Racist/sexist/homophic jokes and comments in your presence... - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 22 Old 10-15-2004, 11:24 AM - Thread Starter
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What do you do? Even when they're not aimed at you or your identity. Do you call people on it? Do you ignore it?

I'm not talking about when people make statements or jokes online, but when you are in the same room or on the phone. Does it matter who the speaker is? Does it matter if it's directed at you?

I was recently reminded of two incidents. The first one the speaker aimed his comments at my identity, but not at me. I spoke up. I was also surprised that no one else did, except a good friend of mine, who always speaks up. I was the only person of this identity in the room, and felt really alone at that moment.

The other incident was with a group of cousins. One of my cousins is married to a guy from Tunisia who is Muslim. Her brother was making jokes about "jihad!" and saying that his brother-in-law must be a terrorist, blah, blah, blah. He would not let it go. Most people, save my dh and me, and the Tunisian cousin--we'll call him S., were laughing (as was S's dw). S. was clearly uncomfortable. I told my cousin to shut up, but he wouldn't let it go. I was really surprised that S's wife didn't speak up. Later I asked her about it, and she said, "oh S. knows my brother was joking." I didn't think it was funny, and it didn't look like S. thought it was funny either.
I still wish I had been more vocal about it when my loudmouthed cousin wouldn't shut up, especially when his own dw laughed right along.

Sooo, do you speak up, or do you let things slide?
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#2 of 22 Old 10-15-2004, 12:05 PM
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Oh, how frustrating! I'm sorry you and he had to put up with that! (Although it sounds like you handled it well. )

I would base my decision on whether to speak up on three things:

1. Is it aimed at me personally or someone who is present? Being angry or seeing someone who is uncomfortable would definitely get me to call them on it.

If not...

2. Would this person even "get it"? I can think of a guy I know, a friend of my dad's, who is in his fifties and makes jokes about every group you can think of. So, I roll my eyes, take a deep breath, and realize that he is just too thick to comprehend that these words can be hurtful to some. Luckily, I haven't had to be around him too much!

3. How well do I know this person? The reason this matters to me is that I tend to work much better with people one-on-one and would prefer to take them aside after and tell them, "Hey, that was really offensive..." rather than put them on the spot. If they were in front of a whole group trying to be funny, they would probably not react well to being criticized at that moment. So, I think it may be more effective to wait. Hm, that bothers me, though, because I'm sure his/her audience would also benefit by hearing someone speak up.
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#3 of 22 Old 10-15-2004, 12:42 PM
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Doesn't happen often, but when it has I generally go "WHAT? What did you say? I MUST have misunderstood what you just said!" with a face to match.
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#4 of 22 Old 10-15-2004, 12:58 PM
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I give the confused stare and ask questions like, "is that supposed to be funny?"
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#5 of 22 Old 10-15-2004, 12:58 PM
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This is such a challenge for me... I'm not always as assertive as I want to be or should be. But, I have done the "WHAT?" thing and I do try to say something like, "That's not funny at all."

But I've found that saying "What?" can backfire... 'cause when I do that with my own DH (Note: He rarely makes any kind of disparaging remarks about anyone, but sometimes he says a dumb thing & doesn't really realize it). My DH will repeat EXACTLY what he said the first time . He can be sooo dense sometimes! I can't quite get him to understand that when I say, WHAT? It's not 'cause I didn't hear him - it's 'cause I'm trying to give him a way to save face & correct his mistake without belittling him in front of people. He never takes the bait & I end up getting mad at him for saying something so dumb and then REPEATING it. And then we end up like this: : Grrrr...
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#6 of 22 Old 10-15-2004, 01:23 PM
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I try and gently call the person on it depending on who it is and what is is about. Some idiot made a comment to me about "haven't you heard of birth control?" and I gave him an earful.

If I mention to my mom I have new neighbors she always asks what color they are : I usually say back "does it matter?" or something like that. She is starting to realize it's wrong and she is getting better at not saying something. I always tell people not to act like that or ask stuff like that infront of my kids. Some of my best friends and best neighbors have not been white! But the few jerry springer show candidates have been so that goes to show you...
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#7 of 22 Old 10-15-2004, 01:29 PM
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I have been known to call people out since I was a kid...lol I do not see how an insult againsta "group" of people whom are another race/ethnicity/religion/etc. than I is not insutlting to me. It is demeaning no matter what. I have made olenty of "enemies" for calling people out but SO BE IT!

Now I admit there have been times I stayed shut, mainly when I had to:

A) Choose my battles that day

B) I felt speaking up may endanger my children. This can be hard but there safety comes first.

I call my Dad out alot on his homophobe comments in front of my kids. I have called strangers out in KMArt who told me racist "truths". I never say "well my kids are of __________ background" when the comment is about a POC (I am not a POC) b/c IMO that is not the reason I am speaking out. HEck, it can be hard. I bit my tongue when a cowrker told a story about how only she and her kids Grandma got lice, cause only white people get lice and her kids and husband are black so they are not susceptable. I had to except that some people are just plain dumb....
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#8 of 22 Old 10-15-2004, 01:30 PM
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I am a meanie, I call them out on it. I do a and in best shocked voice question what the said. I am appalled at such things. I love everyone and hate others to be slighted--whether a person of that nature is around or not!!!!

Lately, I have been trying a new approach. I have found with Nonviolent Communication, the underlying cause of the joke is that a need it not being met on the part of the "joker." In these cases it sounds like said person is uncomfortable with the jokee. And that is their own problem. When I think of it like that, I just feel sorry that the person is so insecure and unhappy (and then I fantasize about how miserable their life is and feel better, sad huh?).

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#9 of 22 Old 10-15-2004, 01:55 PM
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I try to handle it as compassionately as possible, but definately speak up. I always look horrified, and ask something "Did I just hear you correctly?" They generally get the point. I cannot let it slide.

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#10 of 22 Old 10-15-2004, 02:17 PM
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oh I definately say something, although there have been a couple times when I was so shocked I was speechless. I don't have any standard replies, they just come to me at the time.
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#11 of 22 Old 10-15-2004, 02:31 PM
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I do the quizzical look thing a lot, and usually ask them "What do you mean by that?" That at least sends the person the message that you don't share their same ignorant views about whichever group/ethnicity.

I'll also use sarcasm a lot if it's someone I know. A few years ago I volunteered to help a friend-of-a-friend move into a new apartment. This man who was moving had AIDS, and was pretty sick. When I mentioned to my mother that I was going to help out "because he's pretty weak... etc." she just said "Oh, Kate you be careful around him... Be careful what you're going to be touching of his!"

I just said, "Oh, I'm glad you mentioned that! I was planning to shoot up with him and talk him into having unprotected sex with me after we finished moving in his bed... but maybe we'll just get pizza and beer like 'normal' people do."

She rolled her eyes, but I think she "got it".
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#12 of 22 Old 10-15-2004, 02:43 PM
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I speak up too, except when I'm so shocked I'm speechless. I don't have a set response, so I just say or do what feels right at the moment.
I think sometimes the hardest comments to respond to are the ones that aren't as blatantly racist. For example, one of my old neighbor's asked me if I had brought my DS back from Japan. I didn't even know how to answer, since 1) he has no Japanese in him whatsoever and 2) I gave birth to him myself. I keep hoping I run into her again so I can ask her why she automatically assumed a white person can't have a mixed race baby....or I might ask her if she brought her kids back from Germany. I think that might get the point across. GRRRRRR! At the time she said it, I was a bit confused and didn't really respond at all.
I think it's always best to respond. Silence is a form of approval, since it lets the person making racisr jokes/comments feel comfortable while they're making them. If you point out the racism/homphobia/sexism, at least they'll know their words are having a negative effect on those around them. Sometimes people aren't aware that what they're saying is offensive. Or, if they are aware and are being offensive by choice, at least everyone around them will be made aware that their words are offensive.
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#13 of 22 Old 10-15-2004, 02:47 PM
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I like to say something like, "Well, now you're just embarassing yourself." in a flat, dry tone.

(That also works when drunk husbands start to imitate annoying MTV cartoon characters at parties where you're trying desperately to be even half as cool and beautiful as the rest of the guests.)
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#14 of 22 Old 10-15-2004, 02:50 PM
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Before DS was born, I taught high school and I heard many hateful comments/jokes (from staff, parents and students .

Depending on the situation: I would either get my serious death glare and say "That was completely innapropriate,unkind and unnacceptable. What on earth makes you think you can say something like that?"

