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 I am a white supervisor in a large institution here in the so called "new South" and I am often astounded by the way in which white people continue to deny that casual racism is both practised and accepted. I wanted to relay a story told to me by a friend who is black and higher up in the food chain than me that illustrates this. She and I have been friends for a number of years. I am often considered the "weird one" at work by other white employees because when I call them on things they tell me I am "too sensistive" or that I don't "understand" Memphis because I am not from here.

 My friend and three other black employees attended a a "leadership meeting" that involved several departments. Two of the three black employees are either supervisors of a shift like myself or Directors. Towards the end of the meeting they were all discussing an event they would be attending and my friend asked what forms of payment would be accepted: cash, check, or debit card and a  white Director in another department added," or will food stamps be accepted." This was said loudly enough for all those present at the meeting to hear. My friend and her black colleagues were so shocked and angry that they decided to leave the meeting early.

  It was decided that they would use the proper "chain of command" to express their displeasure. My Director, who is white, was approached and confessed that she did not "get" why they were angry. She suggested that since this was clearly an issue they felt strongly about that they have a meeting with the acting Director of the department we are all in. My friend was designated to attend the meeting since she is very articulate and the other affected employees were concerned that the anger they felt would have an effect on how they communicated. The "big boss" chided her for leaving the meeting early since she is in a leadership role and that is not how leaders behave. She also indicated to my friend that she " knows person X very well" and is "sure that no offense was intended" but that she should have a meeting with person X to express her concerns. After that meeting, my friend also had a brief meeting with HR and took some time to review the institution's harassment and abuse policy where it clearly states that an offense is present even if the person perpetuating it is not aware it was harmful and even if the "target" did not find it harmful and others did.

  I want to offer my take on her experience and solicit some opinions from y'all.

  I found the statement about "food stamps" comment racist and offensive. Even though I was not the target nor directly affected,  I am distured  that  work in an environment where people in leadership positions can make such statements so freely. It makes me wonder what the person who made the statement says to white employees when black employees are NOT present and how the black employees she supervises regard her. I am a bit perturbed that my boss did not give my friend more overt support. My read on the "big boss" is that she reacted defensively by inidcating she "knew person X very well" and "nothing was intended" by the statement. How does she even know what was or was not intended? It seems to me that she was suprised that my friend even approached her with this and covered up by turning the tables on her and critiquing her decision to leave the meeting early.

  I think the person who made the statement should be subject to some kind of disciplinary action so that others are aware that statements like this are not acceptable however they were intended. I believe the statement undermined my friend's position as a leader and that the person who made it resents seeing black empolyees in leadership positions. I fear other than a formal apology from the person who made the statetment not much will be done.

 I understand that supressing "free speech" is a no no, but this happened in the workplace not on Daily Kos or out in a social setting. If I heard somebody say that at a party I would still be pissed and I would still find it racsist and I would confront it. My friend does not need my help other than to give support, she is an adult who is intelligent and articulate and can fight her own battles. I think she told me the story simply because she was puzzled by the lack of response from white colleagues and wanted my take.

  What am I missing? Do you think this was a racist statement, and why or why not? It was clear to me, but apparently not so to other folks and I am generally pissed about it.

Originally posted to undercovercalico on Fri Apr 06, 2007 at 06:49 AM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Sounds racist to me (13+ / 0-)

    Although there are plenty of people of all skin colors on welfare, the derogatory comments are pretty much always directed towards African-Americans.

  •  Not having been there (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Rohan, undercovercalico

    who can say? In the same way that the boss can't know the intent of the comment, neither can we. I could envision that one interpretation was she was making a joke about being broke herself. As in, "Can I pay with food stamps?"

    Racism is awful. So is being wrongfully labeled racist.

