#1076: The Xenophobe In The Group Chat

Yo, Captain!

I have a friend who I care about dearly but he keeps sending quite rude (almost downright racist) messages over a group chat I have with all of my friends, often targeted towards me and my heritage. A recent example is that he sent a photo of a map from almost 200 years ago and said “Ha, look, your country isn’t even on this map! It’s not a real country lol.” Another was when he kept trying to explain and then lecture me (quite patronizingly) about this country’s history (with inaccurate information, if I may add that) although I have family from this country and have read books about its history. I have told him that I find this rude and I have heritage from this country but I grew up in the same country he has, so I don’t understand why he can’t accept me as at least both nationalities. I used to be bullied for having “foreigner” relatives and being related to said country and his behaviour is similar to how it started out when I first was bullied (by other people, to clarify) which is making alarm bells ring. As it is on a group chat and I struggle with anxiety and confronting my friends (he knows this), then I find it difficult to call him out on his behaviour and I try to ignore the group chat, however, I feel like if I constantly ignore it every time people accept this behaviour more and it hinders my ability to communicate online to my group of friends (also, they know I get upset about it but I don’t expect them to do anything).

My solution was to block him on Facebook so he can’t directly message me and to avoid him on the group chat, which worked except he found out that I blocked his messages and keeps trying to call me out on the group chat. Other friends keep messaging me saying “why have you blocked him?” and then they post screenshots on the chat (so far I’ve replied with “what? I think my messages are just messed up at the moment”) so I’m afraid to tell them because these kinds of jokes are often made by him so that’s partly why no one goes “hey that’s not cool, friend.” I don’t want to be seen as humourless by telling everyone, because then people treat me like they’re walking on eggshells. Am I being irrational? Are they entitled to an explanation? Are there any scripts you could possibly give me?

Thank you,


I Just Want To Talk To My Friend And Not Get Upset (she/her)

Dear I Just Want To Talk To My Friend:

What is stopping you from saying “Please stop saying offensive things about where I’m from?

Or “Rude!” or “Can you not?” or “Did you mean that to be offensive, b/c it was?” or “Your ignorance of [place] isn’t actually a commentary about [place], aren’t you embarrassed to say things like that?” Or “Dude, we’ve talked about this. Just stop.”

Right now you have blocked him and you’re lying about it, you are avoiding a group conversation you theoretically enjoy, you are asking me about non-confrontational ways to handle this, people in the chat are sending your screencaps and asking why you’ve blocked him, and you’re lying to them about it. And he’s weirdly trying to get your attention despite pretty much almost certainly knowing why you’re avoiding him. That’s a lot of work! A lot of emotional energy! Why not say the truth to these people? “[Dude] says offensive stuff about where I come from and I’m struggling with how to deal with it – I don’t want to come across as humorless, but I also don’t have a sense of humor about it anymore so I’ve started just avoiding him. He doesn’t listen when I tell him to stop.” “Funny you should notice that I’m kind of avoiding you. I don’t want to have to avoid you, but if you keep saying [xyz rude stuff] I just can’t hang. Can you promise to knock it off and then actually knock it off?”

If the other group members are so concerned about his feelings they can tell him to calm it down. If they back him up at your expense, that will suck, but you can also stop walking on eggshells around these people!

This is all happening online (online interactions are real, but in this case you don’t have immediate physical safety to worry about), so there is a delay and a bit of a remove. The stakes have never been lower for you to just say “Wow, not cool!” when he says something annoying. Group chat is already kinda ruined for you, so why not ruin it a little more in a way that has a chance of resolving this in your favor (dude knocks it off, other people maybe notice and call him out on it)(maybe it gets fun again)(if not at least you know and can avoid it altogether)?

I know why it feels scary to do this. When you tell someone “no” they reveal who they really are. If everyone’s been maintaining a “heh heh this is all in good fun” plausible deniability shield around the behavior, the second you admit that it’s not really fun for you force people to reveal that they were maybe just bullying you on purpose because it’s fun for them (and that the bullying and getting away with it is the whole point). It’s also awkward because it forces the bystanders to choose a side, and risk having people blame the victim of the rude behavior for ruining the overall vibe, like everything was fine when your friend could say rude, ignorant shit to you but YOU TOTALLY POOPED ON THE PARTY when you didn’t enjoy it. But sometimes it’s gotta happen! This social pressure to be cool and accept people’s bullying and not make a big deal about it has got to be resisted! And people on the sidelines have to stop being the eternal “I don’t see why everyone can’t just get along!” police.

It’s okay to be humorless about some stuff. It’s okay to find certain jokes to be offensive and cruel and to ask people who purport to be friendly with you to knock them the fuck off. When bullies are like “What, can’t you take a joke” it’s okay to say “Guess not! Can you stop being an ass for a sec and listen to me?” 




178 thoughts on “#1076: The Xenophobe In The Group Chat

  1. Amazing how much of a stone wall you can make when you say “That’s not funny.”

    1. amen! Also the other friends might have no idea what to do and are looking for a clue from you. They might be happy to jump in and police if you made it clear you were not into these ‘jokes’.

      1. That’s a really good point–this being online, maybe the friends know LW finds it rude, but they don’t know that the insults are directed at them personally, so they don’t realize that they should come to their aid..

        1. I agree – being a total white-bread person, I think I would feel that I was overstepping if I spoke up in a group for someone from a different heritage who has all the facts about it when I don’t. Who am I to decide that they are being stepped on? So I hope that the friends will jump in at the very second they find out that they should.

          1. In my experience as a white person who is okay with online confrontation, almost always friends, acquaintances, and friends-of-friends of color will receive it very positively when I step in to deal with racism from other white people. I think there’s one person ever who responded with something like “I’ve got this and don’t need you to defend me”; overwhelmingly what I get is “thanks for handling that so I didn’t have to.” (And, from my own experience, I find it *incredibly* frustrating when time and again it’s other women and me from my friend groups handling misogyny instead of men, other queer people and me handling homophobia instead of straight people, etc.)

            Waiting to be asked to deal with other white people’s racism is, IMO, a cop-out. If a white person is being racist, white people need to proactively deal with it, without waiting for an engraved invitation. It’s not the job of people of color to ask us to take steps to confront white supremacy when we see it in action.

          2. I actually did something like this in real life a few months ago. I was at a work-related lunch, seated at a table with one other white person and four people of color. White Dude said, “Hey, I just thought of a really racist joke!” and before he could launch into it I said, “No racist jokes over the pasta salad, White Dude. In fact, no racist jokes at all anywhere.” There was kind of an awkward pause, but tellingly, no one else at the table jumped in and said, “Oh, that’s okay, White Dude, go ahead and tell your racist joke anyway.” I’m not a confrontational person, and prior to that I might not have said anything for the same reason (feeling like it wasn’t my place) but it worked out surprisingly well.

          3. Totally agree with Eye – as a bystander it’s YOUR JOB to step in when racist shit is coming down. The victims of racism/xenophobia have enough to deal with when they’re alone/vulnerable and run across this. They are not obligated to educate your white self, you can and should do it yourself (see next post for details). Furthermore, if the victim speaks up, it always seems (to some) like they just don’t have a sense of humor.

            I’ve always found that when a man opened his mouth and spoke up for me when some sexist asshole was trying to get on my case, it was take a lot more seriously than if I tried to complain. In fact, it always stopped them in their tracks. So I’m grateful to all the men who’ve helped me over the years. And now when some jerk says something racist in front of me, I get on my White Privilege High Horse and tell them right off that I’m ashamed to be the same color as them, and that I’ll break their face if they continue. It works, try it

            And don’t feel that there’s any category of bullying that’s better than another. if you’re straight and someone’s gay-bashing in front of you, if you’re able-bodied and someone’s being a jerk about a disability, if you’re thin and someone’s concern-trolling a fat person… there are infinite variations. But it works much better to defend people if you have the same privilege as the bully, so be sure to use that to stop them. Which isn’t to say that people shouldn’t band together if there isn’t a same-privilege person to step in, that works too, but in my experience it only works to stop them in the moment, defense from the same privilege group actually has a chance of stopping them permanently

          4. I get your drift, but if it sounds racist to you, I would encourage you to call it out. As a person with some privilege, to me this is what I need to use that privilege for. It’s better to misaim and learn and keep fighting than to never try. It’s OK if advocacy carries the risk of awkwardness. We can handle awkward.

          5. You know, I was told early on that it’s “condescending” and “not my place” to speak up for groups of whom I was not a member. I later realized this woman had just found a way to use my meek milquetoast goody-goody-ness to avoid me calling her on using using “Jew” as a verb and referring to POC as “Democrats,” and I am deeply sorry for all the years I let that I-will-not-call-her-a-bitch-because-it’s-an-insult-to-dogs shut me up.

            For the record: I do stand up whenever I can today. I consider this— trying to take someone’s humanity away and assuming I’m okay with that— to be a personal insult.

          6. I see what you mean and maybe there are definitely times where white/cis/male/whatever people should take a step back and not hold a monolouge on things they don’t know enough about. But there is a difference between that and going “huh, that sounded pretty racist to me, don’t talk like that”. Or, like someone else here had said “no racist jokes over pasta, in fact no racist jokes at all anywhere”

          7. Just to add some friendly guidance as a POC who appreciates that y’all (DC Lite, Larielera, Kate J) are probably trying to do the right thing but maybe not sure how and definitely don’t want to overstep…

            A good tip is to try to read the room. When a racist ‘joke’ or comment is made, how do the POC in your circle react?

