Tuesday, February 9, 2010

wonder how to combat racist jokes

An swpd reader's email includes the following questions:

Dear macon d,

I have seen on your blog a few posts or links about how to combat particular issues. As karinova says, it is easy for me to talk and learn, but it's meaningless if I don't do anything.

I've tried searching but with limited success at the moment.  Do you happen to have a link to something like a guide to an effective way to deal with the racist jokes my friends often make?  Within these jokes they seem to obtain a great deal of pleasure from using the word ni**er.  Whilst I can find a lot of essays written about it's use, I have not found a statement which I can use that sums up why it should not be used.  I currently say that the word encompasses all of the racial hatred and oppression suffered by millions and that it's use is an acceptance of this, but it seems to fall a little limply on their ears.

Kind regards,

I more or less wrote back the following -- do you have other suggestions for effectively combating racist jokes? Do you even bother to combat them?

Dear _________,

I admire your determination to do something against racism.

I don't think there's a panacea for racist jokes; various strategies work for some joke-tellers, but not for others. I like your method for combating jokes with the n-word, but I can see how it wouldn't work for some people.

I don't have a particular place to send you, but I can suggest methods that I've used with some success against racist jokers. Racist jokes have always bothered me, but I used to let them slide on by. Now I always make a point of saying something, since I recognize the role of such jokes in perpetuating damaging stereotypes. I've also come around to hating the kind of racist white solidarity that such joke tellers expect me join them in. It's like they suddenly think we're in some kind of club, taking potshots together at the other people we've excluded.

As Victoria wrote in a post here last year about racist emails she receives,

I've noticed in these situations that they expect me to give them the old wink and nod -- "I hear ya, buddy" -- tacitly indicating that we're a part of the same special whiteness clique.

So what to do?

Sometimes I simply say something abrupt and shocked, such as, "You know, that is simply disgusting," and then turn around and walk away. Depending on the situation, this method can lead people to really reflect on what they did, and to ask you about it later (though of course, it might not work that way with some people -- no method is going to work with everyone).

I've also tried asking about the joke later, which again lets the person know that I found the offense a serious one. I just ask them to explain the joke, as if I didn't get it. In the course of their doing that, what's wrong with the joke often becomes apparent.

I have also asked how they think a black person (or a Chinese person, or a Jewish person, etc.) would feel hearing such a joke. No matter what the response is, I lead the conversation toward forcing the person to say either that they do or do not consider black (etc.) people lesser than white people. If they really do think that, then I tell them that they're acting and thinking like retrograde racists, and that in the future, I'll be avoiding them.

That may be drastic, but then, I'm serious about racism. I have a better sense then I used to have of just how very damaging it still is for people of color, and I want as little part in inflicting that damage as possible. I also want to actively fight its presence in, and enactment by, other white people.

You said that your words "seem to fall a little limply" on the ears of others; what I guess I'm mostly saying is that what often works is to not be limp yourself -- to demonstrate actively a staunch moral and ethical disgust when faced with any form of racism, in whatever ways one can.

I hope this helps,


As I asked above, do you have other suggestions for this reader? 

Do you even bother to combat racist jokes?

One other question -- I recently heard racist jokes described as "old fashioned." This (teenage white) person claimed they were dying out. Do you think that's true? Or do they seem about as commonplace as ever?


  1. "Wow."

    The response that Carolyn Hax (advice columnist syndicated through the Washington Post) has recommended for responding to rude, inappropriate, or shocking statements and questions. Pair it with the right expression & tone, and you'll get your point across. It's immediate, it offers a chance to pause and think about what's going on or being said, and you can choose to elaborate, or stop with the "wow," and remove yourself.

  2. Well I'm a teenaged poc and it still hasn't died out. I hear them all the time. When I do hear them I just smile and say " you can't be mad at me if I decided to punch you just now."

  3. There's only so much you can do, but this has had good effects for me:

    stop the joke when it's become clear that it's a racist joke and ask, with surprise (feigned if necessary), "What . . . whatever made you think I'm a racist?"