    "What will a wingnut do? A wingnut will step over his dying mother to stab his own father in the heart." - kanaan

    by MaskedKat on Fri Apr 06, 2007 at 06:53:06 AM PDT

    •  However.... (5+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Ahianne, BlueInARedState, tazz, marykk, LynneK

      Even if the statement itself was not specifically racsist and I think you and I will have to politely disagree, was it not still highly inappropriate? Who was it directed at? Why even bother saying it? It just does not seem funny to me. Does it not them have a class element that could also be raised?

    •  Stereotypes (13+ / 0-)

      These weren't file clerks or Walmart greeters. I think one can reasonably presume that managers working at this level are somewhat worldly and understand that black poverty is both a reality and a stereotype, and that referring to food stamps in this context was clearly a reference to this well-known cultural stereotype. If the incident was recounted accurately, there is no ambiguity as to the racist intent.

      Simply because they didn't use the N-word doesn't make innocent.

    •  Who can say? (5+ / 0-)

      Well, for starters, the people to whom the comment was directed can say.

      As people of color, they're probably pretty used to determining when they're being subjected to racism/bigotry-- in Memphis, they surely have plenty of practice (lived there for several years).  In this case, the strength of their reaction makes clear that it wasn't a 'borderline' comment.  

      Not to mention that, even reading about it via a 2nd hand account, it's pretty clearly a mean-spirited, racist remark.

      One of the elements of "white privilege"* is that white people reserve the right to determine what constitutes racism, and to tell people of color when they're "overreacting."  We need to reject that.  Frankly, we white liberals are particularly susceptible to this tendency, because we tend to want to envision a world without racism, and our idealism is hurt by the reality of racism.

      As another commenter said, just because the n-word was not used doesn't mean it wasn't racist.....

      *if you haven't read this seminal piece on white privilege, do yourself a favor.

  •  Me too. I think that the comment is profoundly (9+ / 0-)

    racist. And it does make you wonder that these "nice" people are saying when there are no black folks in the room.

    •  And.... (7+ / 0-)

      Does it not have an elitist class element to it, or am I reaching? I am trying to formulate my anger in an analytical way in order to get something useful out of it. Obviously, I have an emotional stake in this because it happened to a friend. I should indicate i have called people on the carpet for similar statements when a friend was NOT involved.

    •  Assume the worse (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Ahianne, undercovercalico

      If I hear someone making on racist joke, then I assume they have a sheet and hood at home and practice lynching.  That's just me.  I don't give anyone the benefit of the doubt and usually don't waste my time with them after that.  Okay, I should say that if I point it out to someone that they're being offensive and they say something stupid like "can't you take a joke?" then they're just waste of spaces in my book and I refuse to interact with "people" like that.

      I don't have to fake anything I feel, because we both know every word is real. - HBMS

      by fabooj on Fri Apr 06, 2007 at 07:14:53 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Not even open to interpretation (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    wozzle, undercovercalico, LynneK

    That's flat out f'n racist. Those bigots have a very narrow conception of leadership.

  •  hmm (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    undercovercalico, exiledfromTN

    "food stamps?"

    and you say this person was management?

    someone, pray tell, tell me why college degrees are required for management? Because it seems any old moronic idiot can become management where they can say any old stupid idiotic say

    Personally I'd find out if this idiot is from some dirt poor hick town and then turn it back around on her. Maybe overexaggerate her twang. Maybe then she'll get why it was offensive to say.

    all Along the Watchtower...... blogroll

    by terrypinder on Fri Apr 06, 2007 at 06:59:58 AM PDT

  •  I got the same response on this very blog the (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    wozzle, oldjohnbrown, mamamedusa

    other day by sarcastically calling out a title of a diary. I was lambasted and accused of rolling out the "race card". Except for one person who understood where I was coming from, everyone felt I impugned their liberalism by even insinuating the title could be viewed as a tad racist. The title was something like "Edwards schools Obama". Very tongue in cheek I asked does that mean a southern white man have to teach an African American about politics? The liberal white Kossaks were furious that I would even think they would be racially insensitive. Your big boss has the same attitude. She can't imagine the lady who joked about food stamps is racist. What it comes down to is mostly good natured people identifying African American stereotypes, whether it is welfare moms, watermelon, fried chicken or tall basketball players in shorts, the main point is why even say it? On the other hand, I agree with Bill Cosby with regard to how young African Americans use certain choice "gangsta" phrases, even to describe themselves. It deals with respect. The title of the diary I responded to had to do with how I perceive a black man was respected vs. a white man. It is akin to viewing movies, reading books and experiencing in real life the perception that we are somehow victims that need whites to teach us and show us the way. The liberal white commenters obviously could not relate to my point. Your big boss probably feels the same way. At the very least it was sibliminal racism, at the worst it reflected a total lack of respect by the offending woman toward African Americans.

    •  My question.... (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      oldjohnbrown, jimraff, LynneK

      Removing the factor that this happened to a friend, why was it instantly clear to me and not to others? I am hardly perfect myself but subtle racism is kinda like that porn statement," I know it when I see it".

      •  Not necessarily true... (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        undercovercalico, jimraff, LynneK

        Others may realize it and are just too embarrassed to admit it.

        "No one can terrorize a whole nation, unless we are all his accomplices." Edward R. Murrow

        by Pager on Fri Apr 06, 2007 at 07:14:47 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  It is a question that is too subjective (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        to have an exact answer. I don't think the average person now a days wants to think of themselves of being racist of any kind. I admit I am racially insensitive at times. I believe I am a very tolerant man, however, I have strongly held beliefs I value. Maybe those beliefs have racial inclinations. For example, I am Agnostic. I tolerate and accept anyone for their faith, although I have been guilty of laughing at certain people because of some of their beliefs. I admit that a big part of why I support a Richardson/Obama ticket is purely a racial thing, that I would love to see two men (or women for that matter) of color run the country instead of the previous 220 years of white Christian men. I admit that's racist.

      •  It was not clear to others because of their (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Ahianne, undercovercalico

        personal privilege.

        If this comment is not overtly racist (I suspect it is, myself, because race is always in the room in this country) then it is, at the least classist, and deserves to be called out for that.  And, of course, class has long been equated to race in this country.

        All of us have privilege in some way; it's common for those of us who think about these issues to note that straight white males are more priviledged in our society; the more privilege someone has, the more blind they are to the challenges others face in our society, via class, educational status, race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, etc.  If you don't face any significant challenges while growing up, you don't develop a self-awareness of difficulties others might face.  Consequently, you don't develop a sensitivity to how your actions and comments may impact another.  

        One tool to help understand this is called The Johari Window

        The Johari Window was acutally developed to discuss communication styles and skills, but it works extremely well for talking about personal privilege, too.  

  •  Racist? (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    wozzle, undercovercalico, LynneK

    Sounds racist enough without fully understanding the context, without question flat out stupid.

    But I agree with the other statement, your friend should never have left the meeting. Never concede ground to these fools.

  •  I am from Memphis (5+ / 0-)

    and when I try to explain the effed up racial situation  happening in Memphis my friends up here in the Pacific NW shake their heads and can hardly believe me.

    I'm a white woman and I can say very confidently (also being "a weird one") that I do not and have not had any incidents of racism with fellow employees, not in all my time working retail.

    The statement about food stamps was obviously totally irresponsible, and does nothing but create bad feelings that, now, will not be going away anytime soon.

    Memphis has denegrated into such an Us versus Them attitude, and that is a shame, because Memphis has a soul and a flavor to it that could be embraced, and that's what I choose to do whenever I go back to visit.  But ultimately, by the time I leave, I am sad and want to go back to my safe haven.  My dad and stepmom have just bought a house about 20 miles outside of the city, "where it's safe."  Memphis is complicated, I love it and revile it at the same time.