            Do they blaze up and say something? OK cool, then maybe you don’t need to, although it would be great if you could like or comment to agree with their posts so they and the group know they’ve got your support.

            Do they clam up or not respond? They’re probably feeling hella uncomfortable. Maybe say something, but make it about you, not the POC who is desperately trying to go unnoticed during the shitshow. ‘Guys, I’m really uncomfortable with the racist commentary, can we just not.’

            Do they laugh along? Hmm. Possibly internalized racism, possibly defense mechanism (‘if I’m laughing along then they’ll know I’m chill and integrated and not one of those angry POC and maybe they won’t hate me/exclude me’). Consider speaking up too.

          8. I appreciate the feedback here! I hadn’t looked at this from the other side. I think I thought it would be like me announcing I GET YOUR EXPERIENCE BETTER THAN YOU, but I hadn’t stopped to think that someone who is probably just pretty gd exhausted of having to stick up for themselves might be glad for an advocate. Thanks and I love this space to make me think. 🙂

          9. I’ll reiterate Manattee’s suggestion to personalize the objection. It’s a really powerful tool. It doesn’t matter if someone’s (supposed) Black friend is cool with the jokes, because they’re still not okay with ME. It doesn’t matter if someone polled all of the women in the city and 100% of them are fine with that sexist joke, I’M still not. It doesn’t even matter if a member of a targeted group finds my intervention patronizing because this isn’t about what they want, it’s about MY standards for interacting with ME.

            To be clear, those are rhetorical poses meant to dismiss common defenses of racism, sexism, etc. I do indeed try to read the room as best I can and give members of the targeted group space to self-advocate if they want. But by making the stated objection about me, I can draw fire instead of maybe prompting even more abuse of the targeted group and also undermine common defenses. And I think it’s better to err on the side of a single instance someone might find patronizing (though in my experience, “White Knighting” is almost entirely a bad faith concern put forward by assholes who don’t want to be rebuked) than allowing overt bigotry or abuse to be normalized. As with unintentional bigotry you might perpetuate yourself, if you get overzealous and mess up, apologize, try to do better in the future, and let it drop.

            Most of the time what actually happens is that strangers embarassingly thank me for intervening – I’m embarassed because I don’t think we should give people special recognition just for not being awful nor even for a low-stakes social risk for trying to make society less awful for targeted groups, but I try to remind myself that most people do find confrontation scary (I do too!) and that, sadly, bystander intervention is far too rare.

            And intervening can even have immediate positive results – most recently I got a racist woman banned from my favorite restaurant when she started shouting at me after I asked her to stop using racial slurs around me (she was saying awful things about Black people, using racist epithets, while on the phone sitting next to me at the bar), and the shouting drew the attention of the bartender, who kicked her out and banned her. Intervening on one’s own behalf can also then give OTHERS who are well-meaning but unsure about intervening (or who haven’t noticed the problem) social license to rebuke the bigot. It works really well, and I actually got the technique from a Captain Awkward response where CA suggested owning one’s objections to a problematic group member rather than appealing to the group as the objecting entity.

          10. Late to the parade, but I really like to lead with “I hate that phrase, it’s so racist,” or, “I really don’t want to hear the racist joke,” or whatever, so it’s 100% on my personal preference and no one can blame the nearest person of color or spread the white guilt around like we’d all be cool talking that way if it weren’t for that darn PC police I keep hearing about (yet never, ever see. Maybe they don’t have body cams?)

      2. This, right here. I’ve often noticed that no one wants to be the FIRST one to say something. No one wants to be the one to stand up, but once someone else has said something then comes the flood. Once the elephant in the room is pointed out, suddenly it’s okay to talk about elephants. And you might find that they have a LOT to say about elephants.

        Once someone stands up and says “hey, you’re making me uncomfortable that’s not cool”, you might come to find that, the initial topic broached, a LOT of people there were just sort of going along to get along and now that they have a way to speak up, they do.

        There are a ton of reasons someone who isn’t a racist shitheel still might not speak up in the moment:

        Maybe they got invited into the chat later on and are like “huh, I guess this is not a safe place, alright then” and just assumed it was a GROUP more that borderline-racist (and some quite past the line) stuff was okay here and they just decided not to spend social capital to fight that. A lot of people tolerate a lot of shitty things because they don’t think they have social capital to spend.

        Maybe they thought they didn’t have standing to challenge his statements, I do this myself sometimes because I don’t want to be “that white guy” who tries to tell someone what they should and shouldn’t be offended by when it’s their attribute, not mine. This really only applies to borderline things, some statements are OBVIOUSLY inappropriate and we should all call those out, but sometimes “jokes” can be like “well, I think that’s a bit offensive but the girl who’s actually in a wheelchair thought it was funny, so I’m not going to ablesplain why that’s not okay unless I see signs she isn’t cool with it.” (real life example there, turns out it was a case of the following, and it turns out she really was cool with it)

        Tying into the above, sometimes friends are “in the huddle”, and say things that would be horrifyingly -ist but their relationship makes it okay. I have a very good friend who is Chinese-American, and he has a very close friend who is Jewish. The things they sometimes joke around about would be totally not okay if they weren’t very close or hadn’t shared some of the conversations they have. Sometimes people bond over mocking stereotypes, and mocking stereotypes can be a coping mechanism for having to live in a hostile world. To an outsider coming into our voice channel, it could be confusing when to say something because some people have earned that some haven’t and the same statement from three different people there would be received three different ways. Not knowing how two friends that I know casually or fairly well but not how well they know each OTHER… I’m not sure I’d speak up unless it was truly egregious. So coming into a friends chat where people are presumed to know one another, I’d lean on the side of “unless they say it’s not cool, it’s probably cool.”

        Sometimes people are ignorant, or don’t realize something is offensive. It’s not what they live every day, after all. I wouldn’t necessarily twig to joking about a country’s name or status changes over time as being racist up-front, depending on what’s said. if I’m told that someone it affects considers it racist then I have their back 100%, but I might not know until I find out.

        Other times someone might just have anxiety about confronting someone, but it’s always easier to add your voice to a chorus than do a solo, so when people start speaking up, they feel okay saying “yeah, I agree.”

        I have a suspicion that the LW’s friends aren’t really as cool with this as they appear and once it’s a topic on the floor she’ll find allies she never realized she had and there will be a lot of pushback against this jerk. It’s just a combination of all of the above is holding them back right now.

      3. My brother in law is like this in my husband’s family’s group chats. The family of 5 children is spread across the globe so it’s how they keep in touch. Their sister jas a 1-year-old and has had tremendous success with a business she started. So much success that she was on television in their home country to talk about her industry. BIL remarked that she “still hadn’t lost that baby weight, haha” (he always sign his little jabs with “haha” not realising that if you need to indicate your joke was a joke, it fails as a joke). I told my husband that he really need to call that shit out, especially since his sister may not feel comfortable being so confrontational. He also wants to avoid conflict, but it’s really not cool. Not sure what to tell him to convince him to do tell his brother comments like that are really not funny.

      1. That’s my tactic, challenge them to explain the joke, and why the “humor” is “funny.” Although I usually don’t play dumb about it because I’m too pissed off.

        1. I mostly use this for relatives who will pull all sorts of “but it was funny when I was growing up” and “there’s no PoC in the room, of course I wouldn’t say that if we had a guest in that group” excuses. Playing dumb and forcign them to say out loud that their joke is gross, racist, xenophobic crap kinda helps in that context.
          It is not the same sitauation as LW and their group chat, though.

          1. >>> “there’s no PoC in the room, of course I wouldn’t say that if we had a guest in that group” excuses. ”

            There’s a story about Ulysses S. Grant. He was at a dinner for Civil War officers, and one of the group said, “Since there are no ladies, in the room…” and Sam Grant interrupted and said, “No, but there are gentlemen.”

      2. It’s a good tactic, the more sincere the confusion the better and it works for all inappropriate “jokes”, sexist, homo/transphobic, etc. “Oh…I don’t get it.”

        Every time a “joke” needs to be explained it gets less funny. Also, you can’t be accused of “not taking a joke” (as an attack to silence you) because you can’t in fact “take” that joke, meaning you can’t accept it into your mind as a subject worth joking about. It returns a syntax error in your brain.

        It’s a good way to confront this kind of speech with people you can’t excise from your life easily like family, coworkers or neighbours.

  2. Yeah, no. Time for eggshells is long gone. If your other friends haven’t ALREADY noticed how offensive and un-funny these ‘jokes’ are, it’s high time they did. Maybe they honestly thought you were enjoying them too and will be shocked to realise they’re offensive! Maybe they won’t care! Maybe they will be huge dicks about it! At least then you’ll know, and you won’t have to sit and stew in the uncertainty of it all.

    I am extremely unfunny about LGBTQ jokes myself. I cringe, I make my resting bitch face, I very pointedly do not laugh. I remain stonefaced, or I say “yeah, that’s not funny”, and hey, it ruins fun moments and vibes! And sometimes, people get sour at me for ruining it! And here’s the thing: I don’t give a fuck! I will not laugh at your tr***y joke, bro, and I will not roll my eyes in good humour when you make yet another jeer about how bisexuals can’t make up their minds. I’d rather ruin your goddamn ‘fun’ moment.

