to be quiet when others are racist

(73 Posts)
inthisdayandage Sat 01-Dec-12 00:40:57

A few weeks ago i had a get together with friends where some pretty racist things were said. I did not say anything as I did not want to rock the boat so to speak but i certainly did not agree. Does silence make me as bad as the racists? I am still feeling unhappy about it now- should I speak up or just let it go?

sudaname Sat 01-Dec-12 23:15:03

Sometimes its best to stand up to it in a non confrontational way. So for example if someone says something along the lines of a particuliar group of society are very clannish and only look after their own etc - then counter it with a positive about them just being very family orientated in your opinion and much more so than we are in the western world - or whatever. Its sometimes better than just saying 'thats racist' or 'you shouldnt say such things' , especially in a group of friends etc.

That way you are letting them know you dont like those remarks and dont agree with them and allowing them to modify their comments in future or better still reconsider them - without them becoming defensive and resulting in an argument.

seeker Sat 01-Dec-12 23:02:40

If you thought you were in physical danger, then staying silent would have been OK. Otherwise, it isn't.

Specialbrew Sat 01-Dec-12 22:56:48

I'm sorry if this sounds harsh but yes, I'm afraid that silence makes you as bad as the racists. Unless you are in harms way there is no excuse for not challenging racist/sexist/homophobic remarks in a democratic society. I subscribe to the 'if you're part of the solution you're part of the problem' school of thought.

Speaking as an asian with mixed raced kids the attitude of not wanting 'to rock the boat' pisses me right off. You had a choice, and you chose to stay silent. Think about all the people who get verbally abused all the time, what choice do they have?

And feeling guilty doesn't make you a better person either. Shove your guilt and do the right thing next time.

neuroticmumof3 Sat 01-Dec-12 21:53:18

I was once friends with a neighbour for several years. One night my dc were at their dad's so I invited friend and her then boyfriend for dinner. We had a wonderful evening and got quite drunk. At which point out came the racist jokes. I kept challenging them but they just laughed off my objections and told more and more deeply unpleasant racist jokes. In the end I asked them to leave, had a blazing row with her on the doorstep and never spoke to her again.

Years ago I was in town with my then young dc. We were stood next to two white men who were saying loudly, look at the fucking monkey over there with his monkey brat and worse things while a black man and his beautiful toddler daughter walked in our direction. To my eternal shame I was too aghast and scared to challenge them. It was the first time I had heard blatant racism in a public setting and I was horrified.

I agree with the 'good men doing nothing' quote and do believe we all have a duty to challenge discriminatory behaviour but you do need to take personal safety into account.

MrsSnow Sat 01-Dec-12 20:54:16

Rephrase people of colour to minority groups currently being targeted by racists.

lljkk Sat 01-Dec-12 20:49:32

People of colour... not that simple.

I have read MNers describe it as racist to slag off Americans, which is nothing to do with colour of skin! So it really depends what was said.

Oh and (ime) some Bangladeshi people like to slag off Pakistanis & sometimes visa versa. They're both people of rather similar colour, of course.

So keeps coming back to just what was said etc.

MrsSnow Sat 01-Dec-12 20:47:06

I think the reality is that if you were of colour you would have no choice but to say something. As you are not, you have the choice.

I would like to think if I was white I would stand up against rascism but then I would not have lived in the skin I have and lived the life I have.

Unfortunately when a person stays silent people naturally assume that they agree with them. In the same way if you had been in public and your friend had actually made racist comments to a person of colour would have stayed silent then? In that instance if you had stayed silent it would be completely rational to assume that you were also racist.

YWBU

lljkk Sat 01-Dec-12 20:40:50

That's nicely said, Snowsquonk. Assertive without being pushy.

Snowsquonk Sat 01-Dec-12 18:41:56

This works - every time....

"Can I interupt you there.....I find comments/jokes like that offensive....but to be fair to you, you weren't to know that"

Stops people in their tracks, they can't take offense (although some try) and I've laid out my stall - so to speak - so if they continue or try again I either repeat with "I've just told you I find such comments offensive" or I leave.

Want2bSupermum Sat 01-Dec-12 18:27:45

My fathers girlfriend is Polish and very racist. I don't bother to say anything because, quite frankly, everyone knows she is an idiot. Some of her comments are real clangers though and it is then that I like to point out some truths to her though. Best one was when she said she didn't like immigrants who don't work and live off the state. I pointed out to her that she doesn't work, lives off my father and the government have paid for her study. She didn't get it but everyone else at the table did.

What scares me is that she is studying for her PhD at a redbrick school. She is one of the most ignorant people I know of and after all the 'education' that has been thrown at her she remains just as ignorant.

hattymattie Sat 01-Dec-12 18:17:30

I am often shocked how often many people who are perfectly nice in every other way feel they can be racist once you get to know them well and I can't abide it. BUT I am in an expatriate community and to cut off everybody on this basis would leave me with hardly any friends. Having said this - like others on this thread - often racist remarks are made by the same people who have african or indian friends. They don't seem to make the connection!

ProphetOfDoom Sat 01-Dec-12 18:01:32

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

lljkk Sat 01-Dec-12 17:45:03

I think it depends what they say. And how they say it. And context. I suspect I would have kept quiet too, OP, I don't think you would have gained much by confrontation.

Have to say that I hear people on MN getting wrapped up in knots about statements that were meant as throwaway jokes, even if distasteful, I can't know if that's all OP is unhappy about.