  •  I had an analogous experience. (10+ / 0-)

    I am white (actually I identify myself as Jewish, not white, but in terms of this issue others would identify me as white), and a similar situation arose when I was co-teaching a graduate seminar at Yale with a senior colleague about 20 years ago.  In this seminar we evaluated and tried to improve first drafts of the students' dissertation proposals.  Did I mention it was in political science?  There were two black women in the class who had studied at historically black institutions in the South (one of whom is now chair of her department in her alma mater, I think).  One was very "straight" and the other was "radical." The "radical" one had also been denied housing by various landlords in New Haven on apparent racial grounds -- she did not sound "black" on the telephone, but when she showed up the aparatment was not available.  I know about this because I was sort of the affirmative action obudsman and I pried these things out of them (they didn't want to talk about them).
    Also in this class was a very colorful neo-con white guy (a political theorist, and quite good in his way) who affected a folksy attitude and had a chip on his shoulder about never being treated fairly by all the liberals in the Ivy League.  The "radical" student (call her Ann) had written a very heartfelt but still incoherent and lengthy essay that was nowhere near ready to be a dissertation proposal.  It was about black politics.  We started to discuss it.  The white guy (let's call him Ken, so as not to keep calling him "the white guy")raised his hand, and I called on him.  He made a few cogent though excessively critical comments (not exactly unheard of in graduate seminars), but then he said, "If you want to do R&B, do R&B, but if you want to do political science, you have to do political science."
    My colleague and co-teacher, an exceedingly shy and timid distinguished scholar of American politics with deficient interpersonal skills, froze.  As I recall, after a pause, I suggested that the statement was inappropriate.  We finished the class somehow, and then we went through the process of Rashomon.  
    As I recall, after a lengthy intervention and discussion about freedom of speech, academic freedom, etc.  Ken apologized to Ann (using language such as "if I offended," etc.).  There was no disciplinary action, as you really cannot discipline someone for saying stupid and offensive things in a graduate seminar at a major university.  And I had a long talk with Ann which I opened by saying, "He may look like us, but he doesn't speak for us." Her morale improved, but eventually she left.  Her colleague, Desiree, however, went on to write her dissertation and have a distinguished career. I think Ken is doing pretty well too, having surmounted the overwhelming obstacles that conservative white males face in our society.  

  •  I think this is the kind of statement (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    undercovercalico, palachia

    that is hard to decipher based only on text, when you weren't present.

    Without information pertaining to tone, timing, etc., it could mean several things.

    It could mean what you take it to mean: implying that the individuals querying about payment methods might be just as likely to pay with food stamps, based upon their race.

    It could be a snide joke about the payment-method inquiry that's not based on race, but a way of saying, "oh, who cares what payment methods are accepted"-- and unfortunately happened to dovetail with a potentially racist remark.

    It could be, I suppose, what someone else suggested-- a comment about the speaker's own financial situation.

    Or something else.

    So I don't think your readers here can make an absolute judgment.  However, the person with most contextual information about the remark is your friend and her colleagues who were present, and so I guess I'd be inclined to trust their interpretation.

  •  you should file a formal complaint of your own (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    wozzle, Ahianne, undercovercalico

    with your HR department, in addition to the complaint of your friend and her co-workers who were directly targeted.  You might also want to consult an attorney whose specialty is employment law.  Your colleagues have been taking the appropriate measures and your employer has done nothing to correct the situation.  It is unfortunate that you are all being placed into a situation where legal action needs to be taken, but if no one from your company is willing to take corrective action, or even to admit that the person who made the comment was wrong, then you need advice on how to proceed from a professional in this field.

    You are perfectly entitled to file a complaint, because you found the comment offensive and racist, regardless of how the person making the statement meant it.  Here's another thing that most people don't realize - the people who are aware of the situation either by witnessing it and doing nothing or by having it brought to their attention and doing nothing about it are placing themselves in a potentiallly bad position as well.  I believe that this is what is called a "hostile work environment".  

    Good luck with this.  You're not wrong to be offended, nor are your colleagues over-reacting by asking for the situation to be addressed professionally and in accordance with company policy and federal law.  The mistake occured when the company did not address the situation swiftly and professionally.