    And when they ask – and they often do – “what, can’t you take a joke?” I blithely reply with “Nope! Not with this. Not even a little bit.”

    1. Here here!

      I’m also a big fan of cheerily saying “Wow, that was really [racist]!” as it makes it clear I don’t find it funny but for whatever reason tends not to derail the conversation into “oh you just can’t take a joke”.

      1. Here here! +1000

        That is my favorite response to “what, can’t you take a joke?”: “Nope. I cannot.” Followed up by “what you are saying is not funny and not joking, so stop.”

    2. I agree 100%. The time has come (actually it arrived a long time ago) for LW’s other friends to step up and shut down this “friend’s” rudeness. It’s clearly unacceptable to her, and it’s ridiculous for them to even ask her why she is avoiding this guy.

    3. I agree, but some people have to build to the point where they have the confidence to confront offensive people head-on like that. This LW sounds young. I suspect her friends are young, too. They may all still be figuring out the parameters of what’s acceptable behavior, and the boundaries between “edgy” and “offensive”. So I give a little bit of leeway to these bystanders for not independently realizing that the “jokes” are not okay and not calling this guy out the way they ought to. And I give leeway to the LW for not dealing with this directly. For some people, sticking up for themselves is something they have to learn, rather than a natural ability.

      1. For sure! And it took me a couple of years (and too many homophobic jokes in college) to get to my bitchy-ass self today. And even so, I am still super avoidaint of confrontation in other areas, so I am not criticising LW for not being more openly angry. (Or at least, that’s not what I meant to do!) What I’m saying is that whether LW is at that point or not, being humourless about X is fine, and this is one way to go about it. Also, if LW’s looking for tips for that, it can help to think “where’s the line I draw in the sand? Where is the hill I will die on? If there is a scale of racist/sexist/homophobic jokes out there, at what numbers do I 1) stop laughing? 2) show visible signs of discomfort or anger? 3) actively speak out against the joke to shut it down? 4) leave the situation altogether or flip a table?”

      1. Hey, I know lots of funny transjokes. It’s just that, oddly enough, none of them end with the punchline “and they had a penis the entire time! ahahahahah.” nope. Kick up, not down. That’s how good jokes go in my book 🙂

    4. A friend, who worked at trade jobs that had historically been boys only, used to say to her (predominantly white), male coworkers: Assume that I am a member of whatever group you’re telling jokes about. I am offended. It’s not funny.

      It worked.

      1. The first joke that my youngest sister (age 9 at the time) ever told me that required a set up before the punch line (so not a silly riddle or knock knock joke) used specific ethnic groups in the set up with one ethnic group being singled out as more stupid than the others. The punchline, which relied on the dumb person who is in a potato sack to yell out the word “potatoes” was funny, but the ethnic identity of the person wasn’t necessary. I pointed it out to her and she, as a member of the ethnic group she’d just insulted in the joke (I’m white but my sister is not), decided to give the characters in the joke names. Joke is still funny and now appropriate to have a child tell. My sister is now a middle school English teacher and uses this joke as an example of how words matter and how it’s easy to offend groups of people with generalizations and stereotypes. She says that she does like your friend does and tells her students to tell a joke that they think is funny but that the class is made up of every ethnic group, race, sex, religion etc ever made. would they still tell it? Would they have to explain why it’s funny? Or is it a funny joke that is made for everyone? She says that it makes her students stop and think about the power their words have…even if it’s only in her class.

  3. The letter doesn’t elaborate if the rest of the friends are real-life or online only friends. Maybe move on from that group chat if these are online-only friends? There won’t be the risk of running into them on the street or mutual friends asking why you ghosted. They don’t sound like they’re doing much for YOU, LW, so I don’t think you owe them your presence. If these are real-life friends, maybe keep up with them with a more one-to-one way if you feel like you really need them in your life? Which I think is debatable because “stick up for your friend if they are subject to racism” seems like a pretty basic part of friendship.

  4. The good Captain is most definitely right to keep this about rudeness and not racism (which is sure as hell what it sounds like) but I also wanted to pick up on what you said about your friends:

    “they know I get upset about it but I don’t expect them to do anything”

    Why don’t you? If this was about another, non-race-tinged topic – like you had a medical condition he was making jokes about – would you expect your friends to step up? If not, then they’re not your friends. If you would – just not about this – then your friends are racist, too, and you need to decide if you’re willing to go with it or confront them about it.

  5. The old “So-and-So just can’t take a joke” argument makes me ragey. Guess what, if the target of your “joke” doesn’t think it’s funny, then it isn’t a joke, it’s actually just an insult. And insulting your friends when they have repeatedly told you it’s insulting is NOT FUNNY. Why is this so hard for so many people to understand?

    1. Also, here’s a novel thought: isn’t the point of a joke to amuse those you tell them to? You know, to make them laugh because it’s funny?
      If you tell a joke and the response is that it’s offensive, then regardless of whether YOU find it offensive or not, it’s just plain not a good joke! Because they didn’t find it funny! And that’s literally the point of jokes!

    2. I find it truly amazing (not really tho) how many of these amateur comedians cannot take a joke. I’ve shut down any number of “edgy” dudebro sexists by saying “hey, that reminds me of a joke” and telling them the one about how many men it takes to wallpaper an apartment. EVERY GODDAMN TIME they are shocked and uncomfortable and mumble about hey, that wasn’t funny. Then I ask why they can’t take a joke. That, thankfully, is usually the last time they try and talk to me.

      1. How many? I might have a time and place to use this joke, if you’re comfortable sharing.

  6. If this LW finds that announcing to the group that she’s blocked this “friend” or confronting him directly to be too daunting to do, she could also try to tell just one person in the group—someone she’s close to and who is likely to have her back. That might be low-stakes enough to be doable. This friend may be able to help with the work of telling the rest of the group that the LW doesn’t like these comments, calling the racist friend out when he makes them, or simply show the LW that she can say this stuff to her friends and it doesn’t have to be the end of the world.

    This probably won’t head off the confrontation with the racist friend, but it will give the LW some practice in saying what she wants to say, and knowing she has the backing of at least some of her friends might make it less intimidating to say it to the person who needs to hear it the most.

    1. Of course, if person LW is counting on to have her back turns out not to have her back, that could be even more devastating unless she’s prepared to follow through on being her own advocate and/or cutting this entire group off if it comes to that.

      1. It’s true, but if that’s the case, I don’t see that there’s much else for the LW to do other than to abandon the group. She can’t grin and bear the racist comments, and the jig is going to be up re: blocking the racist friend pretty soon. Either the group moves to a status quo where the LW doesn’t have to put up with racist comments, or she leaves because it turns out the others don’t think the racist friend is doing anything wrong.

  7. Tossing in another strategy of a type that I use at work, the “I don’t get it” approach:

    Dude: *tells racist/misogynist joke*
    Me, blank faced: “… I don’t get it.”
    Dude: ha ha *repeats joke*
    Me, deadpan repeat: “I don’t get it.”
    (say nothing else but “I don’t get it” until the dude is forced to outline how his joke is funny because all women are bitches and Those People Are Like That in really clear, awkward terms for everyone in earshot)
    Me: “… Wow.” (walk away)

    OTOH, I’m really concerned that you’re prioritizing the opinions of people who either treat you or let someone else treat you like shit? You mention getting bullied earlier, but I just want to say: this isn’t what friendship is. Friendship is kind and supportive, friends care about you and how you feel. Maybe part of this is on you because you’ve been doing everything you can BUT tell them, but give them the chance to support you – and if they don’t, they weren’t good friends anyway. There are a billion people in the world; you can do better.

    1. It is not partly ‘on her’. It is reasonable to expect people not to be racist. That isn’t something you’re supposed to have to specially request. She can try and talk to them about it, and it might or might not help. But they are responsible for the horrible things they are saying. Not LW. Not ever.

      1. …I read RKMK’s comment differently — it’s not about the racist asshat, it’s about the *other* people. The ones who aren’t making the harmful comments and are asking LW about it, and LW is just saying her messages are messed up.

        There was one time, when I was high school aged, that I overheard a conversation by a trio of kids I recognized but didn’t know well, where the two girls were ragging on the one guy for the pathetic nature of the mustache he was trying to grow. It sounded mean, so I was all “hey that’s not cool”. The guy assured me he was ok with it, that it was all in good fun, etc, and so I stopped pushing the issue. I mean, the “victim” said it was fine! …it didn’t occur to me until later that he might have been defending them in order to keep their friendship, not because he was necessarily okay with it.

        And it could be that the same thing is happening here, especially if the friends aren’t in the targeted demographic themselves. If LW is giving it’s-okay signals, her friends may not realize how much it’s actually bothering her.

        She’s absolutely not at fault for the core problem, but she’s also not giving the other people the opportunity to show their friendship to her.

        1. I love the story of what you did in high school. The guy might have been defending his friends, or it might have been cool within their friendship (but not to outsiders), but it was still pretty cool that you said something. If he’d needed an out, he would have had one. You didn’t make anything bad (or worse), you stopped pushing it, you let him have agency. But you let him know that you noticed that he might not be ok.

