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Old 07-06-2009, 12:56 AM
 
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Originally Posted by tiffani View Post
I don't think it's arrogant as much as it was said in ignorance, really. A person from a very small, very white town in Canada might feel more compelled to call someone exotic looking (and mean "beautiful in a unique way, special" in his own words) without thinking "hey, actually I'm the exotic one here" -- I think that usually, because exotic is generally meant as a compliment, it is an offense that should be met with gentle education on why it might not be taken as a compliment, what it really means, by definition and by historical significance. Also, because, as so many people here have pointed out, the word exotic is very often misused to mean "uniquely beautiful" we can't leap to the conclusion that anyone who uses it is being racist -- I mean...they are using a term with racist connotations, but they might not know it, and might not mean it in those terms, yk?
Ahhh I understand. I misread your original post as I thought you were saying he didn't like when people always cry racism but I believe you were talking about your husband. Yes it is ignorance and I really don't think he realized his privilege of being white and having that the norm in his world and maybe your explanation did change something you just don't know it yet .
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Old 07-06-2009, 01:05 AM
 
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in most cases i have ever seen, the word exotic is used to fetishize a person of color.

finding people of color attractive is one thing, but "otherizing" them for their specific traits is somewhat dehumanizing (ie. not seeing the whole person).

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Old 07-06-2009, 01:32 AM - Thread Starter
 
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futurmama8, only time will tell...

my husband is just trying to find what he feels is the best path to raising transracially adopted kids. how do you instill pride, resilience, a strong sense of self, in the face of certain prejudice, without going overboard and causing your kids to assume that any stupid thing someone says is meant to hurt them, or coming from a place of racism?

Some people jump all over any phrase that is sometimes used in a racist manner (which is why my dh argued with me at first over my issue with the word exotic, though he has since come around to seeing my POV, as I see his) even if it isn't being used that way in a particular context. For example, we have a very close friend who is hispanic, and we were talking with him about our trip to Cozumel, a small island in Mexico that was nearly destroyed by a hurricane not too long before our trip there. My dh was talking about how the residents there worked together to re-build, as there was essentially no government support for the task. He said something along the lines of "in the face of all that destruction, those people were all there for each other, and just banded together to get done what needed to get done". Our friend took exception to his use of the phrase "those people", feeling that it was racist, and they got into a big discussion about how that is not what he meant by the words "those people" (he meant the people who live on the island, not Mexicans in general) as well as discrimination in general. My dh works with young men from all over the world, and they often argue about what is and is not racist, so he sees both extremes, I think, and is trying to find the most respectful middle ground from which to raise our kids.

We've talked a lot about white privilege and while he agrees with the concept, he also feels that most people, white men included, have been discriminated against for something or other in their lifetime (himself because he was chubby as an older kid and was ridiculed even by a teacher ) and while it's not the same as being discriminated against your whole life simply because of your race, his argument is that it's not helpful or useful to assume that white men have no idea what everyone else is going through, or that they all walk around feeling superior all the time. I agree with that wholeheartedly, and in talking about it quite a bit, I think we understand each other's pov on this one, even while it evolves...

I think he would agree with whoever it was (in whichever thread ) who said that conscientious white people are the most uptight about proper use of language, and he doesn't want to feel like we have to censor everything we say with our kids, because our relationship with them won't be as genuine -- using the word "monkey" for example, as someone else mentioned -- I don't know how I would remove that from my "playing with a kid vocabulary" -- it would feel very unnatural to NOT call my little ones monkeys, yk? It's just bound to come out! I do fully understand the racial implications, but that is so NOT what I would be referring to, and I don't want to constantly censor myself with my own children, yk? I don't want them to feel we treated them any differently than our other two kids, and I think if we're mentally choosing our words carefully, they will feel it. we have a very open and comfortable relationship with our kids, and I hope that continues -- I think we just have to trust that any mistakes we make in language with them will be easily rectified simply because they will know how much we love them. every child finds fault with their parent when they're teens or young adults, and I would rather they ask us "why did you call us monkeys when we were kids? that's such a racist term!" than for them to feel like we were ever "on our guard" with them, yk?

It's a fine line, and we're trying to find it... My biggest goal is for my kids to understand that someone else's stupidity doesn't have to affect them. They can deal with instances of racism however they feel most inclined, but I want them to have the option of fighting it, if they choose, or ignoring it without feeling any consequence to their sense of self.

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Old 07-06-2009, 01:35 AM - Thread Starter
 
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after re-reading my post, I had to clarify -- some white men certainly do walk around feeling superior all the time, and have no idea what anyone else is going through, nor do they care...

but not all of them.

We're Tiffani , Mark , Lucy (9/99) , Dexter (8/01) ,and Zachary Marvin (3/07) and Naomi Rose (6/09), home 11/10, by way of Ugandan adoption.

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Old 07-06-2009, 11:26 AM
 
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My "exotic" daughter? Tootsie Pop

Webster's Online Dictionary defines exotic thusly:

1. Being or from or characteristic of another place or part of the world; "alien customs"; "exotic plants in a greenhouse"; "moved to a strange country".

2. Strikingly strange or unusual; "exotic costumes from the Far East"; "an exotic hair style".

So, strictly speaking, I guess my little girl is NOT exotic, because she isn't strange or unusual, though she is striking. She's also 100% American, and here in Texas that doesn't qualify as being from another place.

Bottom line, I don't think it's offensive, but YES I can see how someone else might.
I tihnk this definition is why, in the context of transracial or international adoption, the word exotic gives me pause. There's an implication of "strange" or "other" in the word. It carries with it the idea that some people are "normal" and "belong". I know my child doesn't really want to be considered "other" he wants to be part of the group, and deserves to be raised in his environment where he doesn't stand out to the degree where he'd be considered "exotic" or, where if he does stand out it's because he's his amazing self, not because of his hair or the color of his skin.

I also think that there are families who adopt transracially because they are looking for "exotic" -- they specifically want a child who is different, and will make them stand out. Again, I'm not sure that's fair to the child.

To me, the question of whether exotic is offensive is entirely dependent on context. If I'm a (blonde haired, blue eyed tourist) and someone implies that I'm exotic -- that's fine, after all, I'm there in part because the people who live there are "exotic" to me. If I were in a situation where I was trying to make myself stand out physically in an attempt to find a mate -- yes, exotic is fine. But in the context of a playground, or a job situation, where I want the focus to be on my skills or my personality or other aspects, then I think the word exotic would bother me (assuming I lived in a place where my looks were considered exotic), because it shifts the focus away from what's important about me.
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Old 07-06-2009, 12:14 PM
 
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...To me, the question of whether exotic is offensive is entirely dependent on context. If I'm a (blonde haired, blue eyed tourist) and someone implies that I'm exotic -- that's fine, after all, I'm there in part because the people who live there are "exotic" to me. If I were in a situation where I was trying to make myself stand out physically in an attempt to find a mate -- yes, exotic is fine. But in the context of a playground, or a job situation, where I want the focus to be on my skills or my personality or other aspects, then I think the word exotic would bother me (assuming I lived in a place where my looks were considered exotic), because it shifts the focus away from what's important about me.
In a job situation, any type of compliment not explicitly relevant to professional capabilities would be troubling. In general situations, the whole point is that it doesn't matter whether you are called "exotic" or any other term at all. If you stand out, you stand out. If you have some tract or feature that will call attention to you, that is there. If that matters to people, it will come out in their behaviour, whatever words they use or don't use. That's why I think worrying about a word is sort of a false problem. The issue is that right or wrong, like it or not, lots of people will view me as "other" and that is what I have to work around to assert "whats important about me". At least in common parlance, "exotic" is most often meant as a compliment. Since "different" is there anyway, I'ld rather be "different in an attractive way", lol.

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Old 07-06-2009, 12:20 PM
 
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In a job situation, any type of compliment not explicitly relevant to professional capabilities would be troubling. .
Not sure about that. I regularly say things to co-workers like "did you get your hair cut? It looks great!" Not sure those things are particularly troubling. In a job interview? Yes, but not in a day to day situation.

But if a fellow teacher walked into the staff room and I called them "exotic". Yes, I think it would be a concern.
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Old 07-06-2009, 03:16 PM
 
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i have to say that this thread has been so informative and it good to see a variety of responses and to the original poster, i have to agree that your friend probably never imagined that this would create such a debate.

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Old 07-06-2009, 05:09 PM
 
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Originally Posted by tiffani View Post
futurmama8, only time will tell...

my husband is just trying to find what he feels is the best path to raising transracially adopted kids. how do you instill pride, resilience, a strong sense of self, in the face of certain prejudice, without going overboard and causing your kids to assume that any stupid thing someone says is meant to hurt them, or coming from a place of racism?