    I'm not a lawyer, by the way, but I did spend a number of years in the field of Human Resources, and these sort of situations happen every day all over the country.  Changing the situation is a matter of continual education - sometimes that can be done through training, other times it happens through the courts.  I hope that eventually everyone will "get it" and this sort of thing will become a thing of the past.

    'The votes are in, and we won.' - Jim Webb

    by lcork on Fri Apr 06, 2007 at 07:19:53 AM PDT

  •  Further... (0+ / 0-)

    I fully recognize that I am recounting something I myself did not directly witness and it also raises the question of exactly how white Americans and black Americans percieve racism. I wonder if the divide regarding racism starts to get complicated when we talk about the subtle issues. I honestly and sincerely did not see this as subtle and I am not trying to trash anybody who disagrees with me. In fact, I really appreciate the responses.

    •  Ah... (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Ahianne, undercovercalico

      if you did not directly witness it, then I'm not certain you could file your own complaint about that particular incident.  My mistake.  You still might want to consult an employment law attorney, just to clarify in your mind what has been going on.  

      'The votes are in, and we won.' - Jim Webb

      by lcork on Fri Apr 06, 2007 at 07:25:52 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  My plan... (0+ / 0-)

        My friend is going to call me after she meets with the person who made the comment. HR advised her not to even give her a chance to respond. I am simply going to ask her what I can do to help in a more formal manner and go from there.

        •  this is an odd thing... (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          HR advised her not to even give her a chance to respond.

          They advised her to meet with the person who made the comment, but not to allow that person to respond?  What the devil is that supposed to accomplish?

          IMHO the HR Department is the one who should be meeting with the person who made the comment - or at the very least meeting with both parties together to work out the issue.  

          'The votes are in, and we won.' - Jim Webb

          by lcork on Fri Apr 06, 2007 at 07:47:04 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  I thought it was as well.... (0+ / 0-)

            I can only assume they were giving this advice in order to minimize the confrontation factor. Or, are they nervous and advising her to act cautiously while they mull it over?

            •  it does not sound (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:

              like the way to settle a problem.  In fact, I can't imagine how the suggested approach will do anything but make the situation even worse.

              It sounds to me like HR is hoping the situation will go away if they ignore it long enough.  And it also sounds like your friend is not willing to just let it drop (and I don't blame her).  I hope that your friend is keeping good records of all the follow up she is doing on this, in case she decides to consult an attorney.  She might want to ask for an HR representative at her meeting with the person who made the comment so that there is a witness and/or mediator to that meeting.  That might keep the pressure on HR to actually do something to correct the situation.

              'The votes are in, and we won.' - Jim Webb

              by lcork on Fri Apr 06, 2007 at 07:57:58 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

  •  It was at the very least (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    undercovercalico, Nulwee, LynneK

    an ignorant, inflammatory statement.  T'aint funny, McGee...

    "One way or another, this darkness got to give"

    by wozzle on Fri Apr 06, 2007 at 07:22:56 AM PDT

  • was racist... (9+ / 0-)

    and those who utter things like that just don't "get" it.  Here in San Jose we have more people then you can imagine who are very bigoted, especially against "Mexicans."  I have heard it all, and since I don't "look" Mexican, "white" people tend to say things around and to me that they wouldn't normally say in front of anyone who is Hispanic.  

    It is insulting, degrading to hear people make statements like the one you write about, the really sad part is that the offender can feel free to even utter things like that.

    John McCain Just one more koolaid drinker

    by SanJoseLady on Fri Apr 06, 2007 at 07:26:52 AM PDT

  •  It's an odd statement (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Rohan, undercovercalico, jimraff, arbiter

    or a failed joke.

    I'd say it's only, or primarily, racist if you already believe that only blacks use food stamps. Not so much racist itself, as racist bait.

    If we would be the Land of the Free, we must again become the Home of the Brave.
    Justice Holmes: "When you strike at a King, you must kill him."

    by khereva on Fri Apr 06, 2007 at 07:31:23 AM PDT

    •  Who is it aimed at? (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      The comment was aimed at African-Americans.

