Laura, at Our Valentine’s Day Treat, recently posted about an incidence of racism from someone she considered a good friend. The original post was password protected, but I think she is going to revise it to be public, so you can check it out if you haven’t already.
Her post was very timely for me, because someone made a racist comment in front of me last weekend. Unlike Laura, however, I chickened out. I didn’t confront it, and I am still upset at myself that I let it go.
The woman who made the comment was someone I had just met. We were at the lake, and she was the guest of a male cousin in our family. This cousin had never brought a female guest to the lake, so it was kind of a big deal that she was there. I talked to her a bit, and she seemed nice enough. She played with all three of my children, and we talked about the fact that Noah was biological and Zoe and Colin were adopted. She obviously knew that Zoe is Asian, and I’m pretty sure we had talked about Colin being Hispanic.
As I was feeding Colin a bottle, I overheard her talking. She was about two feet from me, and there weren’t very many people in room, so she knew I could hear her. I don’t even know the context of the conversation, but suddenly she said something about “Chink eyes” as she pulled her eyelids out to the side. I was stunned.
Honestly I just didn’t know what to do. I didn’t want to be confrontational because she was a “special” guest, so I didn’t call her out on it. I just got up and walked away. Christian’s parents were having a big party, so there were tons of people there. I was busy with the kids, so I really didn’t even see her the rest of the night.
It ate at me the rest of the weekend, though, and obviously since then. When I told Christian about it, he was shocked that I hadn’t said anything. Now that I think about it though, it’s really not so shocking. I’m good at speaking up when it’s someone close to me. On vacation once, someone very close to me said something about that rental unit “full of Mexicans.” I easily said, “The term is Hispanic, and their ethnicity has nothing to do with this situation.” (If you don’t know, “Mexican” is a derogatory term unless you are actually speaking about a person who is from Mexico. “Mexican” and “dirty Mexican” have become blanket terms to refer to a person from any Latin American or South American country and has become particularly inflammatory within the context of immigration issues. Colin’s DNA test points to Mexican heritage, so I’m very sensitive to this one. It’s obvious to me, and it seems silly to have to point it out, but I hear it more than most people would believe.)
On another occasion, a teenaged cousin visiting from out of state was freely throwing aroung the N-word. I explained to him that it was racist and that I had an Asian daughter (this was before Colin). He said, “But I’m not talking about Asians.” I explained that it didn’t matter, and why the rest of his arguments (like “But they call each other that”) were flawed, too. He probably still says it, but he hasn’t said it in front of me since.
So, Dear Internets, what do you do? Do you confront people on it, all the time, every time, no matter who it is? Are you comfortable confronting people you know very well? People you don’t know well? Strangers?
What about people in positions of power? Here’s a really tricky situation I’ve found myself in with my boss. For those whow don’t know, she is a nun. She should be “Holier than Thou,” right? Well, she continues to amaze me. She has told me over and over that Zoe would look more like she was really my daughter if she didn’t have that “pug nose” that “Orientals have.” (I know, there are SO.many.things.wrong with that statement.) Then the other day she was talking about a guy who was trying to make a deal with her and said he was trying to “Jew” her down.
I would love to know your thoughts.