Is perceived racism / bigotry actual racism / bigotry?

Discussion in 'Et Cetera, Et Cetera' started by ManlyBanisters, Aug 4, 2007.

  1. ManlyBanisters

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    Sometimes people do not think they are being racist, discriminatory or bigoted when in fact they are.

    Just the other day someone I like made an 'Irish are thick' joke at me and that, combined with an exchange here today*, have reminded me forcibly of this.

    I perceived the comment made to me about Irish people being thick as extremely offensive, I let the person know this and I got an apology but also an "I was only joking" type response. Now - I let it go because, as I said, I like the person in question and maybe my reaction will have taught them to reflect a little more before 'joking' in the future.

    Was I right to take offense tho'? I think I was. Also in the case of the below link the offending party makes all sorts of claims about how he wasn't being racist. And yet the person to whom the comment was directed perceived it as a racial attack.

    So, to the question: if the 'offending' party doesn't think they've been racist / bigoted is the target of the comment wrong to take the comment in that way?

    *I refer peole to this link if they want to know
     
  2. findfirefox

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    I think that Jokes can be harsh and sometimes that is what makes them funny. I think that Stereotypes are something to be made fun of, if a joke is meant to make fun of the stereotype its fine and I think you may be taking it a little too seriously. (I can still laugh at a Gay joke...)

    When it seems the person is starting to mean what they say, as in the joke is expressing actual thoughts, a problem appears.
     
  3. vxie

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    i think it comes down to the intent of the joke, or comment - if it's intended to be hurtful, then yeah i can understand someone being pissed off.

    If it was just intended as a play on sterotypes and wasnt a serious comment, then take it as it is, a joke. dont take things too seriously or you will have a very sucky life.
     
  4. ManlyBanisters

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    OK - but it wasn't made as a joke - it was more - she's (i.e. me) a bit thick, she's Irish.

    Not really a joke - not an Englishman, Irishman, Scotsman joke for example.

    Yes - jokes can be funny - especially clever ones that play on and reverse the steriotype. But what about jokes that play on the steriotypes only. Jokes about black people being inferior - are those ever funny? What about jokes about gay people being child molestors - are they funny?

    I don't think so.

    Certainly there is room for non-PC humour. I'm all for that. That's not really what I'm talking about. What I'm talking about is someone making a passing comment, like 'she's a bit thick, she's Irish' and not thinking they are being (or even meaning to be) bigoted. Am I wrong to perceive that as bigotry?
     
  5. findfirefox

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    From the way that sounded (To me) is that he meant it as a joke still, and it was not something that he thought was true, and he knew that it was not PC.

    It is really comes down to, the intent of the person. this guy was using it as some form of a joke, you just perceived it differently then intended. (I assume that he was using it as a joke because of the inclusion "she’s Irish")
     
  6. simcha

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    The unconscious is a powerful thing. I think that if you perceive it as bigotry, then it's bigotry to you. Own your own truth. The other person may not be at all conscious that he/she is holding onto bigoted attitudes. You can point it out to this person, yet if this person is in complete denial, then be prepared for major resistance. You can't force a person out of denial. You can start the process by "putting a bug in that person's ear."
     
  7. simcha

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    And yet, sometimes it's good to laugh at ourselves not taking ourselves too seriously. It's obviously bedtime for me...:redface:
     
  8. naughty

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    THis is a fascinating topic. I have been thinking all day I wanted to create a similar thread. We have had a number of instances on the board this week of comments that were perceived as racist or bigoted by the recipient but said not to have racist or bigoted intent by the sender. The operative word here folks is context. The treachery of the internet is that the written word by itself is flat and ripe for differences in interpretation. This is probably one of the main sources of conflict on this board in general I might hazard a guess. We can not see the wry smile on someone's face when they are typing it, we may not know that though this person may be of one persuasion they have many friends or even relatives of another and have grown up hearing certain things as an intra ethnic or racial joke and felt mistakenly comfortable in saying it in another context. There are even cases where the recipient may not realize that the sender is him or herself a part of that group and feeling justified (God forbid) to say such a thing as "part of the gang". There are also the personal and hidden baggage that we all bring to the table which may ignite at such a time. What might be laughed off by one member of a group may incense and cause much perceived pain to another.