      He would not have said it if they were white.

      If you are looking for Truth, you better be ready to change your mind.

      by jimraff on Fri Apr 06, 2007 at 08:11:58 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  No, it was only "aimed at" them (0+ / 0-)

        if you already believe that only blacks use food stamps.

        There were many people from many departments present, as described.

        There was racism present at the meeting, but it has not been proven to be in the "jokester." It was definitely present in the objectors.

        If we would be the Land of the Free, we must again become the Home of the Brave.
        Justice Holmes: "When you strike at a King, you must kill him."

        by khereva on Fri Apr 06, 2007 at 03:03:51 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  It's "racist" (6+ / 0-)

    if a 'reasonable person' finds it racist.  That's how the law sees it.

    It's harassment to have pictures of Victoria's Secret models on your screensaver if employees complain about it and you don't take it down.

    In this case, people found it offensive.  HR rules would normally require that HR sits the person down and counsels him or her on the fact that these types of statements can be seen as offensive and request that the behavior stop.

    If they continue, the person is subject to being fired, either because the HR department is enlightened or because they are afraid of being sued for allowing harassment.

    That's just the way businesses are supposed to do it.  

    They are not supposed to sneer and promise no offense was intended, or tell you you're oversensitive.  

    If only ONE person in the building finds it offensive, the company needs to take steps to stop it, or they are not doing what they are required to protect their employee.

    In this case, several people found it offensive.  In addition, several reasonable folks out here in Dkos world think it's either borderline (i.e., depends on what the 'sayer' was thinking or intending) or downright racist.

    The HR department is being really stupid on this one if they ignore these concerns.  

  •  They speak in code (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    undercovercalico, lcork, jimraff

    and jokes about "food stamps" are yes, definately racist code.  I've been dismayed that after so many years of progress on the racial front, we seem to be going backward at an alarming rate.  I have an adopted Korean son and he has made me more sensitive to racist comments so I also call people on it whenever I hear it.  And I have been hearing it more often lately.  I think it started after 9/11 (anti-muslim/arab) and just seems to be growing stronger thanks to certain media personalities and anti-immigrant ferver.  Recently, at a wake no less, an older gentleman asked my husband right out "are you a racist?, I am!"  We were astounded. The interesting thing about it are that many of the comments I hear are from "christian" people.  So whenever I get the chance I ask if (brown-skinned) Jesus would have been a racist.  The look on the face is priceless!

  •  Yes it is racism. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    lcork, pwrmac5

    Something interesting I have been thinking about for a long time is that some people find racism where this is none, and don't find it when there is.

    Many times someone feels slighted and because of cultural differences observes racism.  Many times someone offends but does not see offense.

    Many people will say their intent is not to offend, but they don’t realize intent is only a small part of it.  Impact is the other part.  

    I am pretty sensitive at this point to racism because my daughter is Asian, at least I try to be.  I will never fully understand her experience in a predominantly white world.  

    I recently read a thing on being Politically Correct - or not.  This rant pretty well says it all for me.

    Hey idiots! Don’t you understand that "politically correct" is just an empty derogatory slam on people’s attempts to be sensitive to the feelings of others? And don’t you get how racism is systemic and widespread? Do you really want to join the ranks of the following idiots who have already gone down this path? And are you incapable of understanding that your intent means nothing? Impact is what counts. Focusing on intent takes the responsibility off the perpetrators of racism. That’s you, jerkfaces.

    Yeah, I know that this will ruin your fun. I bet it never even crossed your mind that anybody would protest your asinine party theme. Maybe you assumed everybody shares your white point of view. What’s the deal with being insensitive, thoughtless cretins whose idea of fun is making fun of others? And why are you making me out to be the bad guy? Look at yourselves in the mirror. And think about if you only want to give lip service to being culturally competent or sensitive to diversity. Or maybe it’s just too much strain on your tiny brains.

