About a mother-to-be using racist language about her baby?

(131 Posts)

Met a friends sister recently, and she mentioned that she was pregnant. She is white and the father of the baby is black. Several times throughout the evening she referred to her unborn baby by using a racist term.

I found this very uncomfortable but decided not to say anything about it as I didn't want to cause an argument, however my friend noticed and asked her to apologise to me - which she did but half-heatedly.

Normally I would always challenge someone using language which I consider offensive, I didn't on this occasion as if she is in a relationship with someone of a different colour then surely she cannot actually be a racist, maybe she was just making a poor decision of a joke? She is definitely still in a relationship with the father of the baby, as she was arranging to meet him later that evening.

WIBU by not challenging her choice of language?

Bogeyface Thu 03-Jan-13 23:17:14

If I had used that phrase when I was pg H would not have been happy. However, he uses the word half caste to describe himself and DD (he is 3/4 jamaican and 1/4 white british). So half caste being offensive can depend, H gets pissed off with white people being offended on his behalf over something he doesnt find offensive!

Bogeyface Thu 03-Jan-13 23:18:17

Incidentally, I use the term mixed race, as dual heritage is stupid imo. We are all dual heritage unless your mum and dad were brother and sister, it doesnt really say anything.

NolittleBuddahsorTigerMomshere Thu 03-Jan-13 23:20:25

Disgusting language to use about anybody let alone her own baby! shock I would have had to say something along the lines of 'Do you not think that by using that foul term to describe DC, other people might think it is acceptable to use it when referring to DC or others?' Or 'How does DP feel about you using that word?' said casually but in a very firm tone.

Out of interest, are her family supportive of her relationship with DP? Not that it excuses her behaviour in any way, but perhaps she is trying to desensitize herself to their comments about the baby, by making the word 'acceptable by it's ubiquity' (In her household[s] only, one would hope.)

OR she is just really very stupid and unaware.

LizzieVereker Thu 03-Jan-13 23:21:06

One of my school friends is of dual heritage, her father being black and her mother white. Her Mum used to make "jokes" racist jibes about her Dad's ethnicity, his culture, the body shapes of black women etc. My friend used to try and scrub her face whiter when we were little, and later developed an eating disorder, which I'm sure was in part due to her lack of self worth and poor self image.

"Not a very intelligent mother"

Not being informed and educated isn't the same as being thick or unintelligent.

Education and helping the person using the term to understand why it is offensive, is usually the answer.

I have had to expalin to people who most definately not racist what terms should be used, they do not get training in the jobs that they are in and where they are from racisim is still rife.

We don't all come into contact with informed enlightened people, so pick these things up naturally.

I had a young lad once ask me the proper name for what people call "Paki's", he honestly didn't know and i was the only person who he trusted to explain things to him,or not overreact.

I am from a mixed race family but i am white, so i hear a lot of real racism (that wouldn't be said in front of black/Asian colleagues), using certain words isn't racist in itself, if the person is ill informed of the connotations and are then willing to make a change.

Mamajammas Thu 03-Jan-13 23:22:28

I HATE that word.

Disgusting.

NolittleBuddahsorTigerMomshere Thu 03-Jan-13 23:25:05

I agree Mama, but I wouldn't give it the nobility of referring to it as a 'word', a grunt of the ignorant is more accurate IMO.

charlieandthechocolatecake Thu 03-Jan-13 23:28:23

Maybe because her baby is going to be of mixed race, she feels she cannot be labelled as racist. The same way some black people call their friends niggers.

Very immature. Very racist. Poor child.

DoubleYew Thu 03-Jan-13 23:37:24

Lots of people have problems with dual heritage because it implies white and black are polar opposites, whereas if eg someone is from the Caribbean they are likely to have Scottish, English, Chinese, many African countries ancestors and due to the nature of slavery they may not even know what their history is. Describing them as black or dual heritage (ie half black) glosses over the reality of how complex most people's background is.

NotOnTheBeach Fri 04-Jan-13 00:21:05

BirdsGotta: I agree that ignorance may well be innocent over things like use of 'half caste' and it isn't fair to insult people who have good intentions but out of date habits. But surely calling your unborn mixed race baby a nig nog isn't down to lack of education or information!

ToffeePenny Fri 04-Jan-13 02:25:13

Firstly YANBU however:

When has Nig nog ever NOT been racist

There are occurrences of it in British army records of the 1930s & 40s where the common understanding appears to be that it was a concatanation of a shortened version of nignoramous (which at the time meant an imbecile and was itself a deliberate mispelling of ignoramus) and 'Nog' (short for noggin = head and also referring to a block of wood) so literally 'ignorant-headed'). 'Nig' was also used to denote new recruits on their transfer papers (standing for 'New In Germany') which lends some support to it having a non-racial common usage in the UK at least.

This usage would have been current at the same time as hyper segregation in the US was leading to an increase in black racial slurs, particularly n*gg*r, in place of the previously more common negro. By the mid 50s both nignoramous and nig-nog in the US are only found with the racist meaning but in the UK the two co-existed. The Oxford English Dictionary notes both usages with the racist usage now more common so there is a decent chance that it originally had an innocent meaning and got taken over by racists (b*stards).

The reason I know this is because I had no knowledge of the racist meaning until about 5 years ago. It was an affectionate term that both grandfathers (coming from naval and military backgrounds) used for us GC interchangably with 'silly billy' and 'daftie' and I am very sure that neither of them used it with any other meaning. I heard it a lot growing up, from other adults in the area (which given it was rural Wales had no race other than caucasian for 100 miles so highly unlikely to have been used as a racial slur).

