was talking about even more than that.

In the last few weeks, I've noticed several examples of Mexican stereotypes used as entertainment. A couple were children's games featuring Pancho Villa or a similar character, Speedy Gonzales accent, etc...and when I mention that it's offensive, I've either been completely ignored or told to lighten up, even by people who would consider themselves to be anti-racist. If the game featured a black caricature running around trying to catch, say...fried chicken...the same people would be all over it.

I'm frustrated and a little pissed off that bigotry, especially when it's created for children, is somehow okay or even cute. It's never okay, but how can they not realized what their kids are absorbing?
post #10 of 26
Missy
Your example is still kind of vague, so I'm not quite sure that we're 'getting you' right.

People have different ways of dealing with this.
The way *I* usually respond is:
I usually let it go at the moment. If it crossed the line (my line), I'll address the person/s on another occasion. I think it's best to find a way to turn the tables around for them without attacking them- and in a way that personalizes it so that they "get it."

If they walk away saying I'm being overly sensitive, then it indicates to me that I didn't get through to them because they're turning it into MY issue. So, I'm careful not to approach them in a combative manner. I want to enlighten them if possible, not throw more fuel to their fire of bigotry. I don't want them to continue thinking as they do but only be more selective about who they share their true feelings with, kwim?

I know people who say it's not their job to enlighten other people and that's fine. I'm OK with taking that job on.

There are those few occasions where I've told someone off and those have been the most unproductive encounters for me. But, the times that I've been patient with people, they slowly change for the better- and it's a real change.
Anyway.... that's my spin on it.
post #11 of 26
Thread Starter 
In the last few weeks there have three separate incidents, two on the internet and one IRL. Two of them involved products that are on the market, and so one of the internet discussions evolved from a discussion about the product. Part of that product includes a game involving a character like I described. So it was a bunch of parents discussing how wonderful the product is, and, when I mentioned the game and questioned whether others were concerned by it, they either ignored me completely or told me to lighten up.

So it wasn't a matter of an individual confrontation. No one said anything offensive. People were buying a product that included an extremely offensive element. Many of those same people would have been horrified if the game featured racist stereotypes about a black character, but could somehow brush off this particular character and bringing it up actually irritated them.
post #12 of 26
i totally get where you are coming from!

There was/is a TV commercial for six flags, and it has a man with a fake over the top asian accent saying "six flags, more flags more fun", and then makeing the stereotypical squinty face.....the first time i saw it i was a little take back by it, and then the more i saw it the more angry with society i got.....I mean why is it ok to make fun or be derogatory to other cultures? What would have happened if they got some white guy to paint his face black and wear an afro, and make the same commercial? People would notice then.

It seems like there is some social acceptance of people with "lighter" skin, so there fore its ok to make fun of or stereotype there cultures? I dont get it.

Is that what you are talking about?
post #13 of 26
So, this is a group that you have contact with regularly.

Is there a way in which you could explain that if the product was referring to another group, it wouldn't be funny.

Another thing to keep in mind is that people aren't as knowledgeable about other groups as they are about themselves. So, sometimes they unknowingly say something or find things funny because they don't understand the context or connotation.
But when it's about THEIR culture, they clearly see it as offensive.

For ex.- I notice that it's become pretty common for non-native Spanish speakers to use the Spanish word "cojones" in place of the English "having balls" (meaning-having the guts) to do something.
As a bilingual (Span/Eng) speaker, it never fails that my reaction to hearing that word (cojones) is always a bit of shock : to me because it's extremely vulgar in my parents' country of origin. But non-native speakers think they're saying something mild, perhaps milder than "balls."

Imagine if a non-English speaker were speaking their native language and every once in a while they threw in the phrase in English "mother-effer" in there. You'd be shocked, wouldn't you?

Anyway..... is it possible that this could be the case about this product you speak of? That they don't understand the implication or connotation of it?
post #14 of 26
Quote:
Originally Posted by Missy View Post
In the last few weeks, I've noticed several examples of Mexican stereotypes used as entertainment. A couple were children's games featuring Pancho Villa or a similar character, Speedy Gonzales accent, etc...and when I mention that it's offensive, I've either been completely ignored or told to lighten up, even by people who would consider themselves to be anti-racist. If the game featured a black caricature running around trying to catch, say...fried chicken...the same people would be all over it.

I'm frustrated and a little pissed off that bigotry, especially when it's created for children, is somehow okay or even cute. It's never okay, but how can they not realized what their kids are absorbing?
I just really cheerfully identify what's going on, and call it creepy. Logos, people using faux accents, whatever.

eg... I was looking at the canned fruit with some friends the other day: "Hey check out this ridiculous geisha stereotype! It's so creepy that they would use that to sell oranges... Isn't it the 21st century yet?"

I just act like everyone is going to agree with me that of course it's creepy, and usually, people do. Instead of succombing to other people expecting me to act like it's okay. And people start to follow suit when they hear you saying stuff like this. My boyfriend now totally calls people out when he hears them using "accents"... he's like, "What are you doing? Stop acting like a fool. You sound ignorant."

It sucks, but I found the best way to keep myself from becoming enraged (because this is a topic that can enrage me), is to try and use some sardonic humor. I'm gentler on some people, but I will say, "It's not cool." Something, anything. Honestly I don't care if people understand why it's not okay to say certain things. Just don't say them, that's the respectful thing to do.

Hope that made sense.
post #15 of 26
Thread Starter 
It makes a lot of sense, cyclamen.

LoMaH--I don't think it's that people don't understand the implication or the connotation. I really think people deliberately pretend not understand it and pull out the PC card because, hey, it's all in fun and they're tired of having to think about everything.

Tinyblackdot--I'm not sure it's about a group having lighter skin as much as it seems to be socially acceptable to make fun of certain races or ethnic groups over others. I think people justified racist characterizations of Asians as being acceptable because the sweeping stereotype is that Asians are intelligent and successful and therefore unhurt by a few jokes. I think that Latinos, particularly Mexicans, are the target of so much bigotry right now, to the point that openly bigoted groups like the MinuteMen are directly influencing laws on the state and local levels, that many of us have no problem with the racist jokes and stereotypes. We've become desensitized to it, because the bigotry itself has become engrained in the mainstream.
post #16 of 26
Oh to add.. I [wouldn't] try not to get angry if people tell [you] me to lighten up. I just shrug (metaphorically or otherwise) and just say/write, "Hey, that's how I see it. But it seems shameful to me, to teach kids something like that is okay." It might seem like a cop-out, but unless I have a personal connection with someone, I find that people on the internet seldom listen. Maybe you could link to something like this? http://resistracism.wordpress.com/racism-101/

or one of the other web documents that talks about "silencing discussions on racism."

With people I know in real life, my repeated references to shame seems to work quite well. People eventually understand that it is something to be embarrassed about if you think even seeming innocuous stuff like that is funny or ok.

I also will again... just point out that "x is wrong" with this movie, book etc (like that dreamworks el dorado movie is a great example... so creepy!). But then I'll generally refuse to discuss it further unless it seems like the person really wants to have a reasonable discussion, instead of getting in my face and telling me I'm reading into things.

And, for people I have to deal with, who claim to respect me, I will make it clear that if they really do respect me and value my friendship, I don't tolerate hearing what I consider to be hate speech. They don't have to like my definition, but they will not race bait me if they really believe we're friends. I don't buy the whole, "We're such good friends, that's why I can say anything to you" bs the way that I used to in high school. And by race bait, I mean stuff about me, or anyone else.

Boy I had a lot to say on this....
(edited for some clarity)
post #17 of 26
Quote:
Originally Posted by Missy View Post
Tinyblackdot--I'm not sure it's about a group having lighter skin as much as it seems to be socially acceptable to make fun of certain races or ethnic groups over others. I think people justified racist characterizations of Asians as being acceptable because the sweeping stereotype is that Asians are intelligent and successful and therefore unhurt by a few jokes. I think that Latinos, particularly Mexicans, are the target of so much bigotry right now, to the point that openly bigoted groups like the MinuteMen are directly influencing laws on the state and local levels, that many of us have no problem with the racist jokes and stereotypes. We've become desensitized to it, because the bigotry itself has become engrained in the mainstream.
Ditto this.
post #18 of 26
One thing that has worked for me (accidentally the first couple of times, intentionally after that), is to ask the person to explain the joke. Explaining a joke always makes it unfunny, but for racist/stereotyping jokes in particular it forces ther person to highlight their racism and reevaluate it outloud, which is usually enough to embarass people into not doing it again. Like the whole watermelon thing... I don't get it.. why is that funny? Oh really, where did that idea come from? Well, that doesn't make a whole lot of sense, and it's not really funny...

ETA: then you follow up with a clean, nonracist joke and get all the laughs.
post #19 of 26
If it affects me personally (like arab-muslim jokes), I always point out that I'm a muslim, who's married to a muslim arab and the jokes not funny. It usually makes a point to people when they see my disappointment in their poor taste for joke material. If it's on TV or internet, I do not promote the information and let my feelings be known. The election was the worst- when there were "Obama is a muslim" or "Obama is an arab" crap going around- I was like "Yah, so, what if he is? What's wrong with muslims?" The terrorist jokes are even worse- I always tell people to come stay with us or my ILs, and they'd never meet warmer and more hospitable people anywhere on earth. I hate stereotyping.
post #20 of 26
Quote:
Originally Posted by Mosaic View Post
One thing that has worked for me (accidentally the first couple of times, intentionally after that), is to ask the person to explain the joke. Explaining a joke always makes it unfunny, but for racist/stereotyping jokes in particular it forces ther person to highlight their racism and reevaluate it outloud, which is usually enough to embarass people into not doing it again. Like the whole watermelon thing... I don't get it.. why is that funny? Oh really, where did that idea come from? Well, that doesn't make a whole lot of sense, and it's not really funny...
: Totally agree that if you ask, "What's so funny about that?" it stops them. For me I've found that silence is truly golden for many situations if I don't like what was said. People just don't know what to do or say when you don't respond and just look at them. It often stops them cold and it actually makes some squirm because they don't know how to react to my lack of response.

The other thing that gets to me is when someone thinks it's okay to make a jokes or deragatory about other ethnicies to me because I'm Asian. They have no clue that my family and my circle of friends is pretty much like the UN. It's not just the racist jokes, but even the jokes about someone's physical appearance or disability.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Mosaic View Post
ETA: then you follow up with a clean, nonracist joke and get all the laughs.
Unfortunately I'm not good with coming up with jokes

Tinyblackdot: That Six Flags commercial makes me nuts. First time I saw it I was taken aback too. There are a few commercials that I've been like WTH?
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