    If you are looking for Truth, you better be ready to change your mind.

    by jimraff on Fri Apr 06, 2007 at 08:06:27 AM PDT

  •  Here are some good links for anti racism (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    If you are looking for Truth, you better be ready to change your mind.

    by jimraff on Fri Apr 06, 2007 at 08:10:31 AM PDT

  •  The statement about (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Rohan, undercovercalico, Jagger

    food stamps may have been intended to hurt.  You have to watch what you say.  For instance, was Joe
    Biden racist when he talked of Obama being "clean and articulate?"

    Also, slips of the tongue can show an inner bias.  What did the diarist mean by this?

    My friend was designated to attend the meeting since she is very articulate and the other affected employees were concerned that the anger they felt would have an effect on how they communicated.

    She's "articulate?"  

  •  Good post, I like what you had to say and I (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    undercovercalico, delphine, lcork

    also breathed a heavy sigh for all those who "don't get it" because they completely missed the point of why you were offended. It isn't about racism but it is a lack of empathy. I understand why people recoil from thoughts of unacceptable, odious behavior and being seen endorsing it. So instead of confronting that part of their soul for introspection, they reflect  outwardly.

    Still, what I still don't get is why most think that despite all the racial progress made in a realitvely short amount of time why others do take offense. After all, no one is being lynched or bombed or some such anymore, right? Well the bluntness is for the most part gone but the subtle, couched slurs still exist. And I for one am sick to death of them. Why? Because it continues the line from Orwell's Animal Farm: "We all are created equal. But some of us are more equal than others." There is a lot of classism in this as well as racism and elitism in this statement. There is this ongoing perception in our society that in some quarters any progress made was not truly earned. As if, if all things being equal, certain peoples do not deserve their positions that should rightfully belong to a more deserving group of people.

    I am a college educated graphic artist of African American descent wtih 20 years of experience. Not all of that experiece came from the classroom. At the time there were no classes for what I know today. And yet I still get treated as if what I do and know is the expection and not the rule for my ethnicity. I have had to endure tireless backhanded compliments, thousands of inane commentary quietly, and forced to suffer ignorance with a smile just to keep employed. OFten I have been the only minority in an office situation and if there were any affirmative actions going on they never visited me. But this isn't about me but of other's impression and perceptions of me.

    All too often the presumption is that the lone minority(-ies, if no more than 6) must somehow agree with the prevailing attitudes of the majority. Otherwise why are they there if only to escape the jobs they would normally occupy. I amd many others like me are supposed to discard our ethnic identities and be team players when "jokes" like food stamps and their ilk are told. Any complaints and we are considered spoilsports by being too touchy.

    To those who think that there is overreactions happening I would suggest you reverse the situation. How would you feel if the majority around you spoke disparagingly of your ethnicity and almost dared you to speak out about it? This is yet another way to assert superiority. You create herd mentality and find the straggler then leave them out to die. This is why a lot of people don't run to HR to complain by their lonesomes. Despite our historic love of the underdog, they are usually the ones we leave hanging out to dry. Don't want to upset the status quo when it might affect your status careerwise or financially. So unless you happen to piss off a huge amount of people these jokesters can get away with anything up to and maybe including murder. When you hear someone shouting "Too PC!" what are they really defending? The right to disparage and demean another? Where is that in the Constitution? Is that in the Bible? Which passage?

    I don't mean to ramble on but things like this raise my ire and that kind of anger gets counterproductive when faced by people who don't see it as a problem in our society. It says to me that nothign has nor will it change since the Civil Rights Movement. It means that I have to continue to prove my worth to people who do not deserve any explanation. It says that for every one step forward we go ten steps back. That is not progress. Hell, it's the 21st century. It is about time that those in the majority accept the fact that the minority is not about to go away and better start learning to live with that.

    Let me do right to all, and wrong no man. - Dr. C. Savage, Jr.

    by pwrmac5 on Fri Apr 06, 2007 at 08:58:54 AM PDT

    •  the subtle racism is so pervasive (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      undercovercalico, pwrmac5

      it's hard to believe your ears sometimes.  