    Where do we go with this? Thinking before we hit that post button. I have been thinking all day about something I may have done earlier in the week seemingly to have condoned bad behavior in another at the expense of another member. I would like to take this opportunity to in my way contribute to the healing process. Lex, though you may not have said anything to me about it, I must apologize for seeming to make light of your dismay at the use of the term "shameless negro". I do not see the word "negro" as perjorative but merely an antiquated form of African American. Perhaps it was that fateful combination of the two words "shameless" and "negro" which caused you pain. In an attempt to diffuse what had become a very hot situation I too called myself a "shameless negress" but the context was not the same. I have a feeling that the last two weeks may go down in LPSG and OLPSG history as infamous. But we need to find a way to interact not out of a momentary need to strike out at one another but to think of long term mutually healing solutions.

    I think it is only when we examine ourselves and look at not only why where, how or when we do or say these things anythings that hurt and cause more division among our ranks that we will be able to make so valid and viable solution. Mutual respect is key here. We all have rights but in the interest of peace are our individual rights more important than a collective and mutual respect for our differences? Lets think about it the next time we are tempted to be snarky or dismissive. We only go around this way once people, lets try to do it right the first time.
     
  9. dong20

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    Naturally. Also, people see racism/discrimination/bigotry where it simply isn't there, usually for cheap 'PC police' points. That happens here a lot.

    I think it's sometimes a narrow line between being able to laugh at ourselves (stereotypically) and rightly taking offense when offense is intended.

    Only you can answer that. Perceiving a remark or action as biased, for example doesn't necessarily make it biased other than to the person who feels it is. To cite an oft used example; some will feel use of the term Blackboard is 'rascist'. Does that make someone using that word a rascist, and thus isn't 'whiteboard' equally so? What about whitewash, blackout, red herring and so on.

    I know those are extreme examples, or I'd like to think so, but people can, and do take offence at unexpected things, things thatothers don't bat an eyelid at. For the most part, I don't know who can decide when it's justifiable to accuse another of bias other than the 'offended', but doing so doesn't mean offense was intended, or could reasonably have been forseen. With so many artifical strategies of 'offense avoidance' around, where does real offense end, and patent absurdity begin?

    I say that because, of course, as we all know, offense is too often feigned precisely to make such a point, and as often simply to make someone feel bad for no reason other than because it's possible, reverse bias if you will. To me, that behaviour is little, or no better than that which the accuser is alleging.

    See above, that's the problem, assigning intent is a tricky thing. Sometimes the slur is obvious even when the intention to slur isn't there, it's still rascist, certainly. I know I told a few Englishman-Irishman-Scotsman jokes in the playground, and had a few told at my 'expense'. Does that make me/others rascist? After all, as a member of one of those groups I was being 'slighted' by way of stereotype too, as the butt of the joke or not.

    I don't recall detecting malice. At the time I took it (and gave it) in the spirit in which I think it was intended/meant; humorous introspection, parody. Was I wrong to have done so, or let it go at that, and had I read more into it then would I have set a pattern for spending my life chasing shadows?

    I think it's important to be able to laugh at oneself and one's 'social' stereotype, and in fairness some national, racial or gender stereotypes are founded in a broad truth. Denial of that truth is surely as ill advised as using it, intentionally, to offend someone. I suppose it comes to down to whether, as adults we are mature enough to accept such comments as parody, or if by doing so we merely validate them. I suspect, in most cases, it's somewhere in between.