  4. A lot of kids in my circle seem to enjoy racist jokes in an "ironic" way. But we all know that isn't any better.

    I usually counter racist jokes with something along the lines of "That isn't funny." Or "WOWww I can't believe you just said that". Usually there's no need to further explain. They know what they're doing wrong. They just want to push the boundaries.

  5. Carmen Van Kerckhove had a great article on this: http://www.carmenvankerckhove.com/2009/05/11/how-to-respond-to-a-racist-joke/

    I've used this technique a couple of times with great success.

  6. Carmen Van Kerckhove of Racialicious recommended these tips on how to react to a racist joke (in the context of the workplace):

    Rule 3: When someone tells a racist joke, play dumb.

    Figuring out how to react when a co-worker makes a racist joke is tricky. If you don’t call the person out on her racism, you seem to be condoning the behavior. But if you do say something, you risk alienating him and sabotaging your working relationship.

    The best response to a racist joke should accomplish 3 things:

    1) Communicate that you find this behavior unacceptable.
    2) Demonstrate that the joke is racist.
    3) Inflict as little damage as possible to your working relationship with the joker.

    My recommendation? Play dumb.

    Put on a bewildered expression, act as if you don’t understand the joke, and ask your co-worker to explain it to you. He will not be able to explain why the joke is funny without evoking a racist stereotype. You can then question the veracity of this stereotype, thus pointing out the racism of the joke, without being confrontational and without humiliating your co-worker.

    Racist jokes rely on an unspoken, shared knowledge of racist stereotypes. Without the stereotypes, there is no humor.

    More: http://www.racialicious.com/2009/03/06/ask-racialicious-should-i-be-offended-by-this-joke/

  7. Like leedevious, I usually just say "that isn't funny". If my kids are around, I'll also add that I don't want them picking up racism, so don't tell jokes like that. I really love some of the suggestions though, especially Non's. I'm definitely going to use that one.

  8. Depending on your social status compared to the person telling the joke, it can be effective just to raise your eyebrows and say "I don't think that's funny," or to say disparagingly, "That's dumb."

    People tell racist jokes in part to get social approval. When you withhold that approval, especially if you can inject an active chill into the air, their attempt to build (selective) solidarity falls apart.

  9. I'm prone to this sort of thing:

    "That's a cool joke, I should get you to tell that to my African friend. Do you think he'd like it?"

    or, in response to some racist stereotypes I've heard about Indian people:

    "Well, my girlfriend is Indian, and I haven't noticed that with her... should I call her and ask her if that's true?"

    And so on.

  10. I would say that if you really did read all about the word nigger, then you'd have plenty of information to counteract a racist joke. I think the email macon received is a good example of how hard this stuff is to navigate for privileged identities without a mentor. But at what point do we say "it's not our job to spoon feed you racism and how to fight it"?

  11. I'm still in the same place I was when I made that post - willing to lose an acquaintance over making sure I get the point across about the racism in the joke. Sometimes I will be a smartass and challenge him or her to tell the joke to whichever ethnic group or race is being offended in the joke, but I will never speak to them again unless I get some sign that they understand that it's not acceptable and they don't try to argue about why I should coddle their racism.

    I have made 1 new white friend. So...that makes 1 total for me. So far, he has passed my preliminary tests. Yup, I test potential white friends. I see how willing they are to discuss race without whipping out their stereotypes. I will purposely express my views on the white supremacy of America's education system or my other favorite - the mainstreaming (or lack of mainstreaming) of black actors.

    So maybe that's a tactic - offense. It's work, but at least you won't have to deal with having emotional ties to the person later. Current friends or relatives, you just have to stand up to them. I like many of the suggestions people gave you here. But people who are practically strangers? I see no need to skirt the subject. Lay it out. Maybe it's easy for me to say given that I enjoy confrontation, but it's my advice nonetheless.

  12. Can hardly recall any PoC I reprimanded, at the moment. Usually my voice and face become very condescending then I say something along the lines of "Wow, I just now realized how VERY white you are." Or "Y'know, sometimes I forget how white you are." Or "how white can you get/can you be any whiter?" That sometimes elicits an appalled or hurt look from them.


  13. Here's an idea, but I haven't tried it so I'm not sure how well it would go over.

    Joker: [racist joke here]

    Anti-racist: Did you think about who's here with you before you said that?

    Joker: Uh [confused] yeah, I didn't think anyone here would be offended by it.

    Anti-racist: That's the point. We're all white, but that doesn't mean I want to be part of your racist solidarity club, and I am offended by it.

  14. I like the "playing dumb" technique. If I'm in a situation where I can be more direct, then I'll just say "That was really racist (or sexist, homophobic, fucked up, etc.)"

  15. @quizzler re: "That's the point. We're all white, but that doesn't mean I want to be part of your racist solidarity club, and I am offended by [your assumption that I am part of it]." (my addition in brackets)

    Absolutely. I think an effective white response should invoke this dynamic. White people being offended by racist humor on behalf of PoC, while noble, doesn't get at changing the status quo among white people, which has to occur if racism is to be reduced. If the response involves, "Would you tell that around a person of that group?" or "I'm offended because it's cruel to PoC," the objector is simply viewed as outside the "club" and probably dismissed as a killjoy. The joker (or more appropriately, the joke) needs to be shown to be the outsider for the socialization to be most effective. What the racist joker believes about the audience, in other words, is as important as what the joke reinforces about the oppressed group. If a racist joker just learns to avoid me when telling racist jokes, I haven't interrupted the racism. The joker will just tell those jokes somewhere else.

    The same insidious "networking" is behind the telling of racist jokes about one group to a member of another. The process of "whitening" certain groups has always involved getting them to join in the oppression of others. That this might occur between PoC doesn't change the fact that it serves white supremacy to belittle any non-white group.

  16. As a white, male college instructor who likes to start class with a (usually cornball) joke, and who later opens the class up to students telling jokes, I've had this issue come up a couple times. Usually I try to keep a poker face and, in the iciest, professional-educator tone I can muster up, say, "excuse you?"

    Ironically enough, though, I had a black student in my office the other day who (during an otherwise sensitive discussion about affirmative action, white privilege, and whether or not Tyler Perry is damnable or commendable) said, "I think some black people take race too seriously." And then he told a joke about lynching.

    I'm *still* not sure how I was supposed to field that one. Any ideas?

  17. On here and on Victoria's original (and awesome) post, I keep seeing the "Don't want to hurt their feelings" and "Don't want to annoy/offend the joker" and "Don't want to fuck up our working relationship".

    Uh...I must be a bitch then, because the way I see it, if someone's being racially offensive, they've forfeited their coddling rights. I don't see why I should have to consider the feelings of someone who clearly didn't even stop to consider mine.

    If a joker is trying to express "white solidarity" by assuming everyone thinks like they do, and one WP calls them out on it, the joker has no right to angry--much less offended--because they shouldn't have assumed anything their audience in the first place. They're only getting angry because they expect automatic coddling from fellow WP--no matter what they say.

    And this is what keeps tripping anti-racist progress "on the white end", this fear of upsetting people, and hesitation to make them feel bad of something they've done. Which is all just white privilege at its finest. Because from childhood, POC have to learn about racism the cold, hard, bitter way while WP get the sweeter, gentler introduction because other WP "don't want to make them feel bad".

    Uh...no. Make them feel bad. They should feel bad. Feeling bad when you deliberately do something wrong is kind of the point. A healthy sense of shame is what keeps us from doing and saying dumb shit in the first place. In Kevin Smith's brilliant film Dogma the angel Loki kills a bunch of wealthy, privileged CEO-types because their privilege removed their shame, fear, and compassion, thereby giving them free reign to commit utterly despicable acts. In essence, their privilege set them apart from being human, because it turned off the most important human component of all: conscience.

