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to be sad at the casual racism I see everywhere?

(106 Posts)
ObsidianBlackbirdMcNight Tue 11-Aug-09 11:37:51

Yesterday I was queuing for petrol at Asda. All pumps closed apart from two so long queue. There was a van stopped at the pump, with nobody in it, or at the pump. I got out after a while to find out what was going on. Asked the man in car in front if he knew why the van was stopped there, he gestured to a woman over at the payment bit (It was a self pay pump) and said 'that traveller woman doesn't know how to use the pump and the staff are all on their tea break.'

I know it's not awful in the scheme of things, but really, why mention she was a traveller? How did he even know? And why did nobody offer to help her use the pump? The subtext was clearly 'she's too stupid to use the pump because she's a traveller and I'm not helping because she's a traveller'.

Oh and travellers/roma/gypsies are a recognised ethnic group so that is racism, before people start talking about travellers being thieves/troublemakers!

There are other examples all the time. People mentioning a person's race for no reason, and implying that their behaviour has something to do with it, it's so prevalent and gets me down.

ruddynorah Tue 11-Aug-09 11:42:04

oh i totally know what you mean. and if challenged, those people will say 'well she was a traveller, it's aonly a description ffs, pc gone mad, you can't say anything these days.'

LovelyTinOfSpam Tue 11-Aug-09 11:44:28

Totally agree kat. And it is so so common. My MIL is brilliant at this. "There were some kids making a lot of noise on the bus, some black girls, not that them being black has anything to do with it, but, you know..."

That sort of thing is worse as people clearly know they shouldn't be doing it, so why do it? Either be openly racist, or don't be racist. Don't be racist and pretend that you aren't.

nickelbabe Tue 11-Aug-09 11:48:46

no, Kat YANBU.
the only time it's appropriate to use someone's race is when you need to describe someone: eg: you need to ask the dark-skinned lady (if there are pale and dark ladies in the same place) : or the blonde lady asked me such and such can you help her?

i'm a bit wary or sounding racist myself, now, but it's a descriptive tool and it's much more polite than randomly pointing at a couple of women and saying " that one over there"

nickelbabe Tue 11-Aug-09 11:49:10

"of" NOT "or"

FioFioFio Tue 11-Aug-09 11:55:32

are you sure he was not just using the word to describe the woman without any malicious intent? I know in a PC world it is not right to describe someone in that way but I have even described my friend sometimes as the black woman who works in such and such as she really is the only black woman who works there. I am not being a racist. She refers to me as the only brummie who works in such and such other place. It does not make someone automatically a racist just because they are clumsy, though if he was being malicious that is a different thing. But if someone is a traveller is it actually wrong to describe them as a traveller? If he had of said the P word then that is totally out of order, but he said she was a traveller, she was wasnt she? I understand the person comes before the race/disability etc and was he really implying her behaviour was just because she was traveller? i can't understand why someone, anyone, who drove a van could not work out how to put fuel in it

FioFioFio Tue 11-Aug-09 11:56:24

and did either of you help her?

EyeballsintheSky Tue 11-Aug-09 11:59:32

Sounds to me like he was just describing her. We think on our feet remember, not everything is considered and inwardly approved before we open our mouths. That's not an excuse for racism casual or otherwise but just sometimes things don't always come out as they should.

ruddynorah Tue 11-Aug-09 12:00:55

yes. it's so ingrained that people are unaware that they do it, and consider it to be just a decription. like i said.

LovelyTinOfSpam Tue 11-Aug-09 12:04:29

How did he know she was a traveller though?

I mean it's not normally stamped on the forehead. Unless he knew her - in which case he would surely have said "oh it's jane she has trouble operating the pumps but I don't like her so I'm not going to help out".

BrieVanDerKamp Tue 11-Aug-09 12:05:49

I actually don't see the wrong in what the man said to you.

The world has gone crazy......

would be OK to say "that red head lady"

"the blonde man"

It's the same thing in my mind, I personally think it's the people who make a big deal out of someone making reference to another by their skin colour, hair colour, ethnicity etc etc,

I am a "white person" and would have no objection to being refered to as such.

And if you ask any "black person" what they want to be classed as it is just that....."black". It drives me mad when people get all tongue tied trying to think of how to refer to a "black" person........they come up with coloured, dark skined etc etc........what colour

I think racism is when someone looks at another and can't get past the fact they are "different" in some way (whatever way) and then makes a deal of it

If someone is white then they're white

If someone is black then they're black

If someone is a traveller then they're a traveller.