          1. It might have helped him some time later, too, even if he didn’t know how to pick it up and use it in the moment. It’s hard to crack out of a “going along, it’s okay” state, and if you ask someone they might even actively push back.

            But some time later it might add support to their sense that they can be not okay with this.

        2. Yeah… I’ve done that before, saying things are fine as if that will magically make it so. :/ I didn’t even realize I was doing it at the time. I have a feeling it’s going to be a hard habit to break. :/

          1. I’ve spoken up in situations like this before, too, where the “victim” defended the offender. I figure, maybe the person being targeted didn’t feel safe accepting the agency I created. Maybe they truly had to play along to get along in that particular situation. But to my mind, I”m at least putting that offender on notice that I sure see what’s happening. I don’t like it. And I’m not afraid to speak up about it so watch it, mister!

          2. You may also be communicating a set of “standards of decency” to the victim–and that can be important.

  8. Oh man, I see why this is scary — your other friends in the group chat might respond by asking why you’re so easily offended, after all you “never minded before”. Ugh! But by letting them know if bothers you, they will have a chance to stand up for you and let your jerk friend know that he’s being uncool. Not sure why they haven’t already, but sometimes it’s easy to assume this kind of thing it’s a joke-insult in-joke or a friendship dynamic that doesn’t concern them. If you let them all know this is not a joke to you, you’ll soon see who is a supportive, caring friend. I hope the answer is all of them.

  9. I have a reasonable amount of success with unavoidable family members making “jokes” by saying things like:

    “I’m about at my limits for Brad’s “jokes” at my expense, so I’m signing off/taking a break.”

    “Brad, can you not? I don’t have the patience for your One Stop Shop for Racist Jokes, I get enough from [twitter/the president].”

    “Full up on your xenophobia, Brad, thanks, can we talk about what we’re really here for?”

    People who are *trying* to be offensive are aiming for anger, irritation, and fear – they want to get a rise out of you, and then gaslight you. Responding with weary one-note boredom robs them of that reaction. And it also shuts down more well-intentioned yet inappropriate jokers, who aren’t going to keep going if they aren’t getting a positive reaction. Neutral bystanders get to stay neutral, too, which I’m assuming they appreciate (even if no one appreciates a neutral bystander).

    Any follow-up of: “Can’t you take a joke?” gets a flat, “I mean, if you could come up with a funny one…?” or “…was that a joke? it just seemed like one of your endless insults, Brad.”

    1. Wait…you’ve blocked him, people know you’ve blocked him (because they’re asking why you blocked him) and then they’re posting screenshots on your group chat with evidence that you’ve blocked him????

      Am I reading this right?

      This friend group feels pretty unsafe to me.

      If one of my friends blocked someone, and I knew they blocked him, I would NOT facilitate contact between them!

      They might be thinking you blocked him by accident and that’s they’re telling you they noticed you blocked him – but then posting screenshots of your messages with them, onto your group chat with gaslighting racist rude dude? What possible reason is there for that?

      Maybe I’m missing something but that sounds a lot like people facilitating bullying. And someone posting my private messages between them and me, sends all kind of NOPE down my spine.

      Do these people make you feel good otherwise, or is it more like you feel like you can’t leave the friend group without causing some kind of fallout that you’re not prepared for?

      Life is too short, dear LW. Protect your peace.

      1. Agreed! LW, if your friends are posting screencaps of your private conversations, that’s not friendship, that’s cyber bullying. And they are being jerks.

        There are plenty of people out there who will be your friends without being jerks to you. Please, consider looking for them, you deserve way better than this.

      2. Also agreed.

        To qualify as your friends, these people should at a bare minimum respect the boundaries that you have made and care about your emotional well-being. They should prioritize your feelings over their opinion of comedy. They should not be giving a person access to you or posting private communications against your will.

      3. I read that as they were posting screencaps of Jerk’s comments in the chat *to the LW* – you know, a kind of “You really aren’t seeing this message? Look, it was at X timestamp – you don’t see it?” thing.

        LW says she’s been afraid to tell people that she’s blocked him, so it’s not like she’s privately saying she’s blocked him and they’re posting screenshots of that confirmation to the group.

        If they’re just posting screenshots to her of stuff they think she should be seeing (because they don’t know she’s blocked the douche), that’s totally reasonable.

    2. I give my whole-hearted support to the idea of showing them how tedious and unoriginal they’re being. “Drop the balloons, it’s the hundredth time you’ve brought up [country].” “That’s fascinating. Guys, did you know that maps and borders change over time?” “Yes, yes, we all know that you believe civilization started when the Angles met the Saxons.” If he’s supposedly a great jokester, he can take those in stride. If not, you have stumbled on one of the few times where you can morally deploy, “What, can’t you take a joke?”

  10. You say you “love him dearly” but he appears to be treating you terribly by ignoring your objections and bulldozing past your boundaries. I feel like he’s not a good friend.

    Feel free to be the grump who refuses to take “jokes” at your expense any longer. They are cruel and not funny.

    1. This reminds me of back in the day when I used to watch Loveline on MTV, and Adam, of all people, made a really good point about how girls/women will excuse the most heinous behavior if it’s coming from a friend. “He killed my entire family and drove my car into the river, but he’s my BEST FRIEND!”

  11. So, some background: I’m born and raised in the US with an American mother and a Slavic father. I grew up with a difficult-to-pronounce Slavic last name, in an area without a lot of Slavs, during the Cold War. In middle school, a boy who wanted my attention decided the way to get it was to repeatedly call me a Commie, make jokes about standing for the Russian national anthem when I was around, etc. etc. etc. (The fact that my background isn’t actually Russian was immaterial.)

    You do not have to “be cool” about these types of comments. You do not have to brush off any sorry/not sorry excuses he makes. You are not a bad person or the one causing problems for drawing a line at this type of behavior.

    And as someone who has also had self-esteem issues: It’s worth asking yourself why you think it’s okay for your friends to advocate for him (“why did you block him?”) but not okay to advocate for you (are they asking him “why are you saying hostile stuff to her?”). Hopefully thinking about those sorts of things will help you realize that it’s okay to stick up for yourself and to care for yourself as much as you care for your friends.

    Good luck, and Jedi hugs if you want them.

  12. I second the please explain how it is funny when someone tries to pull the old “can’t you take a joke” argument it really does work like a charm
    I also agree with those who say its ok for you to transfer the discomfort of this behavior back on the offender, why should you be the uncomfortable one.

    In regards to your expectation of the other people in a group i think it is reasonable to expect their assistance or at minimum no resistance to your defending yourself. I can’t imagine letting someone else bully a friend of mine about anything with out my saying something (assuming i am safe)

    Stop denying just say when they ask that he is saying offensive things your requested he not do that he continued so you blocked when you lie to people they will assume you have something to hide (which is their issue but nonetheless mostly true)

  13. It sounds like you don’t have a banhammer. Can someone with authority to kick him from chat enforce that once you set a boundary? Allies are helpful in these situations, and if “friend” guy values the group, he will play nice once the rules are established.
    If not, and other avenues don’t work out, you can leave these “friends” and find new ones who share a sense of humour and respect with you. Interesting fact – the words “friend” and “free” share the same root. Good luck!

  14. Letter Writer, I suspect you are nervous for any confrontation (with the culprit or your other friends) because you are not sure if they will choose your safety or his “jokes”. Sometimes, I think we especially don’t want to find out the answer to questions like these because we know it will be disappointing.

    Let me tell you from the other side of this scenario – the sooner you make it clear that your friends have to respect you or they’re not your friends, the sooner you can enjoy an improved friendship, or grieve for the friendship and move on. If it’s the latter – I think it will hurt, but then things will get better.

    This relationship isn’t working for you, and I hope you are able to take the first step to change that. Good luck – I know it is hard!

    1. This, a million times. LW, a friend group that doesn’t have your back on this is not worthy of the name “friend.” It may be better for you not to have to wonder whether this group is on your side or not. Right now, the friendship cat is both in and out of the box. Open it up, and let the cat fall where it will.

      1. “Right now, the friendship cat is both in and out of the box. Open it up, and let the cat fall where it will.”

        Love this 😀

  15. “I have told him that I find this rude and I have heritage from this country”

    To be honest it sounds like you’ve already asked him to stop and the group are hopeless. He can put two and two together about why he is blocked, sending third parties to circumvent that (With screencaps? I don’t blame you for not wanting to be direct yikes) is not respecting the block put in place. They’re not respecting the block put in place. They see him make the racist jokes, they can infer that you’ve had enough of that+their passive enabling of it on their own. Are they seriously expecting a racist and the person they’re racist towards to make up? Why is he sending flying monkeys to ask about the probable-block, he doesn’t need to do that.

    I get what the captain is saying about assertiveness but I’m just…What’s the point, really? He was asked to stop, he didn’t, he was asked to stop in the form of a block and is trying to get third-parties involved to circumvent that (I severely doubt their response to “oh it’s a block” and why is going to be “understandable have a good day” he is going to bitch about being blocked and just push back harder and try to drum up people to go “but blocking’s meeeen”). There’s a point where you kind of have to infer “oh, this isn’t a weird chat bug specific to one specifically racist person”. I feel you’re not bringing it up precisely because you know they’ll go “naah it’s coo’ that bob is a raging racist you should still be friendos with him”, I think you’re just better off dropping the lot of them.