I used it in front of dh, in reference to a misspelling of my name the dvla had made on my renewed driving license, meaning it as 'silly billy', and got my ear bitten off. This discrepancy in our understanding prompted the above research. Obviously I've not used it since.

As I said at the start, YANBU especially given the race of her other half, but there may be good reason why she is not aware of how bad it is (grandfathers in the military perhaps?) and, as other posters have suggested, if his family uses it affectionately by way of reclaiming it then it would explain her otherwise unusual vocabulary.

ToffeePenny Fri 04-Jan-13 02:34:25

Just realised your question was:

WIBU by not challenging her choice of language

Yes. But you know that as it is still needling you that she went away still not seeing it as a term to avoid using in future.

Next time you will.

Alisvolatpropiis Fri 04-Jan-13 03:17:26

I'm surprised anyone in their early twenties would say such a word in all honesty.

Certainly isn't common parlance with my group of friends. Never has been. A mixed race girl I went to school with used to insist she was half caste but she was South African so maybe that had something to do with it. Never known any other mixed raced people of my age group insist it.

OhMerGerd Fri 04-Jan-13 06:37:03

The poor child.

If that's the attitude or level of awareness of his or her first champion, defender and love, babe is in for a rough time.

Little one isn't going to be debating the historical context of the use of mummy's 'nicknames'.

Will just be bursting its little heart crying and wondering 'why me' when being bullied in the playground or abused on the street, and then going home for more.

Mother needs help. If she's that unaware she needs a good friend to take her aside and explain. Not sure how the partner figures in this but he must be unaware of her terminology or it's a very loose relationship.

Sigh.... Poor child.

hackmum Fri 04-Jan-13 07:49:07

It's a very outdated term and extremely offensive. What a strange way to refer to one's unborn baby.

The only person I've heard using the term in recent years is, regrettably, my MiL, who is in her late 80s. ToffeePenny has cast light on something for me, though - I've heard MiL use the word, not just to refer to black people, but simply in reference to people she doesn't like (notably Prince Charles!) so maybe for her it still has that "silly billy" connotation.

trapclap Fri 04-Jan-13 08:02:53

alis I know a number of MR adults who refer to themselves as half-caste. People can obviously self define, bur I would never use the term. More people are offended by it than not

Thank you everyone for your replies and opinions.

In reference to the poster who asked if I was black and that's why her sister told her to apologise - I am not, but my vocal dislike of racist, and indeed any bigoted, language is well known amongst my friends.

I knew I should have spoken up, my feelings were perfectly clear... I'm not one of those people who can hide emotions - everything I feel is very clearly shown on my face! - however I was reluctant for a couple of other reasons as well as in my original post, mainly that I wasn't feeling very well, and was suffering with a sinus infection (therefore not in my usual 'fighting' mood) and also I wondered if I was somehow being 'set-up' to see if I would bite.

This girl is not my friend, I didn't like her and have no intention of ever spending time with her again... She was kind of rude, but in an immature way, several times throughout the evening - for example laughing at me for ordering a milkshake to drink, rather than alcohol (I needed to soothe my sore throat)

So I accept that IWBU in not speaking up. I don't know how I would have made any difference, but at least I wouldn't have been mulling it over days later... confused

HappyJazzy Fri 04-Jan-13 09:38:24

I wonder if she used it as a very misguided (and ignorant) term of endearment? Like other people call their baby "jelly bean" hopefully someone points out to her it's actually quite offensive.

gimmecakeandcandy Fri 04-Jan-13 09:41:31

Horrible horrible word, what a stupid woman! She needs to feel ashamed

trapclap Fri 04-Jan-13 09:57:02

She knows that term is not acceptable!

She's dating a black guy, and she apologized for saying it. She knows

Why do people fall over themselves all the time, to make excuses for racist behaviour/language/individuals? hmm

QOD Fri 04-Jan-13 09:58:21

My friends do was brought up being called "f'ing p*ki" every time he misbehaved. By his white mum who married a Bangladeshi and had two children with him. The sister escaped most of this for some reason.
H has no relationship with her at all now

Just too weird, I can't understand it

trapclap Fri 04-Jan-13 10:00:49

toffee in what context do you think a pregnant mum would refer to her unborn child as 'daftie" or "silly billy"?

fromparistoberlin Fri 04-Jan-13 10:06:31

sweet fucking jesus

she is calling her unborn baby a nig nog?

mama.....I would call her on it, and BIG time

it s a disgusting offensive term, and noone with an ounce of a brain would use it. tell her you would prefer for to not use that word, it rude, racist and offensive

someone needs to tell her

ask her if she would use that term to her partners family???

I am shocked!!!

Pooka Fri 04-Jan-13 10:11:23

I think it's entirely possible to call an unborn baby a silly billy in an affectionate way - for example, if you were discussing the pregnancy with a friend and said "the baby was head down but keeps moving head up, the silly billy". It's cutesy but understandable in context.

Bit like I call the dcs a silly sausage.

Nig nog makes me very uncomfortable.

puds11isNAUGHTYnotNAICE Fri 04-Jan-13 10:11:57

I can only assume that if she is referring to her own child in this way, she doesn't realise its racist. Not sure how she wouldn't know that, but it would appear that way.

I would still correct her on her language though as if she doesn't know, then she really does need to know.

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