I confront them. I've thrown people out of my life for making anti-Semitic comments. It's unpleasant, but sometimes necessary. Word has gotten around that I don't tolerate that stuff...
Same here, though in my case it's usually been race or gender, only occasionally anti-Semitic (or, recently, that's been the case.)
I've blogged about a new version of the blood libel over on my LJ. It never lets up...
I try to speak up, but sometimes I'll wait until I can speak to the person in private if it's someone I know. Other times, like if someone's just a bigmouthed homophobic or racist jerk, I'll take them to task then and there. That's something I love about getting older, I don't care what people think as much as I used to. I'm definitely more likely to say something if there's someone there who is a target and who might feel too intimidated to say anything. A long long time ago, when I was much dumber than I am now, I used to use a homophobic slang word sometimes for comic effect not realizing how I was contributing to homophobia in general. A friend spoke to me about it, gently and from the heart, and really changed the way I thought. I've always been grateful.
A good point. With a young and socially inexperienced person, whose views may not be fixed in concrete yet, a gentler way may be preferable--but you have to do *something*. There's been actual research on the way that groups react when one person makes a bigoted remark...if confronted at once, the group tends to shift to non-bigotry, but if the remark isn't confronted, the group shifts towards it.
And I should add that this was my experience on two occasions when an offensive remark, immediately countered, stopped that topic cold and changed the topic for the whole group.
I think it depends who it is and on the circumstances whether I'd confront them outright and how, but I agree fully: if you let it slide, you make the world a safer place for the attackers.
I confront racist and sexist remarks. I find that there are more of the latter than the former.
I confront them, except if it's at work. At work, I let it slide and do my best to get the hell out of there. I don't like those kinds of comments, but if a VP is making them, I'm just not in a financial situation where I can rock the boat.
I don't do this nearly as often as I should. My mom is excellent at it, but somehow it didn't get passed along to me. I'm trying to do better.
I generally say something. What I say and how far I push depends on the person, the circumstances, and the remark -- for instance, my experience is that a great many people have given no thought whatsoever to the etymology of "gypped", do not intend it as a racial slur, and will make an effort to change their usage if the problem is pointed out gently and respectfully. On the other hand, I ended up having to notify HR after a now-former coworker reacted very badly when I called him on referring to a specific company as "a bunch of gypsies".
Where I don't always know what to do is borderline-sexist cases like a (male, from all available indications) IRC user with a handle referring to feminine hygiene products. It's kinda dumb and pointless, and the person has given other indications of being kind of a jerk, but is it actually sexist?
It can be hard to tell the truly clueless from the pretend-clueless. As the mother of an autistic young man, I am familiar with social cluelessness and can usually distinguish someone on the spectrum from someone not--and would certainly use a different approach with someone I thought was just using language they'd heard (without realizing it was offensive) than with someone who knows (but may pretend not to know.)
2009-10-26 11:38 pm (UTC)
I will usually say something, though I extend this to labeling of any kind, not limited to race or sexuality. It's always been interesting to see which groups any given person labels.
In one sense, labels are universal: we label one fruit apple and another orange; we label apples and oranges fruits, and carrots and potatoes vegetables. (And we argue about tomatoes: botanically a berry and thus a fruit, but nutritionally a vegetable...)
So "labeling of any kind" could be benign, IMO. "People who live on Juniper Street" is a label but if it is used to relate something true about people who live on Juniper Street--that they unanimously signed a petition against the city's plan turn the street into a major route--then I don't see that label as a problem.
Interestingly (infuriatingly) the coach of Texas Tech University's football team, after the team's loss to Texas A&M, made a number of remarks about "fat little girlfriends" (who he claimed his players listened to instead of him...) and on one Austin station's nightly news, when this was reported, the two male announcers (news and sports) seemed ready to laugh it off, while the female announcer was clearly annoyed and upset.
I think a football coach carrying that much of a spare tire doesn't have a lot of room to talk about other peoples' fat (even if I thought fat was a legitimate term of disapprobation, which I don't.)
Friends and relatives, even relatives by marriage, instantly. It's acquaintances and coworkers where I have a bit more trouble.
We all have trouble in some situations--that includes me. I completely understand someone not being ready to lose their job (esp. now) and yet my mother very quietly stood up to her racist boss, risking her job, and refused to sign a petition against integrating the local schools (this was obviously a long time ago.) If a woman of her generation--in a time when divorcees had a hard time finding jobs of any kind--could do that, can I excuse myself for doing less?
This is not trying to guilt anyone else. I have enough trouble trying to live up to my beliefs. And we saw plenty of strident, holier-than-thou proclamations and attacks among my generation back when my generation was younger (and less wise than I hope we are now)--the kind of attack tactics that created resistance all too often. But I think we can move the comfort zone over a few inches, at least...say something, even to those we find it hard to confront.
I'm the son of a man who helped liberate one of the camps in 1945. To me that means I have an obligation to speak out against this nonsense, especially anti-Semitism...
I feel that way particularly about anti-Semitism because of my mother's close friends, who so often cared for me when she was sick.
I have to push myself on some of the other areas, because it wasn't pertinent to me when growing up. (Though I did confront a guy on the train who was going on about all these immigrants costing us money and nonwhite races having more children. Although I didn't use this stick on him, I thought it was ironic in a bad way that he is the son of Italian immigrants--and apparently unaware that the very things he was saying about "Mexicans" and African Americans were said about Italians--who in many places weren't considered "whites." Dirty, lazy, criminal, too many children, outbreeding "real" Americans, etc, etc, etc. He wanted to change the Constitution so children born in the US didn't necessarily have US citizenship and I just managed not to say "Like you?")
Hmm, I find it harder with the relatives by marriage because there is so much DRAMA in that group anyway. Given I was warned to not comment on certain things to avoid having my MIL removed from her grandson's life; it is touchy. Now that there are a number of grandkids through the various in-laws and 4 of them are young enough to hopefully be shaped with tolerance, I will have to speak up more (holidays are going to be REAL interesting this year).
Families can be hell.
Did you ever read Gene Stratton Porter's _Keeper of the Bees_? Chunks of it are entirely too sentimental, but as with many of her books, the underlying ideas are fascinating. The main female character is a strong-minded young woman bringing together an interracial group of children to teach them "Americanism" based on equality and respect.
I am not good at confrontations. One phrase I have used to signal nonagreement without (hopefully) having things escalate into a major argument is "That hasn't been my experience" (in response to a statement about how all those X are so Y).
Another I'm holding in reserve, though I haven't used it myself, is the response recommended from the online discussions of Carolyn Hax at the Washington Post for total clueless and/or out of bounds questions or remarks: "Wow." No particular emphasis in your tone of voice, just "wow," and then change the subject.
That's what I started with, with the man on the train. I didn't convince him, and he sure didn't convince me, but he found that I wasn't giving an inch and had the experience to back up what I said.