    I dunno, I tried the direct approach with folk like this before and responses were pretty lackluster – like “oh but why didn’t you ~say anything*” at best, like they weren’t the ones that made it look wildly unsafe to tell them “hey that’s not good” in the first place by being what they are. (And then inevitable relapse into being shitty people again)

  16. Hi LW. I think the only thing you can do here is tell the group chat the truth. “I’m tired of Rude Guy’s ‘foreigner’ jokes. I’ve asked him to stop and he won’t stop. I blocked him on Facebook and now he’s bugging me on here, so if he won’t stop I’m gonna have to leave.”

    It’s up to you whether you add the bit about leaving. I’m including it because if the reaction of the rest of the group is “omg it’s just a joke get over yourself” then that is not a good group for you and you *should* leave. But it’s also possible that the rest of the group don’t realise how annoyed and upset Rude Guy’s made you feel. Faced with the possibility of falling out of contact with you because of Rude Guy’s behaviour, they may step up and police *him* or kick him out of the chat instead.

    1. Yup. You don’t even have to say “I’m tired of the RACIST jokes.” Just “He keeps insulting me and my heritage and calling it a joke, so I’m sick of it and blocked him.”

      1. Yeah, I have a vague sense that even the kind of people who roll their eyes about “political correctness” when you call something racist can’t find anything to object to (at least not overtly) if you frame it as “this person insulted my HERITAGE,” because then you’re evoking much older concepts like Tradition and Family Pride. Or something?

        1. That hasn’t been my experience. Those who are big on tradition and family pride for their group often don’t buy that people in the groups they denigrate are also entitled to tradition and family pride.

          1. Yup. I had to sort through an elderly relative’s estate, and their stuff was half ‘yay, my immigrant heritage’ and half ‘immigration is our nation’s biggest threat and most be stopped’. Yuck.

  17. Please be a broken record with this guy. And say it in the group text! Don’t give this guy Plausible Deniability. “I don’t know why she’s so upset…” You need Allies.

    Dude: [something offensive]
    You: “Knock it off, Gerald”
    Dude: [some excuse]
    You: “Knock it OFF, Gerald. I don’t like this.”
    Dude: [something else offensive]
    You: “KNOCK IT OFF, GERALD. Okay, I’m turning off group chat. See you all tomorrow.”

    You will find out pretty quick whether your friend group has your back. After two of the above I would start a new group chat that pointedly does not include Gerald.

    As an aside, I agree with other posters who would be hesitant to call out “joke” bigotry if I was with minorities who didn’t seem to mind. PLEASE SPEAK UP. They may be hesitant to be your ally if they don’t know that’s what you want.


    Seriously, you have said clearly to him that you don’t like it and want it to stop. He kept going. That tells you clearly how much he cares about your feelings, which is not at all. He is not a friend. He does not deserve your friendship.

  19. Why spend your life being exhausted and tied in knots trying to maintain the comfort and happiness of people who have shown they DO NOT CARE about your comfort and happiness?

    Also, people like this continue these behaviors because no one has ever made them feel uneasy about it. Sounds like high time someone made THEM upset. As Princess Di said: “You cannot comfort the afflicted without afflicting the comfortable.”

  20. I’m not sure that its helpful of commenters so keep talking avout racism here. Letter writer gives the impression that its an ethnic/national heritage thing rather than a race thing. In europe as an example, the majority population of all the countries are white, but heritage, cultures and traditions are diverse. People can be prejudiced and be weird about other white majority cultures/countries resulting in bullying or low level hostolity/exclusion but its not racism abd the people expressing hostility wouldn’t regard it as racism. Conflating xenophobia with racism really isn’t helpful. This applies to collections countries on all the continents. North america is a weird one because usa and canada are so new there aren’t deep running upsets like in asia, central asia, africa, the pacific region, latin america and europe etc etc etc.

    1. Yeah whether or not it’s actually racism doesn’t matter. What matters is that Rude Guy keeps making fun of LW’s “old country” after being asked repeatedly to stop.

      1. Exactly. The things this asshat is saying are *hurtful* to the LW. Why do you care which labels apply to the hurtfulness? Also, this kind of behavior is rarely just one kind of harm. The LW talks about racism and xenophobia, but given the gender dynamic and the online forum, there’s probably an (un)healthy dose of sexism mixed in. But it doesn’t matter if I’m right about that, because it’s still the same bucket of shit that the LW is asking for help to deal with. Help with the bucket. Don’t worry about the technical precision of the label.

        1. Yup. I am the worst punster. At work they call me “Vice President in Charge of Dad Jokes.” I love getting into pun battles like rooks love thermals; it is a source of great joy to me and I don’t get why people seem to prefer to talk about football or celebrities. I have an online friend who finds puns irritating. You know what I do? I avoid making puns on that forum. And it’s fine. A thing does not have to be generally recognized as evil to violate someone’s boundaries. A decent person who is worthy of your time will work with you on them. This fellow does not seem to be a decent person worthy of LW’s spoons.

    2. You are right, the terminology is not really very clear when it comes to xenophobia and racism. I am myself from Scandinavia and often it feels like the situation in US does not directly apply here. Of course we have racism here and I am disgusted that there are people who support the far right ideology but this situation is new here (which does not mean that we should not fight against it).

      Traditionally the oppressed minorities have been people of sámi heritage and the romani and I am quite sure that they would all be considered white.

      I hope you have all found The Captain’s newest article and the links. I went through them and found much of interesting information but still… I wish there were information more centered on the situation in Europe. I will try to keep my eyes open.

      1. I’ve had two POC friends live for decades in Scandinavia. You are seeing things through very Rose-colored glasses. Very.

        One left Sweden for Texas, in part because where his job opportunity took him in Texas (Houston) was less racist than his time in Sweden and Denmark.

        The other, a dark, dark Hindu Indian said he was always treated like a pet of fetish’s object when he tired to date white Scandinavian women.

        Just because y’all don’t have the same issues as the USA doesn’t mean you don’t have issues.

        1. Aveline, it seems to me we are talking of two different things here: I was talking of centuries of racism, slavery and oppression, an ingrained part of history bound to leave a long lasting mark. I do not deny the racism which is rampant in today’s Scandinavia, or the racism of last decades. When I was a child I was severely bullied partly because I do not look like a “usual” Scandinavian. My ancestry is part Japanese so I have very dark hair and very dark eyes. I am not sure whether my experiences count as racism, but I know how it feels to be considered “other” when one is a child, to be asked over and over “Where are you from?” or to be followed by strange men when coming home from school.

          I did not say we do not have issues because we certainly do: I just wish for information which would apply to our specific situation. I do not know if you did the “So you wanna be an ally?” questionnaire on the otherwise very helpful Safety Pin Box site because some of the answers just do not translate very well to situation in Scandinavia. For example the site suggest taking part in a congregational social justice group and… I have never heard of the Lutheran Church or the Orthodox Christian Church having any of those. While most of the generic information on the sites The Captain mentioned is certainly helpful I just miss practical information centered to the problems we are facing here – like how to be a good ally to a member of sámi people or how to be considerate of sámi sacred places while exploring Lapland area for biological samples (this would be very useful information for me).

          I am all in for fighting racism, xenophobia, sexism and all other forms of oppression and I am doing all I can and have strength for to defend the rights of the refugees (I have tried to help by teaching our native language and helping with filling forms). Our organizations and the way our whole society is constructed is just different. That is why I brought this issue up.

          1. Ah, that makes more sense! I am in the US so the resources I know are more US-centric. I wish you luck finding European parallels.

          2. Thank you so much, dear Captain! I would love to share the results of my search with you all but unfortunately I am sure creating a useful collection of links will take time due to all the cultural differences here. I know I am not the only European here so let’s see if we could work together for this goal.

            Meanwhile, we will be using the sites you recommended – and there is so much good on them (although I have only had time to go through them superficially). Thank you for writing your piece and for all the recommended sites. You are fantastic! ❤

            To end on a happier note good things are happening: over a thousand bird names found racist have been officially changed at least in one Scandinavian language.

          3. Your perspective was really interesting to hear, speaking personally.
            And happy Sámi International Day.
            (I’m on the west coast of the US, so it’s the morning of the 6th here)

      2. Yes, I agree with the terminology not being very clear. Here in Sweden, xenophobia and racism is used interchangeably in everyday conversation, and only recently there are people using terms for white and people of color instead of the previous ethnicity-based terminology.

        I’m not sure sure the sami and roma would be considered white in the north-american sense of white, as I understand it in north-american discussion white and people of color refers more to the history of the group rather than the looks or skin color. So a colonized people like the sami would be considered people of color since they shared that history.

        I’ll go look at the links since you found them useful.

    3. I am not sure what hair you are splitting here? Also, Europe has:

      a) PLENTY of racist, colonial history, slavery, etc. to go around
      b) large populations of not-white immigrants who enjoy lower standards of living, racist violence, worse medical outcomes, less access to social safety net than white Europeans
      c) deeply entrenched attitudes of anti-blackness and Islamophobia
      d) racist traditions that everyone argues are harmless (Black Pete in The Netherlands) even when they are clearly fucked up
      e) anti-immigrant policies, detention and legal harassment of refugees and undocumented people that falls heaviest on non-white immigrants
      f) ethnic cleansing of racial minorities (like Roma)
      g) a BURGEONING Far Right movement

      Let’s keep in mind:
      h) We don’t know the origin country or race of the Letter Writer – the Letter Writer used ‘borderline racist” to describe the comments
      i) Xenophobia is distinct when it’s not based on race but it lives next door to racism and I would argue that very few deeply xenophobic white people are totally free of racism.