      Then the overt bigotry rears its ugly head, and you REALLY can't believe your ears.

      I hate both, but I have to admit, sometimes the subtle bigotry escapes my notice because it is so subtle.  Be that as it may, if it offends it should be stopped.

      'The votes are in, and we won.' - Jim Webb

      by lcork on Fri Apr 06, 2007 at 09:12:24 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  You aren't rambling (0+ / 0-)

      I guess I feel like I am an alien at times because while I am aware I too need to work how I promote and percieve hegemony and racism, in other words I am an ocean away from perfect, I don't understand why thinking adults resist examining their own words and actions with such fervour.

    •  Agreed (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      no problem with the rambling.  See my posts below.  

      People just don't understand how even "unintentional" comments can be cutting and hurtful.

      Like the idiot who goes on over here with stuff like how "hebrew is such a funny language!" because it "sounds like people are clearing their throats".

      And a minute later talking about Islam with just as much ignorance.  

      I mean he's so fucking stupid I don't bother getting upset.  

      In the meantime if I do bring it up, I get the whole "wow, you don't look Jewish" bullcrap or the "oooh, how interesting!!"  I think they expect something a bit more exotic.


      But yeah, people are just ridiculous.  Even if they don't "mean" it.

  •  Some folks are just oblivious (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    to how their behavior affects other people.

    We had this woman here who expressed to me that, when meeting with parents of kids here in East Los Angeles (a heavily Latino neighborhood), she removed her jewelry so as not to "make them feel bad".

    What a dolt!  As if Latino automatically = poor!!  As if parents of kids at her school (she was a principal, no less) gave a crap what jewelry she was wearing.  She thinks she's being "kind" but she's being horrifically condescending and insulting.

    The PTA voted her out of the school.  She ended up here.

    So then she starts with condescending crap here.  Thirty plus years of experience didn't tell her you can't ask people if they're married/have kids/plan to have kids during interviews.  Ask she did.  She expressed to her staff that she would never hire anyone with kids or who plans to have kids, because she couldn't get as much work out of them.  

    I don't know exactly what she said to/about/around the non-whites in her department, but they apparently compiled a list of greivances and she was eventually fired.  But not for that - for the questions in interviews, which could bring State and Federal agencies down to investigate.  

    My guess is, though, that she didn't call people the N word, or anything that blatant.  It was her constant and repeated condescension, her ignorant assumptions, her treatment of blacks in her department as "different", her stupidass "noblesse oblige" white folks have to offer "understanding" to those less fortunate statements, etc., none of which on their own might be considered racist, and those of us who are not black might not even "get" why any particular one might be condescending, but taken as a whole constituted abuse and harassment.

    People suffered for quite a while under this woman's idiocy.  

    You don't have to shout epithets or draw swastikas to be racist and insulting.

  •  Another anecdote (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    I was sitting in my cubie a couple years ago and these two women begin discussing Jewish men.  All about how they're "cheap" and "Oh, I dated a Jewish man once, never again, he never paid for anything" blah blah blah.

    I'm Jewish.

    So after a few minutes of this tripe I simply asked "You two DO know that I'm Jewish, right?"

    "Oh, we didn't mean YOU!" they said.

    I said "Yeah, you DO mean me, and my son, and my father and brothers."

    And they looked at one another and said "I didn't hear anything, did you?"  Ha ha, they said.  Because it was just the three of us in the room.

    I had no recourse.  No one else was there, and they would have denied the whole thing.  It was bullshit, and blatant, and they didn't think they'd done anything wrong.  

    Because they "didn't mean 'me'"

    >rolls eyes<</p>

    •  Yeah it is always the "other" ones.... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      That is pretty condescending in other words "you" are okay but the other ones annoy us. Of course, you will only be "okay" if you agree with them.

      •  Yes, then we're "one of the good ones". (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:


        Why we humans feel the need to laugh at one anothers' expense I just don't get.

        All it takes is a little walk in one anothers' shoes, something a lot of folks refuse to do.

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