If anyone thinks that a person should not be refered to as what they clearly are, then they must assume that person should be ashamed of what they are and that it shouldn't be pointed out, that is racism itself.

mayorquimby Tue 11-Aug-09 12:07:01

"Oh and travellers/roma/gypsies are a recognised ethnic group so that is racism"

the first part of your sentence is correct, the second part is not. you've assumed the racism and you've assumed that he meant "that woman over there is too stupid to use the pump BECAUSE she's a traveller."
if someone said that, and said black/asian/latino instead of traveller, i wouldn't assume that they were saying that their ethnicity was the reason that they couldn't use the pump.
in fact the way he structured his sentence would lead me to believe it was purely descriptive, because he used the word traveller to identify her before he said what the problem was. rather than identifying her and then tying her ethnicity in with the problem.

EyeballsintheSky Tue 11-Aug-09 12:08:13

But where do we draw the line then? When we are describing someone, why is it any more acceptable to say the blonde woman, the man with the bald head, the chap with glasses etc. Assuming of course that it is not meant perjoratively then it is possible for things to be just a description with no hidden agenda, isn't it?

ruddynorah Tue 11-Aug-09 12:08:43

it's what is inferred by the description. an inference that is not made when talking about a white person.

it's when the description is completely and totally irrelevant to the situation, but the story teller feels it necessary to illustrate their point by describing the person.

LovelyTinOfSpam Tue 11-Aug-09 12:10:28

The racism lies in the fact that people say someone was doing something wrong and then mention their race when it is totally irrelevant. There is no reason to describe them. Like what my mother in law does. She is not pointing out people's ethnicities for desxcriptive purposes.

FioFioFio Tue 11-Aug-09 12:12:54

she could not work out how to use a pay as you go pump, it is hardly crime of the century

BrieVanDerKamp Tue 11-Aug-09 12:13:03 if there was a room full of white people and you had to point someone out, how would you do it?

You would obviously say the blonde, dark, slim, big etc etc perosn.

Oh yeah and your first line

"it's what is inferred by the description. an inference that is not made when talking about a white person".

Are you not being recist to be refering to "white people" then.

It is SO racist to think it's ok to call white people white but not to refer to any other ethinic group as such.

EyeballsintheSky Tue 11-Aug-09 12:14:57

But what is inferred? Oh goodness, I really don't want to get into this now, at work but assuming I was talking to a group of black women, as I was this morning. Someone comes in and asks for me, they don't know me so someone points me out. What are they likely to say?

I could be in a room full of men and someone comes in looking for someone called Eyeballs. They don't know who it is so someone says, it's the lady over there. Why should being female come before anything else? You see how silly this can get when you start putting hidden meanings where there aren't any?

This is probably totally irrelevent to the op; I think you can't make any decisions without having heard the tone of voice but it annoys me when people automatically call racism. It belittles the real racism that is present and diverts attention away from it.

ruddynorah Tue 11-Aug-09 12:15:28

if i'm describing someone i'm describing someone. ie pointing someone out in a crowd.

if i'm talking about someone making an error, or being slow, or being annoying, or argueing with me etc etc, i wouldn't add to the tale by discussing the person's ethnicity.

can you see the difference?

mayorquimby Tue 11-Aug-09 12:15:50

"There is no reason to describe them."

but in the op there was. the man was asked what the hold up was and he answered.described the woman to point her out to the op, and then said what was going on. never said anything negative about her or her ethnicity. the op just immediately assumed he was racist and calling her stupid and then associating that stupidity with her ethnicity. when in fact he did absolutely nothing of the sort (on the face of it, obviously with out heraing his tone or seeing his body language we cant be sure, the op could tell us in a minute that he spat after saying the word traveller and then through up a sieg heil, but on what we have to go with i don't see how you could immediately assume racism.)

BrieVanDerKamp Tue 11-Aug-09 12:16:26

No one even said it's a crime not to know how to use the pump!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

She asked what the hold up was, and was told it's because the traveller woman can't use pump and staff are on tea break.

How do you know that the man's problem was not with all the staff for having their breaks at the same time????

FioFioFio Tue 11-Aug-09 12:16:59

" Asked the man in car in front if he knew why the van was stopped there, he gestured to a woman over at the payment bit (It was a self pay pump) and said 'that traveller woman doesn't know how to use the pump and the staff are all on their tea break.'"

He was not actually saying anything. She asked him. He replied as he did. Yes it wasnot perfect but it does not actually sound malicious and sometimes in life you come accross people who are not malicious but are just clumsy and I actually do not think it is the end of the world, and I say this as someone whose Gran was a traveller and whose daughter is severely disabled and comes accross discrimination on a daily basis

LovelyTinOfSpam Tue 11-Aug-09 12:16:59

Still want to know how teh man knew the woman was a traveller.

Nancy66 Tue 11-Aug-09 12:19:41

The fact that he used the word 'traveller' and not 'gypsy' would indicate to me that he was probably trying NOT to be racist.

FioFioFio Tue 11-Aug-09 12:20:25

Brie, that was not to you, it was to the previous poster who said the woman was doing something wrong and he responded in the way he did.

I am interested in if anyone went over to help the woman

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