      Let’s go with a policy “if someone describes something they’ve experienced as racist, we can just go with that as the description for it” for purposes blog comments.

      1. Thank you! Whether this is “xenophobia” or “racism” doesn’t matter, I don’t see how one is “better” than the other. The distinction doesn’t even make sense to me when it comes to people’s experiences. Most of the time, it really sounds like people are grappling to find ways to excuse bigotry.

        And as a European, I’m really annoyed by people who make bullshit claims like “sure, Roma people are treated as subhumans in my country, but that’s totally not like racism in the US! They’re not even black, so it’s not racist, amirite?”. Please. No.

        1. I’m also sooo annoyed by this bullshit. Just replace Roma with First Nations and you have my Canadian experience.

      2. I had a POC friend choose to move to Houston Texas because they found it less racist and where they were living in Scandinavia. They were living in a major “progressive” city in the region.

        There is a lot of racism in Europe.

        1. This. I stayed with a host family in southern Germany and I discovered some time later (thankfully having never USED said word) that the only German word for a black person I’d ever picked up from hearing it from other kids was NOT one you want to use.

          1. Yeah, I saw that word on a public service announcement/ad posted on public transportation in a remote suburb in the Alps. The cartoon used to illustrate the ad extremely racist, so I asked someone for context and a nuanced history of the word, like, “How is this remotely okay?!? It’s not, is it? Because the illustration was really offensive.” It was really alarming. This was in 1998, by the way, not 1938.

        2. A friend of mine in the USA married a Swedish man. After visiting his lovely family, they decided he would emigrate to the USA (after finishing his tuition-free Master’s program) instead of her emigrating to Sweden. Although the weather was a factor (she’s a California native) the primary reason is that the rest of the community would not accept someone who was Obviously Not Swedish. Besides her limited Swedish with an American accent, she looks like her Greek father instead of her blue-eyed blonde mother. Olive-skinned, cloud of nearly black curly hair, petite.

      3. I’m not sure why non-europeans take such a hostility to us europeans describe century-long history of discrimination on ethnicity-based grounds in Europe; I can assure you that we don’t mention these problems as a comment on rascism, rather we mention them because they, just like sexism and other -isms, are serious problems here in Europe. As the title mentioned xenophobia, it seems fair to also comment on xenophobia and not limit the discussion to racism.
        I can also assure you that as an European, I already know about racism in Europe, it seems very condescending to receive a lecture on racism in Europe just because we don’t mention racism in every comment on this site.
        Society has many problems, let’s remember it’s no competition about who has it worst, we can discuss all the problems.

        1. I think some people have a hair trigger for it because “that’s not racism, it’s [other form of bigotry]” is a common derailing tactic in US conversations. It happens here a lot when there is some kind of bigotry that overlaps with race (for example, religion) and thus maps onto how racism functions here. But if you include, say, Islamophobia in a discussion about racism, Super “Logical” Rules Lawyer Guy That Pretends English Only Works In The Most Literal Way Possible pops up and starts a completely pointless and unhelpful conversation about whether or not Islamophobia is racism because Muslim isn’t a race.

          Which doesn’t mean the behavior you’ve experienced isn’t obnoxious. In US-centric spaces especially us Americans tend to forget (or not realize in the first place) that our country operates differently than others and that includes whatever layered-in bigotries are present. Sigh.

        2. I can’t speak for others, but just about every time I read a news article about some comment or act that happened in a European country and that certainly appears to be racist, I see LOTS of comments from people claiming to be European or from the country in question, talking about how Europeans (or the majority ethnic group of whatever country the article is about) are not at all racist, and Americans just see racism everywhere because we’re the real racists. LOTS. Lots of “that’s not racist, and nobody is offended” and lots of “only Americans are racist.” So whenever I see someone from Europe piping up to say something that looks like they’re saying “racism isn’t the problem here!” I automatically think “here we go again.” Apparently there are plenty of people in Europe who are not actually aware that racism exists there.

          1. That’s because every news article on the internet has LOTS of stupid people commenting on it. 🙂
            I mean, there are a lot of people in Europe. Surely you don’t think commenters on news articles spouting idiocy are a good or fair representation of all of Europe, right?

    4. Given that the LW said “almost racist,” I don’t see a good reason for objecting to comments using that term for these specific rude, bigoted, xenophobic remarks. That the people saying the racist things “wouldn’t regard it as racism” is meaningless; “I’m not a racist but…” and “I don’t want to sound racist but” are fairly reliable indicators that what follows will be racist.

      Also, LW didn’t say where she lives; she might be in the US or Canada. (I could write a much longer comment about the rest of this, but it would be derailing the thread.)

  21. Tell them his posts crossed a line and he would not back off when asked.

    They will have one of three reactions:

    They will back you up and tell him he went over a line. Then they will enforce the boundary as a group.

    The will ignore it or try to spackle over the conflict.

    They tell you that you are over sensitive or it would hurt his feelings to tell him “knock it off”

    If they do anything other than fully back you up, then you know they value him more than they value you. Or that they are cowards.

    That’s harsh, but it is sometimes the reality in friend groups.

    If a friend group protects a bully over a victim it’s wother that they prefer the bully of that they are moral cowards. That’s understandable at 12. Not at 32.

  22. Oh, dear LW, may you have lots and lots of strength! The Captain’s advice is yet again spot on – but I understand how much energy it takes to take the final step, to call this stupid bully out of his disgusting behaviour.

    Do you know any of the other members of this group better than the others? Perhaps you could begin this discussion with finding people for Team You, people whom you believe to be supportive? Other people of colour (or people who are in a minority for other reasons)? Then, with their support and encouragement calling out the bully’s bad behaviour might be less scary.

    I have been bullied throughout my life and I have seen the pattern repeat itself time after time. There is the bully (or bullies), the bullied person(s) and then the people watching from the sidelines, and those people watching it all happen play a key part. Unfortunately people tend to be timid, they tend to avoid “taking sides” or then they just fade away. From your letter I understood that you have not spent as much time in the group (no wonder!) but have you noticed any people spending less time in the group recently? How do other people in the group react? Do they lol or do they change the subject? Is there anyone who constantly does the changing subject – because that person might be an ally.

    Dear LW, please, be gentle to yourself. You have done nothing wrong, to the contrary, you have been wronged. Insulting anyone because of their heritage, country of origin, colour of their skin… it is just inexcusable. I do not know whether it is any comfort to you, but 200 years ago my country did not exist, either, not as an independent country. What an absolutely stupid notion.

    Sorry, I got sidetracked. Let’s not spend any more thoughts on that buffoon, let’s think of someone far more important: you. What I am worried about is your well-being. Now is definetely a time to gather as many friends and close ones around you as possible and to do things you enjoy so that you can gather strength. Please, take good care of yourself and if possible talk to someone about this situation so you can as calmly as possible assess how to approach this issue. I hope, just like The Captain, that there no danger of a physical threat.

    If (and hopefully when) you have gathered Team You you could tell then, for example: “I am sorry I lied about blocking [racist]. I did it because I have been bullied before and the bullies used the same lines he tells as “jokes”. I feared that my sense ouf humour could be considered lacking and it made me very anxious. This group is very important to me and I wanted you all to think well of me but I just could not take those comments anymore. They hurt me and I find them racist. Could you please help me in this matter?”

    Thinking about you having to apologize anything makes me cringe, but I added it because I thought it might help you with forming a Team You inside this group. I am sure there are people in this group who have not enjoyed these “jokes”. They might feel guilty and blame themselves of cowardice and mainly the apology is there to put these feelings behind them, making it about you and your well-being, not about their feelings.

    I am so sorry you have had to endure those comments and I only wish I could be of more use.

    Still, I am absolutely sure of two things: you rock – and your heritage is wonderful! No matter how long the country has been on the maps, the area and the people and their cultures have existed for a long, long time – and you exist, a proof of a continuum of ancestors, of wonderful and inspiring stories, knowledge and history.

    Take care of yourself!

  23. LW, I want to talk about one line that jumped out at me:
    “…I don’t understand why he can’t accept me as at least both nationalities.”

    This made my heart hurt. LW, I have no good answers for why the xenophobes of the world can’t do this. Frankly, I don’t think they are worth the mental effort. But they can’t, or won’t, and at a certain point, we who are the targets of their xenophobia have to cut them loose. It is not our burden to illuminate them.

    For many years, I was the lonely brown girl in a town/high school of white people, and I felt so hurt by all the people who saw only my “foreignness” (because brown=can’t-possibly-be-American, don’t ya know). At least let me be a hyphenated American, damnit!, was what I thought to myself. And I didn’t understand why I couldn’t be accepted “at least as both.”

    LW, you deserve a better friend than this. One who doesn’t mock your heritage, and hide in the coward’s refuge of “humor.” You don’t have to change his mind, or his behavior. That’s not on you.