Some people jump all over any phrase that is sometimes used in a racist manner (which is why my dh argued with me at first over my issue with the word exotic, though he has since come around to seeing my POV, as I see his) even if it isn't being used that way in a particular context. For example, we have a very close friend who is hispanic, and we were talking with him about our trip to Cozumel, a small island in Mexico that was nearly destroyed by a hurricane not too long before our trip there. My dh was talking about how the residents there worked together to re-build, as there was essentially no government support for the task. He said something along the lines of "in the face of all that destruction, those people were all there for each other, and just banded together to get done what needed to get done". Our friend took exception to his use of the phrase "those people", feeling that it was racist, and they got into a big discussion about how that is not what he meant by the words "those people" (he meant the people who live on the island, not Mexicans in general) as well as discrimination in general. My dh works with young men from all over the world, and they often argue about what is and is not racist, so he sees both extremes, I think, and is trying to find the most respectful middle ground from which to raise our kids.

We've talked a lot about white privilege and while he agrees with the concept, he also feels that most people, white men included, have been discriminated against for something or other in their lifetime (himself because he was chubby as an older kid and was ridiculed even by a teacher ) and while it's not the same as being discriminated against your whole life simply because of your race, his argument is that it's not helpful or useful to assume that white men have no idea what everyone else is going through, or that they all walk around feeling superior all the time. I agree with that wholeheartedly, and in talking about it quite a bit, I think we understand each other's pov on this one, even while it evolves...

I think he would agree with whoever it was (in whichever thread ) who said that conscientious white people are the most uptight about proper use of language, and he doesn't want to feel like we have to censor everything we say with our kids, because our relationship with them won't be as genuine -- using the word "monkey" for example, as someone else mentioned -- I don't know how I would remove that from my "playing with a kid vocabulary" -- it would feel very unnatural to NOT call my little ones monkeys, yk? It's just bound to come out! I do fully understand the racial implications, but that is so NOT what I would be referring to, and I don't want to constantly censor myself with my own children, yk? I don't want them to feel we treated them any differently than our other two kids, and I think if we're mentally choosing our words carefully, they will feel it. we have a very open and comfortable relationship with our kids, and I hope that continues -- I think we just have to trust that any mistakes we make in language with them will be easily rectified simply because they will know how much we love them. every child finds fault with their parent when they're teens or young adults, and I would rather they ask us "why did you call us monkeys when we were kids? that's such a racist term!" than for them to feel like we were ever "on our guard" with them, yk?

It's a fine line, and we're trying to find it... My biggest goal is for my kids to understand that someone else's stupidity doesn't have to affect them. They can deal with instances of racism however they feel most inclined, but I want them to have the option of fighting it, if they choose, or ignoring it without feeling any consequence to their sense of self.
You and your husband really need to read this book. It will help you guys figure out how to build self confidence in a child, I think of any color.
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Old 07-07-2009, 06:59 PM
 
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I personally find the word "exotic" offensive. I am a light skinned African-American (and 1/4 Turkish, although I identify mostly as black) with curly hair. When someone tells me I am "exotic," I think that is a way of saying I'm beautiful for not being white.

That is just my opinion. I would much rather be called beautiful, gorgeous, or any other adjective that can be used to describe an attractive woman of any race.

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Old 07-08-2009, 01:58 PM
 
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One of my closest friends is stunningly gorgeous. However she very much dislikes any reference to her appearance because she is prejudged or treated a certain way because of it. Being called beautiful or gorgeous or whatever offends her and she's not the only one I've known that dislikes any comment on their appearance whether it's in the positive or negative. In some cultures it's highly offensive to make any comment on appearance and in some it's totally acceptable.

MusicianDad, FWIW I understand where you are coming from and I agree with you. I understand many find the word "exotic" offensive and I also understand that almost as equally that many do not find offense to it. It reminds me of the word oriental, some asians who feel it's Eurocentric find it offensive and some do not and it is a word you see used quite often much like exotic. I even casually suggested once to my MIL that some asians found it offensive, so I discussed the word on another thread here on the boards and with a few of my friends and I found that there are many who don't find the word offensive at all and some do. That thread made me think about the fact that what it boils down to is my own perception of the word and it's how I decided to take it and of course it also depended on who was delivering it and how. Unless the person using the word oriental is trying to be offensive to me, I'm just going to chalk it up as one of those words that some like and some don't but not all mean to be offensive by using it. So now I can happily order my Oriental Chicken Salad without being irked.

