I know this is supposed to be a fun blog but when real life happens I feel I have to share. If you are looking for funny skip this entry and I promise there will be more in the future to make you laugh. I pose this question to you today – is saying “I was raised that way” an acceptable excuse for using racist terms? I ask because someone I really like said that today and it made me pause and think.
There are several people in my life that I love, admire and/or respect that still says, “I was JEWed down, GYPped, Indian Giver, Chinese Fire drill, etc”. Most of these people should know better but sometimes repeat what has become habitual. Today I was in a conversation with my husband and a neighbor. I’m not sure how they started but the two of them jokingly went back and forth with some of these racially charged terms.
I could tell they thought they were being funny but I wanted it to be a teaching moment so when one of them said, “Now, you know we can’t help it because we grew up this way.” With a smile and a laugh, I lightly jabbed, “Well, grow up some more and stop using those phrases, they are racist”. Instead of apologizing or feeling awkward, they continued and then THE LINE was crossed when my very own husband used CHINK in a sentence.
If looks could kill I’m sure my stare would have chopped him in two. Yes, it got awkward because I stopped talking. No I did not have a fit, at least not while the neighbor was around. After he left though, I gave my beloved a lesson on how he is perpetuating racism by continuing to joke about it and that he missed an opportunity to be my supporter. He could have just as easily said, “You know man, I thought that too, but after 20 years with my lovely wife I realized that I needed to change. Those words hurt people so why not replace them with something else?”
Maybe I’m a dreamer or a constant optimist but I really was hoping he would say something like that. He didn’t. I cried. I cried because it hurt and I cried because I don’t feel like people understand what racism is but mostly I cried because I was angry. I’m so tired of people not caring enough. It is important for us to be ANTI racist and not just kind or sympathetic. I don’t want to be treated BETTER than anyone – just equal as possible. I’m of Asian descent but I’m not good in math, I hate origami, I do not have tiny feet or hands, I am not hyper sexual, I am not a Tiger Mom, etc I have been called chink, slant eyes, Asian whore and worse but I think it hurts just as much when the people I love say things without really thinking first. It makes me feel less than and disrespected.
I think the first step is to REPLACE the racially charged words. If you are using gypped for example and you mean cheated, say THAT. You can also say conned, duped, tricked, swindled, etc. You can see why the Romani feel offended when you use Gypped which indicates ALL Gypsies are deceivers. Same scenario for Welsh which is also a negative stereotype of a whole group of people. You could replaced JEWed down as well. One could say bargain or haggle. Clueless anti-Semites will continue to argue that saying JEWed down is not offensive and people are too sensitive. I think clueless racists are just as dangerous as extremists.
So, grow up some more, learn about what is offensive and not offensive and why not make a real change by abolishing these terms and using perfectly acceptable words that we have in the English language to say the same thing? Ask yourself why you are so resistant to change. While you are at it, if you see someone using racially charged terms in front of a friend, speak up and say that it is wrong and hurtful. For me? Please?
Here are some more reading to do if you are interested: