18 thoughts on “Link: The Southern Poverty Law Center/Responding To Everyday Bigotry

  1. Thank you Captain, for sharing this! My biggest take away from this election season is something I read along the lines of “Silence implies agreement”. Yet I struggle with how to be vocal about some of the commentary I’m hearing from people I value. I just haven’t figured out to start these conversations in a way that won’t alienate people.

    I know when I’ve slipped up in my words or deeds, I respond much better to people who are respectful in their approach or who want to engage me in a discussion rather than condemn me. The suggested wording in the link is perfect – so many respectful, thoughtful ways to engage people in what could otherwise be angry, hurtful, or awkward conversations.

    I hope other readers find this to be a helpful resource, too!

  2. I have found that even gentle push-back on people you love/that love you yields results over time. This is an excellent guide.


    My mother recently used a phrase that is so derogatory about Jewish people in relation to getting a bargain on something. We were in public when she said this and I literally yelled at her. My two kids echoed my outrage and when she attempted to defend herself (ex: “it’s just an expression”) my 11 year old daughter said “I will NOT be around people who use racist talk even if they are related to me!!” My mom apologized and promised that she’d make more of an effort to watch what she says.

    And the part about using a persons ethnicity or race as a descriptive term? SPOT ON! Yesterday my son (a fifth grader) and I were having a conversation about a new student in his class. I asked who this person was and he told me it was a girl. I asked “What is she like? What does she look like? Were you nice to her and make her feel welcome?” He told me she was nice, funny, that she likes pokemon, that she’s sarcastic like him because she laughed at his jokes, that she has short dark hair and was a little taller than he is. It was only later when our conversation was over and we were watching the news with a story about some racial slurs written on a wall at a local college that I learned that this new girl in class is African-American because my son made a comment that he hoped nobody did that to his new friend just because she wasn’t white. It made me happy that it wasn’t his leading comment about the new kid in class.

    1. I want to add something regarding your second example, about the Black girl in your kid’s class–because it made me think of this, not intended as a critique of you or your son.

      I think there’s sometimes a fine line to walk when it comes to white people describing those of nonwhite races/ethnicities. On the one hand (as in the SPLC example), it’s inappropriate and unnecessary to punctuate a story about an annoying checkout clerk by mentioning that they were Mexican. But on the other hand, I’ve seen well-meaning white people (including myself, in the past) overcorrect by bending over backwards to elide those descriptions even though they’d have no trouble saying, for example, “an Irish person.” The latter starts to wend uncomfortably close to “I don’t see color” and, more importantly, reinforces the idea that being nonwhite is somehow shameful. Even if the speaker in no way believes that, they’ve probably been socialized to think it, however subconsciously.

      It’s not always relevant to note someone’s appearance or cultural background, so there’s no one-size-fits-all rule here. But I’ve found it useful to police my own speech a little more diligently in that regard. If your coworker says, “I don’t think I’ve met Margaret” and you need to jog their memory about how Margaret talked to you both at the holiday party, it’s weirder to say “she was the dark-haired woman in the green sweater” than “she was the Asian woman in the green sweater.” (Also, needless to say, don’t do the awkward thing some white people do where they whisper such descriptors as though they’re dirty words.)

      If any people of color disagree with this, please weigh in to check me–this is my general sense of things from various tumblr posts and conversations with PoCs over the years, but it’s always possible that I’m misinterpreting.

      1. I agree about that fine line. My grandparents are blind and as a child I saw, first hand, people do that bend over backwards thing to avoid common phrases that use “sight” words like look, watch, see, saw, etc. They were so concerned that they were going to come off as insensitive with those words that they ended up looking worse with their swing in the other direction. I remember someone coming to their house to sell something and him doing his pitch and he kept starting and stopping the phrase “you’ll be able to see savings add up” to the point where my grandfather snapped at him “I’m blind, not stupid. Get out.”

        As to my son…he saw color. He just thought that wasn’t the most interesting thing about her. The fact that there was another girl who like Pokemon cards in his life was the most interesting thing about her. That’s his life’s goal…to get everyone as interested in Pokemon as he is. LOL!

      2. I think it’s a fine line – when white people only include race for non-white folks, and for every non-white person they talk about, it’s creepy and racist. As a simple descriptor, i.e., “You met my friend Dimitri at the wedding, he’s the black guy with the cool glasses and cute baby” it’s not creepy, but we should also do it with white people, too and not act like “white” = “default.” It bears watching!

        1. Yes, this exactly. I can’t pretend to get it right all the time, and I think that impulse of “must never mention ever” sometimes stems from a fear of getting it wrong.

          Fortunately, actively thinking about “why am I including this detail?” is just a subcategory of more thoughtful speaking in general, which is never a bad thing. And if in the process you become aware of some problematic viewpoints lurking in the corners of your brain, it becomes an opportunity to neutralize the effects of your shitty cultural programming (or at least try to).

          1. It comes up in casting discussions with my students – If you’re casting Muhammed Ali for a biopic, “athletic, black, looks like Muhammed Ali” is important info. If race isn’t important to the role, then try either not including it or try consciously casting your films with non-white actors in roles like “Barista” or “District Attorney #1” as a way to skew toward equality of representation.

        2. I’m tired of my mom including race for people who aren’t white. For her it comes across as the white=default thing but also a very subtle like, oh these two people who did yard work for me did good work, and I’m surprised at that because they’re black. UGH.

          As an aside to this sub-thread but I think still on-topic, I lost her as a friend over this election.

  4. Reblogged this on Geeking Out about It and commented:
    Here’s is some everyday concrete advice about what to do in this political climate.
    I though it immensely helpful on how to deal with any angry Trump supporters you may encounter.

  5. I find that at work, where the power differential makes it extremely risky to confront directly, about all I can do is not react and then change the subject. I have a large stock of really lame and innocent childish jokes and boring trivia for this purpose (eg what do cats put in their drinks on hot days? mice-cubes).

    Having said that, there was one workplace where the ‘joking’ was so over the top that I felt it was worth the risk and asked the person in writing to stop (and cc’d his business partner). Sometimes seeing the words that were used put down on paper brings home just how disgusting they are.

    In short, speak up whenever you feel able, but keep yourself safe.

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