    After all, finding something funny (even internally) isn't something over which we have much, if any conscious control. If we find something amusing that is perceived by another as biased (rightly or wrongly), even though, rationally and in our behaviours and beliefs we know it's playing to a bias does that make us guilty of holding, or re-enforcing that bias? I suppose the former may be true, that latter not necessarily at all. Bias is part of human nature, to deny it, is to deny who we are.

    We may laugh at a 'typically' female predeliction with shoes, or male obsession with gadgets. It's been my experience that these, in broad terms, are founded in truth. We laugh at them, does that make us predjudiced? If we treat people badly, or denegrate them based on those or any other stereotypes, real or perceived that would be different, a line would be crossed.

    The question I think you're asking is; where is that line, and who gets to draw it?
     
  10. naughty

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    MB, I think you should give SLB one of this week's many "Pluck on the head" Awards! LOL!
     
  11. D_alex8

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    I've been waiting all week for someone to explain why 'shameless Negro' was ever found funny. I mean, of course, I understand that it was the collocation of equally antiquated terms which was supposed to ellicit mirth, but...

    White people have constructed society and culture in such a way that we get to wear an empowering cloak of 'invisibility'... we're the 'absent, unspoken centre' of things, the socially constructed norm that almost without exception goes 'unmarked'. Because that's how our white progenitors constructed the world... to make themselves appear 'simply normal', with no finger being pointed at them to highlight them as outsiders, as anything other than 'the way people should be' (with 'white people' thereby defining themselves as 'all people').

    When people start waving around epithets that make people stand out, they need to be very sure of their audience. It's one thing for two friends who might know each other well to bandy about a phrase like 'shameless negro', but on the internet.. and at a time when everyone's feelings are heated.. it's really not going to be taken lightly. Indeed, juxtaposed with a rebuke for 'defecting' over to big dirigible, it could only come across the wrong way... as finger-pointing; as a deployment of the tool which a white-led world has given us for defaming others by making them seem 'wrong'... because they don't fit the (unspoken, white) norm.

    It's comparable to calling someone a 'queen' (and we've had a fair few instances of this here lately)... if it's clearly intended to be humorous between friends, it's innocent.. it's poking fun at oneself and/or each other. But it can just as easily serve as a label of homophobic exclusion (even if the user of the term is gay themselves); as finger-pointing for not fitting the likewise 'unspoken' heterosexual presumed 'norm'.

    And if ever you feel the finger of exclusion pointing at you, you're hurt in a way that runs deep, because it's hurt on a level that's been drummed into us both consciously and subconsciously by our culture since birth.

    Mostly, it's far more subtle than a phrase like 'shameless Negro', though. Like the recent thread about (and I quote) "a black woman" who let her babies die while she went for a snack. Would anyone have written that it was "a white woman" who did this? No, they'd have simply said it was "a woman". Because white people have that option, of going unmarked, unlabelled.

    It's not about being PC, it's about looking at the deeper socio-cultural and semantic structures which enable bigotry and exclusion of all kinds. And it's about realising that most labels are defined through opposition.. by being applied when people 'fail' to fit the (unspoken, unwritten, majority-defined) 'norm'. Thus, they all carry the potential to come across as finger-pointing unless used with due caution, care, and consideration --- because they 'mark' people.. both symbolically, and literally.
     
  12. ManlyBanisters

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    Well - yes - that is the key question. And I don't think the line is fixed. Nor can it be.

    Certainly dong20 makes some good points there, as indeed does naughty specifically in relation to this forum environment. The intention and the perception can be very far apart and that is not always the fault of the person who makes the questionable comment.

    Some background. Before I left Ireland I was totally impervious to anti-Irish humour. It did not effect me one way or the other. Then I lived in the UK for a while and the levels of prejudice I encounter knocked me sideways. I always thought the English anti-Irish humour was innocuous enough - it came from some bad history and was heightened by the political situation in the 70's and 80's (also the 90's but less so) - but essentially I believed it to be akin to Kerryman* humour in Ireland.

