ZOMBIE THREAD ALERT: This thread hasn't been posted on for a while.
Just a little odd, or just a little racist?(42 Posts)
Apologies for long intro!
DS is the only mixed race (in fact the only non-white) child in mothers group. He has three white grandparents (from 2 European countries and 1 English-speaking one) and one non-white grandparent - to avoid total unmasking, let's say Indonesian. Our home is now the UK and DS's first nationality is British. At home we speak English, plus my native European language, though we have visited all of our home countries and are keen to maintain ties, so do occasionally discuss this with other mums from overseas.
One of the other mothers now continually refers to him as 'the little Indonesian boy'. At first I was not bothered, it's easy to forget names and I suppose that babies don't have lots of other distinguishing characteristics! But now she clearly knows his name but still does it continually, to the point where she introduces him that way to new mums.
I think that she means well, and she sees it as cool that her daughter has a non-white little friend - and I wouldn't mind so much, except it makes me continually feel like explaining to the new mums that yes, I am actually his mother, even if we don't look very alike, and makes me wonder if it will always be like this.
I am probably (definitely) over thinking this, and being a bit PFB. But AIBU to want to stop it? In any case, is there a tactful way to get her to stop introducing him by a quarter of his ethnic background?
I would refer to her child in a similar way, ie the little noisy boy, or the little blond-haired boy, or the little boy with the incredibly rude mother.
She's being a patronising prat and I am sure she's perfectly well aware that it is unacceptable. She probably wouldn't even do it if he was full- blooded Indonesian but she wants to have a dig at you. Probably the sort obsessed with bloodlines etc. I do recommend saying loudly in front of the other mum's "His name is Thomas(or whatever it is), not 'little Indonesian boy'. Kindly refer to him as such in future".
It's one thing for most of a 14000 pupil school to call DDs friend the 'Indonesia' girl as she is the only far eastern and one of a tiny handful of black DCs in the whole school.
It would have be quite another if DD and the other pupils in her classes didn't bother to learn her name.
I'd refer to quite a lot of the pupils at school as the boy who plays the trumpet, the girl who does the piano solos etc. because I'm dyslexic and reading their name in the programme doesn't stick.
Likewise it would be down right rude to describe on particularly annoying child rather than use their name. Even though everyone would know who I meant.
This woman clearly knows your DS's name she should use it.
We live in a very diverse area and know people from all sorts of different heritages. My children are fascinated by this, different countries, customs, food, etc. They have totally "got" that people are British, but have parents/grand-parents from somewhere else. They are almost 7, 5 and 2 1/2!
YANBU. DD2 was once introduced as 'that black girl'. First, it's so offensive- how about you say 'hi, this is x' (she knew heer name, the person saying it was DSis!) and secondly she is mixed race, not black.
Yanbu, it's no excuse that she doesn't know his name, she can make an effort to find out. I would tell her politely what his name is and if she could please not refer to him as she currently is. It's not nice as others may start referring to him the same way.
It's very doubtful that she is being racist or malicious. Is she a confident person? If not I would be careful about how you pick her up on her reference to your ds and do it privately so others don't hear. She may just be making a clumsy attempt at being friendly and making sure everyone knows each other. If I had inadvertently offended someone at a baby group and was picked up on it in front of others, I'd feel mortified and never go back.
I'll tell you something really funny. My ds was born (I am half Armenian, my dd is Italian) so any Chidren we ave are more likely to be dark, dd is very fair, is darker like me. Anyway ds was born we went home, we were visited by a very stupid midwife. She took one look at ds boy bits and said that tey were a bit dark aren't they. Yes doh, he's dark like me fgs. I am concerned tat there mabey something wrong. You need to go to the hospital. It old her he I was alf Armenian and was dark there myself. She then tried to pronounce Armenia and got it totally wrong (nothing wrong with that). We saw a paedritrician who examined him and nothing there. Doh she s a midwife has she not seen any other boys, or only white British ones. Did we have to go to the hospital just to be told its fine, when we knew that!