Everyone is different and has different ideas of what is acceptable and what is not. I decided that I'm not going craft my conversation or actions or tell someone else how they should craft theirs with others based on what some deem offensive and some do not because we can't possibly know what everyone's personal experience and feelings are on any word or action and we personally cannot speak for them, but they like all of us here they can speak for themselves.
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Old 07-08-2009, 04:07 PM
 
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The difference between the number of people who find "oriental" in reference to a salad and the number of people who find "oriental" in reference to a person offensive is substantial.

***

I realize it's a kind of extreme example, but my great-grandmother -- a basically kind woman who really meant no harm -- in my mother's presence once used a kind of obscure racial slur to point out a baby. All she meant to do was draw my mother's attention to a cute baby for the sake of mutual cooing ... in her mind it was normal to identify people first by race and the word she chose was a normal racial identifier. The mother of the child gave my mother an "it's ok, don't worry about it, no big deal, etc" look and nod. By some of the logic here, because the woman wasn't offended, or at least was unwilling to express offense -- because she took into consideration my great-grandmother's clear intentions and, most likely, her age -- and because it's entirely plausible that this woman is not the only person who would do the same, my mother was in some way wrong to later explain to my great-grandmother the connotations of the word with the full expectation that she would use that information to make changes to her future word choices.

At any rate. This is the story that keeps coming to mind over and over when I read some of the responses here.
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Old 07-08-2009, 05:39 PM
 
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As I said, it's not part of my normal vocabulary.


Interestingly enough though, I was reading a Madeline L'Engle book and ran across the phrase "exotic beauty" referring to.....a white girl with blond hair and blue eyes. Was watching "Bizarre Foods" and heard the word used in reference to a fresh, local food "exotic local fare" .
Language and culture and social attitudes change. I agree that the treatment of Sarah Bartmaan and the portrayal of Africans at that time was horrendous. But neither I nor anyone else I know has ever used "exotic" in that context, ever. So again, while I don't normally use it anyway and wouldn't use it around someone who'd expressed offense at it, I don't agree that it is universally offensive and should be dropped from the language.
i think that was well-stated.

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Old 07-08-2009, 05:54 PM
 
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Since "different" is there anyway, I'ld rather be "different in an attractive way", lol.
i also think that was well said, and the point of my earlier post. what kills me about the whole debate is there's a very clear undercurrent of worrying about what other people think about you (or your children). why is this so important? on a basic level, i understand that we all want and need to be accepted and to feel that we're normal. but, those who would form negative opinions based solely on appearance are not the type of people i'd want to be friends with or accepted by anyway!

despite the cultural background of the word "exotic," or perhaps in spite of it, i've embraced it and welcomed it into my life. so when someone says that i (or my DS) am exotic, i will say "thank you" and continue about my day. if they meant it in an imperialistic or derogatory way, that is their problem, not mine. removing the word itself from their vocabulary will not change how they perceive me and mine.

my favorite quote when i was young was by Rosario Morales: "I am what I am, take it or leave me alone."

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Old 07-08-2009, 05:58 PM
 
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The difference between the number of people who find "oriental" in reference to a salad and the number of people who find "oriental" in reference to a person offensive is substantial.

***

I realize it's a kind of extreme example, but my great-grandmother -- a basically kind woman who really meant no harm -- in my mother's presence once used a kind of obscure racial slur to point out a baby. All she meant to do was draw my mother's attention to a cute baby for the sake of mutual cooing ... in her mind it was normal to identify people first by race and the word she chose was a normal racial identifier. The mother of the child gave my mother an "it's ok, don't worry about it, no big deal, etc" look and nod. By some of the logic here, because the woman wasn't offended, or at least was unwilling to express offense -- because she took into consideration my great-grandmother's clear intentions and, most likely, her age -- and because it's entirely plausible that this woman is not the only person who would do the same, my mother was in some way wrong to later explain to my great-grandmother the connotations of the word with the full expectation that she would use that information to make changes to her future word choices.

At any rate. This is the story that keeps coming to mind over and over when I read some of the responses here.
reminds me of the first time i met DH's great-great grandmother. she asked if i was "colored." she was 94, of poor sight and from West VA, so i took no offense. she was a wonderful woman and i miss her.

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