    All the best to you—

  24. I am so grateful for this post. It’s so scary to tackle things like this, but seeing it spelled out so clearly and matter-of-factly makes it more obvious that it needs to be done.

  25. People are all like “humour pushes boundaries! It’s not a bad joke just because it is offensive!”

    And like… it isn’t being offensive that makes it a bad joke. It’s that it isn’t funny. Jokes need to be funny otherwise they aren’t jokes.

    OP it sounds like you don’t want to ~make things awkward and uncomfortable~. But guess what? Things are already awkward and uncomfortable… it is just that you are bearing all of that discomfort yourself. Redistribute some of that awkwardness back where it belongs.

    1. I’ve seen a lot of “that’s not funny!” comments in this thread, and they bother me. I don’t think “funny or not?” is the issue. The fact that the joke is offensive IS what makes it bad.

      Imagine Xenophobic Pal makes an offensive joke that’s really funny. Does that make it OK? No?

      Well, then, do you think you could never, ever find a racist joke amusing? Maybe you couldn’t, but other people can and do. Does that make it OK for them to tell those jokes? No?

      Well, then, do you think that you and people with a similar sense of humor are The Sole Arbiters of Funny? People with a dissimilar sense of humor obviously won’t agree with you, but even aside from that, do you really want to take on the thankless task of judging humor? “That’s not funny, it’s xenophobic!” “That’s funny! Everyone’s allowed to laugh!” “That’s not funny! Not because it’s racist or anything, it’s just a terrible pun!”

      Funny is not the point. Nobody needs an excuse to object to offensive remarks.

      1. Yep, this is a really great comment. Lots of racist jokes actually ARE funny (to me, for a reason unrelated to their racism), and…

        They still aren’t appropriate to tell!

        1. To be clear, by “funny racist jokes” I don’t mean jokes where the punchline is “and he was [race],” but the kind of jokes where someone is described as being of x race to add an “extra” layer of humor for racist people but would be funny by themselves, like the race version of a lot of Dumb Blonde jokes, which are usually jokes that actually have a funny set-up and punchline all on their own if they were being told as “the person tried to disguise themselves as a potato sack and said ‘potato potato potato’!” But then they attribute the punchline to a blonde woman because now it’s also a joke about how blonde women are dumb, rather than just how silly the behavior would be.

          1. I don’t understand.

            It sounds like you’re referring to jokes where the “funny” part is one of the following types. (If not, please correct me.)
            – Someone is a member of a group and conforms to a negative stereotype of that group.
            – Someone is a member of a group and – surprise!- doesn’t conform to a negative stereotype of that group.

            Both types can be funny within the group otherwise, not so much.

          2. No, I’m referring to jokes that are jokes whether or not it references a particular identity as associated with the person doing an absurd thing, that a racist is telling badly by describing the absurd actor as “x race” superfluously because they think it’s “extra” funny if the joke ALSO can be used to mock someone of a certain race.

          3. As an example: “did you hear about the man who got backaches whenever he sat at his desk?

            He wasn’t sure what was causing it, but he had a hunch” is a joke I find funny.

            I once heard it told as “did you hear about the [ethnic group] man who got backaches whenever he sat at his desk?” And I still found THE JOKE, which is that “hunch” has two meanings, funny. But it was now also a racist joke that I found offensive, and nobody should tell that second joke.

          4. Ah. Ok, then we’re talking across each other. (I’m likely to ask the jokester why they threw in ethnicity or race, as it doesn’t add anything, and confused me.)

          5. Yeah, that’s also a fair response to that type of racist joke! I tend to believe that people who add this type of “color” (pun not intended) to their jokes are largely the same group of people who tell racist jokes that are jokes 100% about race, so I tend to take the “that was kindof racist” approach straight off.

        2. That makes sense. An easy example is accent jokes, which I often privately consider funny – a pun or wordplay occurs when someone from Group says X in Stereotypical Accent. Without the stereotype, the pun doesn’t work. But the humor value isn’t worth propegating the rude/racist attitude.

          On the other hand, there’s the jokes that boil down to ‘Members of Group are so [stereotypical, generally negative quality] that [punchline].’ Those are (at least in my opinion) both less polite AND less funny.

      2. I get your point. Here’s why I’m going to disagree. The jokes and comments we are talking about are those in which the “funny” parts are the bigoted stereotypes. Thus, without the bigotry there’s no joke.

        1. I’m not sure what you’re disagreeing with. There are people who DO find that kind of joke funny, so saying it’s not just leads to an argument about who defines “funny”. Saying that bigoted stereotypes offend you is inarguable.

          1. I haven’t experienced the argument you describe. Instead, one of the following things happens:
            – “She’s going all feminist on us again. Shit.” And the subject changes.
            – Them: But it is funny because [bigoted explanation]
            Me: You really went there.
            Dead silence for a bit. Someone says something else entirely.
            – “Aw c’mon.” Subject change.


          2. This is also true–there are a lot of jokes told by commedians of color that I find REALLY FUNNY but would be racist jokes if I told them, like jokes about police violence against minorities. When a person of color tells them, it’s immediately clear from context that they’re making fun of the absurdity of racist policing, but if white-girl-me told them it really wouldn’t be clear in most contexts that I wasn’t actually making fun of people getting shot. Especially because some white people tell really similar jokes and are REALLY CLEARLY MAKING FUN OF PEOPLE GETTING SHOT, and apparently find that funny.

      3. Yeah, I think that “what is funny” is a semantic sinkhole; just naming the thing, asking for it to stop, and refusing to debate gives you more sticking power.

        “I hate that joke, it’s racist/transphobic/sexist/etc., please stop.”
        “But it’s a joke! I’m being so funny, can’t you tell?”
        “I said I hate it. Please stop.”
        “It’s not homophobic! Mary Sue’s a lesbian and she smiled uncomfortably, I saw her! Look, she’s right over there avoiding eye contact!”
        “I hate it. I want you to stop.”
        “You just can’t take a joke.”
        “Okay? Then stop telling them to me? I’m gonna go catch up with Mary Sue.”

        If you want to argue about whether or not I hate your joke, there’s a brick wall behind me that would love a good debate.

      4. To me it’s not as much about the joke as about the action. Not “that’s not funny” but “joke-telling is not what he’s doing.” Insulting and needling are what he’s doing. It looks different even with the sound turned off. And many people will notice once it’s pointed out — he’s just being an ass and nothing else.

        For sure, even if he were telling jokes, bigoted ones, he should stop. There are multiple reasons he should stop and they’ll all good reasons, I think it’s okay not to use the most generalizeable one.

  26. Oh yeah, I had a “friend” do this in group chats – not necessarily the racist part, but minimizing my opinions and arguing with everything I said. I had already asked mutual friends not to invite me places where he would be, but they’d “surprise” me with him. One day he was arguing on my Facebook post that I was wrong about a place in my own city, that he didn’t live near. I blocked him. I got called out by a friend for being “childish” for not arguing further.

    What helped was individually pulling other friends aside and saying, I don’t enjoy any interactions with this dude, he deliberately makes them unpleasant, he evades my attempts at redirection, and this is the natural response to that. After a few stupid stunts by other friends (trying to add me back to groups I’d left to avoid the guy, screenshotting conversations I’d deliberately removed myself from) I finally made people understand that I don’t have to like the guy and put up with his obnoxious behaviour just because they do. My life is much richer for his absence.

  27. GAH, I hear the LW about worrying that others will suddenly decide she’s being No Fun for not putting up with a bully bigot.

    I friended someone on Facebook a ways back who regularly commented on things in the news or the cultural zeitgeist from a First Nations perspective, which is why I always looked forward to his posts. But not long after, he started posting that if more than something like 20% of his posts mentioned any kind of First Nations perspective or anything about being of First Nations heritage, some people would give him flak claiming that he was ONLY talking about First Nations thoughts/things.

    I’m guessing the LW is worried, rightly, about the same effect, which will be even more strict because women are really not supposed to have negative opinions of any guy ever in our culture.


  28. Dear LW,

    You are so not at faul.

    This guy is acting cruelly.

    I hope you will be able – soon – to say to the group I am of the group he keeps making fun of. I don’t find his “jokes” funny. I find them rude. I hope other people will help stop this behavior.

    I also hope you’ll be able to tell the group that you’ve blocked him because of his behavior.

    Jedi hugs if you want them.

  29. https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=O1YS-yDW2Y8

    Hope the link works, Waititi knocks it out of the park.

    A decent person desists when requested, LW. My kids call me on the stupid shit I occasionally say & do when it’s necessary & I appreciate it because I’m generations behind them & I don’t want or mean to be offensive. Their world is so different to the one I grew up with, the norms I learned are no longer relevant & once you stop learning, you’re calcifying. Acceptance, non judgement & respectful curiousity are acceptable but defence of outdated, uninformed bullshit is not.

  30. What the Captain said. For strategy, do you have some either closer friends in the group, or some people who are more aware than this guy? Maybe privately talk to them to see if they’d have your back when stuff like this comes up. As said up-thread, as much as it’s totally unfair, protests seem to carry more weight when they come from the same privilege-group

  31. I remember when I lived in a different country, my acquiantances weren’t racist towards me, but said horribly xenophobic things to me about other groups. I called them out, and mostly was surrounded by people saying “lighten up.” So I sort of know how you feel (though it wasn’t directed at me). I would do as everyone else has suggested and say, clearly, that what he’s saying is unkind and not funny, and frankly let it hang there for people to respond to. I know for me, the people who told me to lighten up did not stay my friends, and you might find these things out. Which can be scary – I didn’t really have other friends at the time, and no one wants to be isolated. But ultimately it’s better than people who don’t support you, I feel.