I don't live in the most enlightened sector of the UK, but it still sets my teeth on edge when I hear the non white kids at school described as "coloureds" by some of the mums.
"If you really do hate confrontation you could try a passive-agressive 'oh my goodness, have you forgotten DS name again? It's [name], not 'little Indonesian boy.' smile brightly and <eyeroll> to the new people. You could even follow that up with 'One of his grandparents is Indonesian, we're clearly very exotic for round here.' <more eyerolls> 'Let me show you where to put your coat/get a drink/change the baby.'"
Love this! Don't think it's passive aggressive at all.
I can understand people of our parents' generation even, if they live in a predominantly white area, being curious about a child from a different ethnic background, but once you know that child and are friendly with the parents, there really is no excuse to keep referring to the child by their ethnic heritage. It's just downright rude. Every child has a name ffs! How appropriate would it be to refer to children as; "the fat one", "the ginger one" or "the Northern one"? Do you think that would be tolerated any better?
Sunnysummer some people will offend as much as they can get away with. She may talk about your child in this way but not dare to speak about another child in the same way as she'll realise that the mother will take her to task for it. Her introducing your ds to her friends in that way is sending out a clear message to her friends that she is superior to you as she can talk about your children now she likes and you will just accept it.
Trust me, this is a superiority issue, I don't think anyone can be that ignorant these days, not of our generation or younger, there is no excuse for it. She is just demonstrating what little regard she holds for you. If you still think she is just being a bit dozy then ask yourself this; does she use names for all the other children? Does she describe them according to their ethnic heritage (e.g, part Irish/Scottish/Welsh) or just yours? If she only does this to you then you have your answer.
I realise you don't feel that confident in confronting other people but it doesn't have to be aggressive. You can be very polite and reasonable about it, perhaps asking her why she doesn't use his name the next time she refers to him as the "little Indonesian boy" - that would be a very reasonable question to ask that I doubt she would have a good answer for.
When dealing with such people just remember, they would not hesitate to inform you if you had offended them so why shouldn't you be just as honest? It's not rude or impolite to reasonably and politely question someone's ignorance. 9 times out of 10 they know they are being rude but feel they are getting away with it, which makes them feel big. In your case I'd say she was one of those people.
Isn't it odd? I had a birthday party for DS the other day, and one of his little friends is half-Korean. We live in London and all our friends are a mixed bunch, so it never occurred to me to think of this toddler as "other" or different, although there were mainly white babies present on the day (not all English). And my father who was visiting for the birthday asked me who was "the Chinese baby"! I got a bit of a jolt realising that this was how my parents would see the child, when we never think that way because we know he's from Hackney and so is his dad and grandparents!
It is bizarre to me that someone who knows the child and his parents fairly well would make the same distinction.
I have this with my children. You will get braver if you're not brave now! I would say when your boy is introduced as "little Indonesian boy" that "his name is x".
I detest it when someone is defined by someone else's standards.
I refuse to define my children. I can define me because that's my choice. I tell people to ask the children directly. It pisses me off so much. It is not up to even me as their mum to say they are "mixed race" or "black British" or anything at all. It is up to them. They define themselves.
Clearly, mine are older so they can. They know exactly where they come from and can tell you that they are half insert nationality of choice and a quarter my half nationality and a quarter my other half nationality. Find a box for that you box ticking people!
I completely understand that it is helpful for organisations to know what nationalities are within it for purposes such as celebrating festivals etc but it does not define a person.
I may not have explained this as well as I could have.
You may have to start down the route of correcting this woman until she actually says your sons name instead of a part of his identity.
She is racist and extremely odd... I would bet the other people hearing her say this think she is quite stupid too.
I would be fuming if this was happening to me and my child, I hate confrontation but would just have to say something.
I don't think you are being PFB or over thinking it in the slightest. Some PPs have made good suggestions of what to say, she needs putting in her place!
Kirjava and TimidLivid it's astonishing, isn't it, until you experience it you really don't expect these things to happen any more!