I only did that twice and I scared a freshman boy so much that he never even called anyone stupid in my presence again, let alone the racial slur he had used to incur my wrath : We went on to get along very well, actually. He would tell people, "Ms. L is really cool...she gets pissed if you are mean, but she's actually nice. Just don't use any words that piss her off!"

Or,more likely if it was someone who I already had a relationship with (a student in my classes, a parent who I wanted to preserve relations with or a colleague) I would look really sad and bewildered and say "Oh (insert name here). I think you are such a great person and it really disappoints me to hear someone so intelligent and kind say such a hurtful thing. I'm sure you didnt' mean that." It usually worked like a charm.

There is something to the theory that if you tell someone they are smart, kind, funny etc. they begin to behave that way more often.

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#15 of 22 Old 10-15-2004, 07:10 PM
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I stand up to them. Usually I try to be "nice" and tell them that i find that offensive but sometimes if I am really pissy I will get confrontational. I have no fear of anyone...and that is not really a great attitude but call my nieces and nephews "chinc" to their face and you will incur the wrath of andi.
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#16 of 22 Old 10-15-2004, 08:30 PM
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I have always hated comments made in my presence. I have always let the other person know. Once, in grade school, when Jesse Jackson was running for president (okay, does that show my age too much!?) my *teacher* said that he couldn't be president because he was black. I was all of 10-11 and I totally stood up and said "Are you insane? Whether he can do the job of president or not has absolutely nothing to do with the color of his skin. Complain about his politics, complain about his issues, but the color of his skin? Please tell me this isn't a social studies class!" Well, he changed his tune pretty quick, but I did have to stay after for being "disrespectful". Then, when I was about 19, dh and I had some friends over for dinner and one used the basic negative term for black people, and I kicked him out of my house. I told him that if he wanted to use that language, that was his business, but I wasn't going to tolerate it in my house. So to answer your question, yes, I do stand up and say something if someone makes a comment like that. But that's just me, of course.
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#17 of 22 Old 10-15-2004, 08:31 PM
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according to miss manners, you say this, in any situation:

"my mother is a jew/hispanic/amish/black/gay man/republican..."

the more impossible the better. in her anecdote to illustrate the concept, a corporate wife needed a way to stop dh's boss from telling 'jokes' at dinners, wuthout putting dh in a spot. she ended up saying, "oh, i wish you wouldn't say things like that. my mother is a male homosexual migrant worker".

it dries up the talk.
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#18 of 22 Old 10-15-2004, 08:54 PM
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This came up for me while I was substituting in a high school today. I just wrote about it in my blog (linked below). I did speak up, but considering the "community values" here, I was pretty much outnumbered...


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#19 of 22 Old 10-15-2004, 08:55 PM - Thread Starter
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I love the Miss Manners tact!
I think hate speech (using the term broadly here) hurts everyone, including the speaker. It brings the speaker down a level.
I had a co-worker who would point out how common words and phrases were hurtful. She has such a calm demeanor that when she calls someone on a word or sentiment that someone might find offensive, she can do it in a non-threatening way. It doesn't matter the speaker to her.
I once mentioned that I thought something was "lame". She pointed out to me that using "lame" in that way could be offensive to a disabled person. At first I thought, that's a little extreme, but OTOH I haven't said "lame" in a really long time, and when I hear it, I remember what she said.
I aspire to be like her in my calling out the negative words. But I'm not there yet. I'm working on the calm lesson teaching.
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#20 of 22 Old 10-15-2004, 10:43 PM
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I generally say something like
"I don't find racism (homophobia, sexism whatever) funny.
And I am sorry that you do."
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#21 of 22 Old 10-15-2004, 11:29 PM
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Hmm. I'm the one that usually is shocking my DH. I come from a 'fluffy' family and we all grew up with making jokes and jabbing each other about our fluffiness.
He dosen't find this funny AT ALL, and gets quite outright pissed about it. (He's thin)
I dunno. I've toned it down A LOT, and he's loosed up some too. So, were okay- but I was raised its okay to laugh at yourself. Off topic I'm sure...Continue on :smile
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#22 of 22 Old 10-15-2004, 11:41 PM
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I call them on it.
why? The jokester was trying to gain an egotrip at someone else's expense, SO as instant karma should go, THEY now need to experience being the hurt/embarrassed one.

"When the external begins to define the internal, instead of the internal defining the external, one begins living as a mortal rather than as a universal being." ~ unknown
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