    See, for those of you WP who are avidly into anti-racism...you're white people. If need be (and it most definitely need be) you can tear into other white people on issues of racism. You can rip them apart and tell them to get over themselves when they cry victim or try to play the "I'm offended" card.

    You want institutionalized racism to take a crippling blow in America? Go on a massive, consistent social offensive against other whites. You have no idea how grateful your descendants will be.

  18. I love quizzler's response.

    I'm offended not just that the person has said something racist, but that they have assumed I'm in their racism club. With some I like sarcasm, and with others I take the direct approach, "What makes you think I share your racist views?". A question usually stops the conversation and sends a clear message, relieving me from further interaction.

  19. I agree very much with Moi!
    I used to do the "I don't want to make things weird with my Granny" thing, but really, I DO want to make things weird! I do the "taking offense" thing and the "making them explain" thing. I want them to feel embarrassed. It's gotten to the point that, at family gatherings, people will say that they have a joke but they don't want to say it because Stacie's around and she doesn't like that stuff. AND with a few people, it's led to really good talks.

  20. @Moi: I felt that way not so long ago (I wanted to coddle people and be gentler with them). And then I lost a friend over my insistence that she had white privilege, even though I tried to be gentle about it. That was a wake-up call - why was I trying to save these relationships, anyway? I don't want to be friends with people who are deliberately obtuse. After that the gloves came off. And it was super-awkward at first, and uncomfortable to say something and then have everyone go into that "omg, I can't believe you were just a killjoy" silence, but I've found that each time you do it, it gets easier and easier. Within a few months it didn't bother me at all, and now I'm capable of going on those rampages, even with family and good friends.

    Which is basically a long way of saying to other WP who are still uncomfortable with the idea: yeah, it's awkward at first, but you get over it. Go for it. Moi is exactly right when she says that WP being upfront about it is a major thing that we can do as allies.

    @Cameron: One of my (Jamaican) PoC friends recently said something to that effect to me - that racism is pretty much over and black people need to stop seeing offense everywhere, etc. - and I wanted to be like, "Systemic racism is still everywhere, and generational effects, and and and..." but I bit my tongue and reminded myself that it wasn't my place to school a PoC on racism. And then we just moved onto other topics. But omg, if she'd followed that up with a racist joke, I'd have no idea what to do other than stare in dumbfounded silence. What *did* you do?

  21. @Moi re: Their privilege set them apart from being human.

    This. Big time. That's what racism does to white people, and why white privilege (I'm talking about the privilege to ignore other people's reality, not the tendency to get the benefit of the doubt or a job) is really a curse that WP should be pissed about. When confronted with the truth about white privilege, we fret about maybe having to give up our protected status when we have already given up our humanity to be part of this "club."

  22. Here's an idea, but I haven't tried it so I'm not sure how well it would go over.

    Joker: [racist joke here]

    Anti-racist: Did you think about who's here with you before you said that?

    Joker: Uh [confused] yeah, I didn't think anyone here would be offended by it.

    Anti-racist: That's the point. We're all white, but that doesn't mean I want to be part of your racist solidarity club, and I am offended by it.

  23. Robin said:

    "I've found that each time you do it, it gets easier and easier."

    Yes! Exactly. I'm so glad you said that because it's completely true. I've had to do it so many times in my 32 years of life that I don't tense up and feel all fight-or-flight about it before I say something. I just say it, doesn't matter who it is, doesn't matter how it's received. I've gotten into it BAD with some people, but most of the time it's just that realization that this is probably someone I'll never have a decent conversation with again if I have one at all.

    As for that "killjoy" business - I swear, if anyone even makes a comment that remotely insinuates that I was the cause of the silence, I lay into his/her ass too. I'm already warmed up. I've certainly got the energy to tear someone up for having the audacity to try and shame me and to defend that BS.