Theicingontop Sat 01-Dec-12 17:31:43

I don't get those jokes made around me, because obviously if I have a child with a black man, I am therefore the white ambassador to all black people everywhere and must not be offended

Also, my idiot closet-racist colleagues were far too polite to possibly offend someone connected to a 'non-white' in some way, with their passionate anti-integration views. Bless them.

Apart from this one girl who told me she thought having mixed race children was really wrong and unfair on the child. "Me mum would kill me if I came 'ome with a coloured bloke!" hmm

I think it would be weird to bring it up now. Certainly in your position I'd have made some blunt remark, but I've had raging debates with foul, proper racists and it's never achieved anything. YANBU.

PlateSpinningAtAllTimes Sat 01-Dec-12 17:24:08

I don't think you were unreasonable because pure surprise and the fact that you don't find confrontation easy make your lack of response understandable. However now that you've had time to digest it all, I think that you should certainly pick them up on it if it happens again. Something fairly throwaway that makes your views clear should do it: 'bloody hell, that's a bit racist', or 'that's a very sweeping statement' should do it- you don't need to get aggressive. Depending on how they respond, you can then either have a sensible debate and show them the error of their ways or realise that there is no changing them and walk away from the friendship.

InNeedOfBrandyButter Sat 01-Dec-12 16:56:29

Hmm this is interesting thread.

I got thrown the other day, walking home with my neighbour and talking about my dickhead dd's dad and how he was stringing me and another woman along when I briefly got back with him. (I have no idea what I was thinking doing this) and she said (bare in mind my dc are mixed race) well coloured men they're all the same they can't just stick with one woman. I had no idea what to say and it was right before we said goodbye and went into our own flat.

I quietly fumed thinking well that is my ds your describing to and just because it's happened to me (and is a jamaican stereotype) does not mean everyones the same just because the colour of their skin I had no idea what to say without making an argument with someone who I walk to school with, our dc are all best friends in the same classes and we live in the same block of flats.

MrsDeVere Sat 01-Dec-12 16:54:29

I tend to challenge it now.
But I am 45 and have been through a lot of horrible things in the last few years so I am a bit on the 'fuck you' side of things.

I also have black children and OH so I take it personally.
And tossers are fair game for my pent up fury generally.

Boomerwang Sat 01-Dec-12 16:48:35

That's a very good idea Grr I'll try that next time. Indeed pulling the 'joke' apart could flick a few switches in their heads.

GrrrArghZzzzYaayforall8nights Sat 01-Dec-12 15:18:14

I disagree Boommer - racism is learned - either directly through racist role models and media or indirectly through the racist structure of society which affects all of us - and it can be unlearned. It's a hard, continuous process, but change is possible - we don't just draw the racist card for life. Challenging people's ideas is often the start of it.

For jokes, I find the best way is just saying "I don't get it" and trying to get them to explain it. Gonig through the thought process bit by bit can be very eye openi ng for those who've never thought about it before.

Boomerwang Sat 01-Dec-12 13:46:54

Really awkward. I don't think I'd like to lose a friend who is fantastic in every other way by challenging them. I would be hugely surprised and shocked if I had found myself close to someone who was racist, however.

If the comment was something that had been passed on and not much consideration had been given before repeating it I would challenge it just to be sure the person knew it was considered racist.

If I overheard a racist comment used in front of someone from the ethnic group it was aimed at I couldn't let it slide as that would definitely seem that I agreed by saying nothing. I have found the best way to show them up isn't to wade in and risk looking neurotic, but to state 'I want everybody to know I don't agree with his views / like racist jokes' No need to demand more respect, tell them not to say it in front of you again etc, because after that statement, they probably won't even talk to you any more.

Another way is to say 'shall I tell X that joke? Do you think he/she will think it's funny? I wonder why you don't crack jokes when he/she is around'

You will NEVER change someone's racist view, but you might shame them into keeping it to themselves.

MaxineQuordlepleen Sat 01-Dec-12 13:46:22

It's hard but I think we all have a responsibility to challenge or things won't get better. My way of dealing with it now is to very quietly and calmly say "What do you mean?" which often stops them a bit. Then I just say "Actually I think the world is more complicated than that and we are all equal" and don't get drawn into an argument.

LadyFace Sat 01-Dec-12 13:34:38

I've been in a similar situation where a friend started telling racist jokes, Jim Davidson style, justifying it by saying she had asian friends, black boss, irish relatives etc. hmm

I couldn't bring myself to politely laugh like the rest of the sheep group and challenged her on it. She got very defensive about it and it was the start of the end of the friendship which was fine by me!

YouCanBe Sat 01-Dec-12 13:16:36

I may or may not say anything, spending on the situation, but I wouldn't see them again.

BarbaraBar Sat 01-Dec-12 13:03:41

I had a falling out with a friend of mine and her H after a dinner party at which he spouted his racist views. I had no idea he was such a tosser. I told him his views were offensive, ignorant and totally inappropriate. She sat there quietly while he ranted on in his bigoted way. I was shocked and appalled at him for his views and also at her for not saying anything. DH and I agreed that we could no longer socialise with this couple because I think if you hang out with racists then, imho, you condone what they say.

kim147 Sat 01-Dec-12 13:00:47

If I challenged everything my Dad comes out with, it would make visiting him very difficult until he realised what an opinionated, egotistical alpha white male he actually is and how his views on women, immigrants and race were slightly offensive.

Worse is when he's in company and assumes everyone will agree with him. Which then leads to heated debate.

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