    What I encountered in the UK varied between outright hostility and an ingrained unthinking bigotry. It seemed that a lot of the people I had dealings with - some of whom I had been friends with for many years - had just been brought up to think that way. Going to the bathroom in work I was asked not to leave my handbag behind me 'you know, just in case like, hahaha'. My accent was ridiculed, my intellect questioned and my qualifications were belittled - on a daily basis.

    Now I have many relatives in the UK, both Irish and English and I know that not all English people think or act like that. But that was my experience from the majority of the people I had dealing with. The same has been said by other Irish people I know who've lived there.

    The people in question, I think, genuinely believed they were 'just having a laugh' and that I was over-reacting. But for me the joke got really tired really quickly. The 'intention' stopped being relevant.

    I wasn't intending to go into that level on detail on one case, mine, but that is where I'm coming from. Sometimes personal perspective makes it a lot harder not to take things personally.

    So while I detest the PC brigade and think there is room to laugh at stereotypes when it is clear the stereotype is not being taken seriously, I also think that people need to be aware that their own levels of what is acceptable can't be imposed on others.


    * Kerry - a county in the south of Ireland, often the butt of jokes about stupidity (I no longer tell Kerryman jokes, btw)
     
  13. naughty

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    Thank you. Once again an insightful post that gets to the heart of the matter...
     
  14. ManlyBanisters

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    Haha - but no, I'm cool with SLB - he apologised, I accepted - that was just a catalyst to this thread. I was trying to be diplomatic and not naming name. I wasn't having a go at the man.
     
  15. naughty

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    Workin' up a good pot of mad!

    I know you werent. I like the knucklehead, too. :biggrin1:
     
  16. ManlyBanisters

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    I think you may have, not unusually, hit the nail on the head there alex.
     
  17. Osiris

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    Being black and growing up in nicer white communities, I experienced racism from both sides. I had the "nigger haters" from the white side and the "you Uncle Tom" haters on the black side. Like you MB I used to sluff it off, but when you have lived with such overt hatred towards you for no other reason than what you are racially or regionally, you do get a bit sensitive.

    What this comes down to is "know your audience". I'll crack black jokes and white jokes, but only amongst certain friends I know are ok with it and know where I stand and I know where they stand. It's a comfort level and maybe this person is a good friend and thought you wouldn't take offense because he didn't know the whole story like you just laid it out to us.

    You handled it exactly as it should have been handled. Hopefully the friend learned a valuable lesson all comedians understand.

    Well, maybe not Michael Richards. D'OH!!:biggrin1: (Just Kidding!)
     
  18. mindseye

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    Racism is a belief, not an act. The acts are evidence of racism, but they're not the racism itself. (In some cases, the acts constitute discrimination, which is related to racism). So if a person makes a single offensive remark -- like your friend did, then you have a single piece of evidence that you have to weigh with everything else you know about this friend.

    A lot of times, these "single piece" cases boil down to ignorance, and not racism. Shortly after Star Wars Episode I came out, I saw a student panel discussion on whether the Jar-Jar Binks character exploited racial stereotypes in his Stepin Fetchit buffoonery and language patterns. Because some of the students involved had never heard of Stepin Fetchit, or Amos 'n' Andy, they didn't have the background needed to understand why other people found Jar-Jar offensive.
     
  19. Freddie53

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    If a person klnows the history of the word or phrase and knows that it is quite often used to put down of an ethnic person or ethnic people and used it as a put down, then it falls under the category of bigotry.

    Sometimes, though some phases ae used enough they are no longer a case of bigotry.

    Sometimes a person unknowing uses a term that has bigotry overtones. That person is in innocent. However, if that person continues using the term, then the innocence is gone.
     
  20. B_Hickboy

    B_Hickboy New Member

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    If 75% of one group says it's a problem and 75% of the other group says it isn't, it's a problem.
     
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