  24. I'm a lurker with a similar situation that's been weighing on me. What do you do when someone very senior at work (pretty much the VP level) makes a racist joke in front of you? This happened to me recently. I was afraid to say anything because this guy has been known to get lower-level staff (and I'm very lower-level, plus still on probation) fired on a whim, the economy is bad, etc, but I'm not proud of it. I did go to HR and mention it just to leave a paper trail. I was in a meeting (in a very junior capacity) with a lot of senior people.

  25. @Victoria: Yeah, there's pretty much always that awkward silence. And then sometimes somebody will mutter something to the effect of, "It was just a joke. You don't have to get so uptight about it." (Ugh... "it was just a joke" is always the last defense of the jerkwads.) And then I just say something like, "Yeah, a joke that further serves to normalize racism. Keep it to yourself." (One of these days I'll figure out something snazzier than that, since that's pretty utilitarian. But at least it works. I haven't yet had anyone challenge it, they just move on to another topic.)

    Your description of fight-or-flight is spot-on - that's exactly how it used to feel, all the adrenaline and my face would get all hot.

  26. @Victoria: Yeah, there's pretty much always that awkward silence. And then sometimes somebody will mutter something to the effect of, "It was just a joke. You don't have to get so uptight about it." (Ugh... "it was just a joke" is always the last defense of the jerkwads.) And then I just say something like, "Yeah, a joke that further serves to normalize racism. Keep it to yourself." (One of these days I'll figure out something snazzier than that, since that's pretty utilitarian. But at least it works. I haven't yet had anyone challenge it, they just move on to another topic.)

    Your description of fight-or-flight is spot-on - that's exactly how it used to feel, all the adrenaline and my face would get all hot.

  27. It's funny; I was trying to make a point not to post in this thread (too many thoughts, and they prolly wouldn't be helpful anyway), but...
    I was going to say: When offensive hipster-type "humor" (aka "fuckyouhaha" humor) started taking hold, I took to pointing out that no, sorry, that's actually not transgressive and clever. It's the same old brand your grandpa was using. Then, I saw this awesome comment online, to the effect of "[ism du jour] is about as edgy as hunting and gathering". That sums it up so nicely that I stole it. It's perfect for the younger, I-think-I'm-clever sort (tho' admittedly I don't know how well it works with no PoC around; YMMV). Sometimes, it just has to be a Snappy Comeback (ie: Snarky Burn) to have any impact, you know? And not only is lack of originality death for these types, I feel like it's really important to point out that racism (et al) is not cutting edge!!! It's not automatically "satire," it's offensive. It's not clever, it's just a cowardly way to be an a-hole.

    Okay, but I decided not to post.
    But, I just read Tami's latest, which happens to be on just this type of humor, and she wraps up with what I think I was groping at: The idea that the movement toward fewer "isms" in our speech and deeds is anathema; that "political correctness" is a blow against free speech; that the power structure has flipped; that the strictures of "political correctness" are everywhere, and that real bias barely exists anymore [...] makes it okay to advance harmful stereotypes. The notion of "political correctness" has the power to turn back time and make the biases and humiliations of old, fresh and new and funny again." I think she's onto something. This is the root of the "new" offensive dick humor. And it needs to be shut down, ASAP. Playing dumb might be necessary with your boss, but otherwise? Let 'em have it. Words matter.

  28. Why don't you just tell these clowns to fcuk off? Why try to dissect why these clowns are saying them? Anyone who would make these jokes within your hearing is an asswipe of the first order. Many a true thing is said in jest. To make these jokes that person has to be conversant with the racist ideology present in today's society. These jokes are not said in all innocence as the recipient of the joke has to 'get it' and also understand the jokes intent.

  29. @ Herneith

    Because understanding how and why someone does something helps you to shut them down more effectively.

  30. "Because understanding how and why someone does something helps you to shut them down more effectively."

    I already understand the whys and wherefores. Telling them where to go is more than adequate as they already know that racist joke telling is inappropriate. I really don't care how they take any reproaches.

  31. @ Herneith,

    Sometimes telling someone to F-off is not a good strategy, either because it puts *you* in danger or because it means you will 100% *not* be listened to. Like if there is one woman with a group of men, and one of them tells a racist joke; ya know what, dudes don't always listen to women (see: "mansplain"). And there's always the High School Girl Scenario:

    #1: [racist joke]
    #2: That was f*n racist / You did NOT just say that / go f--- yourself.
    #1: Gosh, can't you take a *joke*? Geez! I was just being *funny*. Don't be such a baby... [ad nauseum. literally.]

    A simple, "Why did you think that I would find that funny?" short-circuits that nightmare, as would many of the other ideas suggested on this thread.

  32. "Sometimes telling someone to F-off is not a good strategy, either because it puts *you* in danger or because it means you will 100% *not* be listened to."

    So what? As a racialized person they probably wouldn't listen to me anyway if they are telling these types of 'jokes'. As for being in 'danger', if they persist, why, I may even get violent as I always have bail money and a lawyer on retainer, LOL.

  33. Depending upon how confrontational you want to be, there many different responses to this situation. If you think quickly on your feet, though, turning the situation around on the teller can be a really effective response. Making up your own "joke" based on a disparaging stereotype of the person telling the original joke in which the punchline is that that person is a racist can get a person to feel at least a fraction of the sting in the right context.

    When this is not an option, I really like AE's suggestion of: with surprise (feigned if necessary), "What . . . whatever made you think I'm a racist?"

    I think when simply explaining to someone how their words are hurtful and wrong (not to mention a manifestation of structural inequality) does not get through to them, responding in an unexpected way and surprising them is the only option.

  34. I'm glad that karinova brought up this issue of what some people call "hipster racism", which is the supposedly ironic telling of a racist joke or use of a racial stereotype in a supposedly insincere manner. Some people even try to call it social commentary. You just have to watch one episode of Family Guy to see it in action. I find it disgusting because I feel that it is making white people feel that it is more acceptable to tell racist jokes because they "don't mean it" or "mean the exact opposite" or whatever. But it is just another exercise in privilege.

    A perfect example is the film "Team America: World Police." I was watching it with friends and without saying anything I just got up and walked out of the room, went to do something else, I think make a phone call, because I couldn't stand it any more. Later a friend of mine who loves the film asked me why I had walked out, and I told him that the film was racist and as an example mentioned how all the Arab characters on the film just spoke by saying "Muhammed jihad Muhammed jihad Allah" over and over again. And he told me that that wasn't racist, because the film was making fun of how white people perceive Arabs in that way, rather than making fun of Arabs. I told him that that may be the filmmakers intent, or it may not (personally I have my doubts), but if that is intended to be satire it is failing miserably because the vast majority of the audience that laughs at that are going to be laughing at the negative stereotyping of Arabs, not at the supposed satirical look at how people perceive them.

    That's just one example. But I think it is something we should be on the lookout for, because people that use that kind of humor in a supposedly ironic or insincere manner are still just exercising their white and/or other privileges, and they must be made aware that they are doing it.

  35. In a discussion on this post elsewhere, someone completely ignored the point of why it's not okay to not take to task people who make racist jokes, and said:

    "Remember that if one alienates one's audience, it does more harm than good. Pride is a privilege unto itself, and to belittle another to the point of overt rejection- even if one is correct- is to reinforce their behaviour. This is not a choice the offender alone made; it requires the offendee to choose to give up on the offender, and, in the net totality of things, all factors tallied and considered, this decision is no less damaging than to make the joke in the first place. It causes oppression in an indirect and convoluted manner, however it still causes oppression.

    Never forget the importance of patience, tolerance, compassion, and humility; for if they cannot be exercised within the self, how can one expect others to exercise them?"

    I called bullshit on this, but as a white person, I'm not sure that my response is adequate, because I can point out that this attitude is a sign of white privilege all day long, without having the direct experience to illustrate WHY this is an insufficient response.

