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to ignore possibly racist remarks

(78 Posts)
frogspoon Tue 06-Nov-12 20:37:09

I am currently privately tutoring a year 11 girl in mathematics.

Over the past couple of weeks I have noticed a couple of comments she has made could be considered slightly racist. A week ago she asked me about some of the other students that I taught. When I mentioned that they attended the local Jewish school, she muttered "Oh, Jews" in a negative tone (it was not what she said, but the tone in which she said it). This week we were going through some maths questions, where one contained a foreign sounding name. She made the comment "What kind of name is .....?" I replied jokingly that the book was being politically correct, to which she agreed that it was an "ethnically diverse" book in a sarcastic tone, and made air quotes.

I am a little surprised as this girl attends a relatively diverse school with a significant number of pupils from ethnic minorities. In addition she is partly Spanish, therefore has family from a different culture and speak a different language.

Am I right to be concerned, or am I just too politically correct? Was I wrong to joke that the book was politically correct? I am concerned that if I say nothing her remarks may become more overtly racist. As a tutor, who only sees her once a week, is it my place to say anything at all?

MorrisZapp Tue 06-Nov-12 20:39:53

Don't see the difference between what you said and what she said. Both a bit sarcy but neither sound racist to me.

Pumpster Tue 06-Nov-12 20:41:08

More shocked at your 'pc' comment tbh

frogspoon Tue 06-Nov-12 20:43:31

Fair enough re the PC comment, that is why i asked:

"Was I wrong to joke that the book was politically correct?"

Still not sure what to do though, and would appreciate any advice.

WorraLiberty Tue 06-Nov-12 20:44:14

I don't see the difference in what either of you said to be honest.

But if she finds Jewish people and foreign people irritating, that's kind of her business really.

It doesn't affect her maths.

Flatbread Tue 06-Nov-12 20:51:27

I woukd pull her up on it. She is testing whether her racial prejudices are ok. And by staying silent or joking, you are being complicit in telling her it is ok.

Next time she says "oh Jews ". Ask her "what do you mean?" Do it non-confrontationally and don't let her bluster her way out.

Busyoldfool Tue 06-Nov-12 20:55:36

Say anything to whom? You could denounce her to the police or The Authorities of course. Or her parents - but then they might say something that could possibly be slightly racist too - , (although they might be terribly grateful that you have pointed out that their 11year old is a racist - especially as they are paying you £XX per hour for the privelige) With any luck you might be able to denounce them too.

Unless they suspect that you are only denouncing them because they are Not White British, (and you have made a point of mentioning that), in which case they could get there first. And we could go on forever.

Racism is evil, but so is witch hunting. She's a child.

MorrisZapp Tue 06-Nov-12 20:58:23

What to do? Do nothing.

frogspoon Tue 06-Nov-12 20:58:37

The "Jews" comment came right at the end of the lesson, just as i was about to be paid and leave, and I didn't want to bring up a big discussion then, just as her mother was coming to pay me.

Busyoldfool: I mean say something directly to her, that I disagree with her viewpoints and would appreciate her not making those sorts of comments in my lessons.

WorraLiberty Tue 06-Nov-12 20:58:57

She's year 11, so about 15/16yrs old.

I agree though you can't police someone's thoughts.

Unless it's affecting you or your work OP, I don't see why you want to do anything?

I'd go with Flatbread's suggestion if you want to open up a conversation about it.

UptoapointLordCopper Tue 06-Nov-12 20:58:57

Agree with flatbread. And with pumpster - I also don't like the "politically correct" comment. What alternatives do you propose?

Flatbread Tue 06-Nov-12 21:01:27

Children pick up on the racial prejudices of their parents. It is important that other people in her life challenge this.

frogspoon Tue 06-Nov-12 21:02:35

Flatbread do you think I should have discussed it with her in front of her mother?

Flatbread Tue 06-Nov-12 21:03:03

Sorry, xposted with others

Flatbread Tue 06-Nov-12 21:05:42

Frog, not sure. If it were me, I would do it just with the girl first.

WorraLiberty Tue 06-Nov-12 21:06:17

Discuss what?

Her agreeing with your sarcastic comment about the book being politically correct and being sarcastic back?

Woozley Tue 06-Nov-12 21:07:27

Politically correct is not a criticism. hmm

Busyoldfool Tue 06-Nov-12 21:09:11

Sorry - got her age wrong. Also didn't think that you meant say something to her.

But if you were paying someone by the hour, (driving instructor, personal trainer, beauty therapist, tutor - whatever), would you like some of that hour to be spent discussing your political views, (or your language, or your green credentials, or your sexism or whatever they didn't approve of) And you are in her home!

Fair enough if she starts a racist rant or is rude, you can tell her that it is unacceptable and leave.

frogspoon Tue 06-Nov-12 21:09:34

I felt that her directly making fun of a foreign name would be considered more offensive than a sarcy comment about the book being politically incorrect.

Current feedback from you suggests I am wrong.

Softlysoftly Tue 06-Nov-12 21:09:53

She hasn't really done anything overt so I would go with flatbreads suggestion on opening up the conversation.

And no I wouldn't bring it up to her mother.

Viviennemary Tue 06-Nov-12 21:10:14

She sounds like a bit of a pain in the neck. And not sure if I would be trying to pull her up when the subject was maths. I think the OP's comment about 'political correctness' seems like an attempt to just diffuse the situation or make light of it. Sorry if I've misunderstood this.

frogspoon Tue 06-Nov-12 21:10:34

politically correct not incorrect

meditrina Tue 06-Nov-12 21:10:47

You're there to teach her maths, not remedy her wider upbringing.

I think that you need to keep your responses low key, but make it plain that she is not to make derogatory comments of any kind during lessons. If she makes such comments/gestures again, I'd try something simple like "Please do not talk like that about XYZ as it is inappropriate. Now, back to the (maths topic)". Do not let her divert the session into discussions of her prejudices.

WorraLiberty Tue 06-Nov-12 21:12:33

It depends on why you think the book including a foreign name is politically correct rather than 'normal' really.

frogspoon Tue 06-Nov-12 21:13:30

softlysoftly, mum is close by much of the time (within earshot). Any conversation I did have with the girl would be overheard by mum anyway.

As Viviennemary has said I was just trying to diffuse a situation in which I felt uncomfortable, although probably not in the right way.

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