Being with DH was a bit of an eye opener for me after a lily-white upbringing, and now as a mother I am even more aware of the way that some people start to characterise him before he's even learned to speak.
THERhubarb, you are right that I need to be able to stick up for him - for me, being ready and confident is most important, so this is really helpful as a start.
'but calling attention to my son's race'
...or maybe 'one part of my son's racial heritage'...
Depending on where you live (if it's a semi-rural, predominantly white area, for example) and this other mother's background (also predominantly white upbringing, etc), she might well be completely ignorant of the offence her words are causing. A lot of casual racism is a result of ignorance rather than malice.
That's by the by though. If careless language use isn't called when it happens, it perpetuates itself because every time it is used without censure it it condoned.
If you think she's just being thoughtless, just call her on it by saying something like "I'm sure you don't mean to be rude because you've been so welcoming into the group etc, but calling attention to my son's race instead of using his name is really starting to upset me." You haven't used the word 'racist' but made it clear what the issue is. My guess is that she'll stop it, but if she doesn't you'll then have a clear indication that she is in fact a racist, in which case you can be far stronger in your condemnation of it without qualms.
I know what you mean my son has 3 uk white british grandparents and one Mexican granny, and his is referred to as Mexican or jokes made about eating tortillas all the time. People are generally silly, he usually says im a quarter Spanish. its bloody silly though, I get asked about my other , blonde son - how did that happen? err he has 3 white grandparent's u fecking idiot. you would think it was some sort of miracle that never happens. I think people don't like it sometimes when they cant categorise people into one thing the mixing bothers them. she is only seeing an Indonesian boy, she thiks one drop of forrin and that defines him. I would ask her to stop saying that, its really unimportant, his name is Jasper or whatever or u could start calling her the rude English lady
I think you need to attend assertive classes because if there's one thing that every mum needs to be able to do and that is confrontation. Whether it's bullies at school, a shit teacher or someone else's parent, if your child is treated unfairly or picked on then you need to know how to fight your child's corner.
This is fighting your child's corner. Your son can't speak for himself just yet so he needs you to defend his corner. He is not to be seen for merely his colour or identified by a country he was not born in, he has a name and this is where you need to get bloody angry and demand that his name be used.
Your child will need you fighting for them at so many intervals in their lives, they will need you to step in and stick up for them. It's important. Please learn how to assertive.
When she says tat correct her, and say no actually his name is Ben for example
I'd think that was both odd and racist.
Even your family identified as 'indonesian' (which I get the impression you don't) it would be an odd way to introduce someone unless it was particularly relevant to the conversation.
I don't live in my native country and my kids kindergarten has about 50% of kids with one or both parents from abroad so we do have conversations along the lines of X's mummy comes from Y and they speak Z language occasionally but its not how we introduce people.....
I think I'd probably say something like DS is british, his grandfather (or whoever) is indonesian with a slightly withering look and see if she got the message.
If you really do hate confrontation you could try a passive-agressive 'oh my goodness, have you forgotten DS name again? It's [name], not 'little Indonesian boy.' smile brightly and <eyeroll> to the new people. You could even follow that up with 'One of his grandparents is Indonesian, we're clearly very exotic for round here.' <more eyerolls> 'Let me show you where to put your coat/get a drink/change the baby.'
Please tell me you're no longer friends with her!
How very very very utterly and totally unacceptably rude of her. Does she feel that this is an acceptable way to introduce adults too? Would she introduce you to someone by saying "and this is my little African friend"?
Your son is, as you say, British. He has a name which she should have the courtesy and good grace to use.
I don't believe she is an out-and-out racist but she is clearly very ignorant and has zero manners. I would be fuming if someone identified my child in that way.
You need to tell her that you find her description of your son offensive and that you'd be grateful if she used his name from now on, otherwise you may have to refer to her own child as "that little white girl".
Join the discussion
Registering is free, easy, and means you can join in the discussion, get discounts, win prizes and lots more.Register now
Already registered with Mumsnet? Log in to leave your comment or alternatively, sign in with Facebook or Google.
Please login first.