  36. Herneith said “As for being in 'danger', if they persist, why, I may even get violent as I always have bail money and a lawyer on retainer, LOL.”

    Herneith, I’m in full agreement with your position, I would only recommend that you double down on the retainer money, cause you may have to expand your legal team, and anticipate a higher that normal bail amount, for we know that a Black person thumping a white person (racist or otherwise) cannot expect to get fair treatment in the judicial system. Got your back on that bail money.

  37. The conversation Nimbethril mentioned was on my eljay, here: http://tamago23.livejournal.com/629555.html

    And yes, if anyone feels like it would improve their day to come over and snark him, feel free.

    @Lost Left Coaster: *Thank you* for writing that. I was uncomfortable with World Police last time I saw parts of it on TV but wasn't really able to explain why, and that's it: when people are laughing, they're laughing at the stereotypes, not the satire of the stereotypes.

  38. @Nimbethril & Robin,
    Jeez. It stinks so bad it made my head hurt! Yeah: that's TOTALLY bullshit. This one's for her, as I don't have LJ. First of all, what's with the tortured language? I believe Nezua calls that The Finery of the Framevaders. I'm unimpressed. Second, one minute it's "don't alienate them; that's oppression!" [OMFG.] Then it's "be curt!" But! also be "calm, compassionate, patient and reasonable!" But! "that doesn't mean coddling!" I'm... confused. What does it mean, then? What would she have said/done? No— what will she say the next time this happens in her vicinity? Because it will, and with all these rules I feel there's a good chance the answer is NOTHING.

    Third. What a load of privilege [it's so heavy, I can't feel a thing! wheee!], to decide that the offendee has more of a social/personal/anti-racist/philosophical responsibility to be kind and decent than an offender who has just been unkind and indecent! Not that I'm saying one should make a point to be cruel in kind, but I'm wondering if the offender has any responsibilities at all?? I guess they just get to trip thru life being a-holes? In fact, the offendee's theoretical oppression of this innocent, no doubt well-intentioned and redeemable WP is just as bad as actually telling a racist joke [OMFG!!]— so let's focus all of our finger-wagging on the offendee! Wait. What? Fourth, Do the offendee's injured feelings (which may cause pain for years) matter at all?

    Aaaand let's wrap up with talking down to you like I've reached a higher plane of divinity, and your name is f'n Goofus: "never forget the importance of patience, tolerance, compassion and humility; for if they cannot be exercised within the self, how can one expect others to exercise them?" Theee. End. *self-satisfied sigh!*

    Show of hands: who's feelin' alienated?!!

    Tip: in the midst of all that sanctimony, try not to forget the damn oppressed people.

  39. @karinova: Okay, your assessment gave me serious giggles. Well-put. And that Framevaders ref was awesome - I'd never come across that before.

    I think I'll just link the comment-writer to this entry - zie can read it for hirself. I don't know if zie will actually take anything away from it, but one can hope.

  40. Rolling my eyes and looking annoyed is what I usually end up doing. I don't know how effective it is.

  41. Or "how white can you get/can you be any whiter?" That sometimes elicits an appalled or hurt look from them.


    Oh, man! I've done this, too! Works like a charm.

    As a Latina who is often mistaken for white, I hear a LOT of racist stuff from whites who assume it's a safe environment to air out their racist b.s. As a result, simply identifying myself as a person of color puts a stop to it. I also have been known to tell people that I'm Jewish or that my grandmother is black or that I'm gay or that my brother is a transvestite--anything to make the person telling the racist, sexist, homophobic, etc. "joke" think that their "safe" environment is no longer safe. It works.

    It even works for white people. Simply identify with the group being knocked about. Say that you're half Mexican or that your best friend is black. Say that your father is gay. Say that you were raised by a single mother on welfare. Say that your brother or sister is mentally or physically challenged. You get the idea.

    It works great if you're not such an aggressive, confrontational person. Really.

  42. @ Rosa

    LOL - Ohhhhh...I take perverse pleasure in white people who use that tactic, because it seriously fucks with other whites. I had a coworker use it all the time. She was white--completely so--but her hair and skin (in the summer esp.) were dark enough to pass her off as whatever "else" was convenient. She was always dropping the "Excuse you, my father's black" and it worked WONDROUSLY every time.

    I had another such coworker--a Latina often mistaken for white like you, my dear--who would sit through every tirade against Hispanic people and then calmly state her ancestry before getting up and walking out. She did so one time when she was offered a job in Miami and the employer said he was so glad to have a "nice, normal girl" like her instead of one of "these damn Latinas".

    Girl went off.

  43. Jay Smooth has an awesome video depicting how to tell someone that they sound racist. He stresses the importance of concentrating on "what they said" as opposed to "what they are." http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b0Ti-gkJiXc

  44. I moved to the South in high school and could never, ever, express my disgust loudly enough when my new friends dropped the n-bomb. Various responses included the "Wow," recommended by Carolyn Hax, "That's the most horrible thing I've ever heard," "what the hell is wrong with you?" and, "That is ignorant,"-- these were of course sprinkled liberally with swear words as I moved on to college.

    Of course, I am now an adult and my responses are tailored more to the workplace. I am (blessedly) one of the bosses so it's very easy for me to say, "That's completely inappropriate," and proceed on with the write-ups.

    When it comes to my friends, I have a pretty diverse group and don't often have these problems as I live in DC now. But when I deal with people from back home and they say things I find offensive, I usually just say, "DON'T. Talk like that around me. Ever." and if it's repeated I'll walk away, or leave, or refuse to continue the conversation. I've never had anyone fail to get the point.

  45. an effective way to deal with the racist jokes my friends often make

    Get new friends? It sounds like the reader who emailed in has made several attempts to make it clear to their friends they're are being racist, but nothing has changed.

    It's time for you to just remove yourself from contact with these friends as much as possible. If they ask why you're getting distant and not wanting to meet up anymore, then you might say "well, I didn't want to spend any more time with you because of all those racist jokes you kept telling".

  46. @ JM

    Granted, that's my first thought too. But I guess some people want to have their cake and eat it too, you know?

    Progress...but without the pesky sacrifice and struggle part.

  47. The other problem of hipster racism (I like having a name for that phenomenon; it empowers me) -- the other problem is that it allows the hipsters to distance themselves from the OTHER white people, the ones that they're supposedly making fun of. It further reinforces their belief that they're not racist. And thus, it allows them to distance themselves from white supremacy and privilege.

  48. I start with saying 'I don't like racist jokes. I don't think they're funny. Please don't tell racist jokes to me again.'

    Then I move onto the 'If you tell these kinds of jokes to me I will never speak to you again' approach.

    I have been dragged into the 'it's not racism, it's just a joke, what's racist about it' argument too many times, so I rarely go there now. I've realised that anyone who dislikes racism wouldn't be telling the jokes in the first place, so I don't bother trying to educate them any more.

    Zero tolerance works for me. Has lost me friends and family, but I'm better off for that.

  49. I know I'm coming to this discussion a bit late, but I wanted to add that I've always found that responding to a racist/sexist/etc "joke" with a serious discussion is the best way to have your points completely ignored. I don't know if men experience this as much as women, but every time I've tried that strategy I've been written off as "taking things too seriously" or "having no sense of humor" or "being oversensitive." I've learned that responding to a hurtful joke by making a joke at the expense of the hurtful joke teller is significantly more effective. It doesn't need to be anything nasty or personal, just a joke that points out how much of an ass the joke-teller is being (maybe comparing them to your alcoholic grandfather who calls women who wear pants "dykes" and refers to broken bottles as "nigger knives"). Another alternative is taking their joke more seriously than intended by following it to its logical conclusion and suggesting everyone in this little white club form a lynch-mob or what-have-you. That might be enough to startle them straight.


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