  32. When one person decides to block another (or to cool a friendship or to avoid social gatherings where the other is or to enforce boundaries in any way), they generally do it to protect themselves. They’re removing themselves from something unpleasant (or rude or violent). They figure they can’t control the other person’s actions, but they can at least make sure they’re not around it (or in danger). But here’s the funny thing. The boundaryless person interprets the withdrawal as punishment. It becomes “why are you doing this to me.” They don’t ask themselves what they might have done to cause the withdrawal. And then, as in this case, they often play the victim card.

    Friends have asked why you’ve blocked him. The answer is: “I’m avoiding his racist jokes.” That way, if the friends try to argue that the jokes aren’t racist, you can say “you may not think so, but I do so I’m avoiding him.” This works for any defense they give, anything along the lines of “he didn’t mean it” or “can’t you take a joke.” You just say “whatever, I didn’t want to hear any more lectures (or information) about my ethnicity and country of heritage from him.” You’re not punishing him; you’re just removing yourself. Again, the friends might sidestep. They can say that the information isn’t incorrect, and you counter “whatever. I didn’t want to hear it.”

    Alternately, your friends might step up. They should. Let’s hope they do. They can say choose to tell him to knock it off. They can avoid him too. They can express concern that they’d never seen it that way before.

    Either way, you can tell them “please stop sending me screenshots.”

    1. This is a good approach, that will also weed out people who definitely do not have your back, as it forces them to either accept that you don’t want to have anything to do with the guy, or explain exactly why they think you should have to make yourself uncomfortable by subjecting yourself to his ‘humour’ just to assuage his feelings.

      In fact you could even say something to the effect of “I blocked him because I have asked him to stop talking shit about my country. He persists, and I don’t want to further subject myself to his snark about my background. Are you saying that in order to spare his feelings I should disregard my own? Is that what I am hearing?”

      1. I have a facebook friend, a distant relative, whose humor I don’t like. It’s not racist or offensive in the usual sense. It’s just on the level of 5 year old potty mouth humor, jokes that come down to bad toilet smells. I have no idea why this otherwise kind and sensitive adult feels a need to share cartoons of such scatalogical nature, but I have no desire to run across them in my newsfeed either. So I’ve blocked the jokes in as much as I can without blocking him totally. I’ve never told anyone why I’ve done so, but if the situation arose where I had to, I’d just say that I don’t find the jokes funny. I’d say it in a non-accusing way because I’m really not accusing him. Plenty of people must love that humor. We don’t have to agree on what’s funny. My point is that it doesn’t matter if LW’s friends agree that this guy’s comments are racist and offensive. It doesn’t matter that she was bullied earlier or that she knows more about her country of ancestral origin than he does. She just doesn’t want to hear from him, and she doesn’t need anyone to back her up for her opinion to have merit. Her decision doesn’t have to go before a court of her other friends because it’s not a subject for debate. I’m not suggesting that racist jokes are the equivalent of poopy jokes. One is objectively more horrible than the other, but the conclusion is the same. You get to decide what you want to put up with and who you want to be friends with out of a larger group. No one else has a vote in this.

  33. — “why have you blocked him?”

    “You know why.”

    — Am I being irrational?


    — Are they entitled to an explanation?

    also No.

    — Are there any scripts you could possibly give me?

    Everything you need is already inside you! ❤

    "he keeps sending quite rude (almost downright racist) messages over a group chat"
    "(he) lectured me (quite patronizingly)"
    "he can’t accept me"
    "I used to be bullied"
    "and his behaviour is similar to how it started out"

    — (also, they know I get upset about it but I don’t expect them to do anything).

    You should though.
    Good Luck

  34. LW should definitely avoid this “friend” who continues to send rude and racist messages to her.

    I’m actually more upset that the other friends ask her why she blocked him and send screenshots to her/post in group chat. Unless they are completely naive or clueless, they should know why she blocked him. If someone is talking crap about a ethnic group that my friend is part of or saying rude, false things about the country that group comes from, I know it and will most likely tell them to knock it off.

    I think LW should use the scripts from CA and/or the commenters. Tell them why and if they continue to send along message or try to get you to reconsider by using the “he didn’t mean it/thought it was funny/can’t you take a joke” tacit, I would block them all.

  35. Mark Twain said that it is easier to be honest, because you have only one story to remember. Be honest to your friends. “[Friend] is sending me racist jokes about my heritage, and it is making me feel uncomfortable in the chat.”

    Same with friend, “You have said a lot of things that is making me uncomfortable. Please stop saying [thing about my race].”

    If friend or others complain about “not taking a joke” and keep making them… well… the wonderful thing about chatrooms is that you can easily dump one and move on the another.

  36. So going through the comments, I noticed a common thread of “these friends suck and are kind of group-bullying you; ditch them all and find new friends.” I 100% sign on with the first part of this, but “find new friends” can sometimes be a really tall order, especially if you struggle with anxiety/depression.

    LW, you probably know at some level that your group isn’t really acting like a *friend* group. This lingering suspicion might even be feeding into your need to play along, not make waves, protect his reputation, etc. It’s probably feeding into why you’re so reluctant to confront him/them. If this is your main (or only) social circle, then all of this is probably even scarier because the stakes really are higher. But accepting this poor treatment has got to be soul-killing and is probably only further eroding your confidence.

    If saying the word “racism” is too scary, try saying “[Jerk] has said a bunch of things over the years that are kind of mean or just really hurt my feelings. I’ve tried asking him to chill out, but he doesn’t get it and keeps saying the same things. I like him because [actual thing] but I just need a break.” If pressed for details, maybe say “I don’t really want to get into it; [Asshead] doesn’t seem to understand what’s wrong with what he says to me and I’m super tired of explaining it. I just want to have fun with my friends, you know?”

    Friend: [Dipshit] wants to know why you blocked him.
    LW: I don’t know why he’s bothering you about this because he should already know. If he can’t figure it out without help, then he doesn’t deserve to be told.

    Friend: [Straight White Dude Entitlement Syndrome] says you blocked him. What’s up with that.
    LW: SWDES is [positive attribute list.] He’s also been a bad friend to me, specifically, so I decided to take a break from him, specifically. It doesn’t have to affect anyone else; I just got tired of trying to teach him how to stop being mean and insulting.

    Friend: I don’t understand why you blocked [Twit].
    LW: I don’t know why you haven’t! I just got tired of his obnoxious know-it-all bullshit. I mean, I tried being nice about it, but he just can’t take a hint.

    Group: OMG, why did you lie to us about blocking [Brad] !?!!1!1!!!??
    LW: I’m sorry you guys. I was just trying to be nice about it and not embarrass him because I didn’t want to explain stuff. It’s kind of private, you know?
    LW: I just wanted to be nice to [Brad.] I don’t dislike him, but he just keeps saying stuff that I’ve asked him not to say and I didn’t want to make a big deal out of it.
    Group: [Brad] says you never told him to stop
    LW: I don’t know why he thinks that. I guess I should have been meaner? I don’t know. He’s such a nice guy to everybody else so I don’t know why he has a problem with me.
    Group: Well, if he’s so great and you like him so much, why block him?
    LW: I guess I just wanted to keep liking him and the best way to do that was to stop seeing him saying shitty things.
    Group: Brad says he’s sorry.
    LW: He’s apologized before but he keeps being mean. I’m not ready to trust him yet. Maybe I’ll unblock him later.

    Are you still blocking [That Guy]?
    Yeah, I’m just not ready to deal with him yet.
    But whhhhyyyy?
    I dunno. He just seems to have a problem with me and is being really passive-aggressive about it. It’s actually really weird. I also really don’t like how he’s bringing everyone else into something private like this. It’s super not cool.

    quit being so passive-aggressive about [Twit]
    lol no he’s a jerk
    no he’s not
    he is to me! I just don’t like to gossip 😉

    This sort of self-effacing way of speaking is actually a cultivated way for women (typically) to disengage and deflect social danger. You can use it to your advantage if you think of it as a weapon instead of a shield. Deliberately turn around accusations so that they highlight his misbehaviour and transgressions. Damn straight it’s passive-aggressive! And probably unhealthy! But [Your Shitty Friend] is also breaking social rules by repeatedly disregarding your feelings and enlisting other people in your personal beef. You need to protect yourself with what you can use. While the best route is to stand up for yourself, if you can’t do that, do what you can to (1) continue keeping him blocked and (2) shut other people up when they bother you about it. This is partly about his racism, but it’s also about him just being mean/rude/insulting to you despite you (even indirectly) asking him to stop. You can always stop interacting with jerks, racist or otherwise. “He’s being a jerk” should always be sufficient explanation for ignoring someone.

    If people screencap and post your private statements, *then tease you,* drop them like a bunch of rocks. Your anxiety brain is right; they probably will gossip about you behind your back, but if they aren’t your friend group, that’s not your problem. Obviously, if you’re still in high school, this can be more of a challenge, but it’s easier than you think to drift out of one friend group and into another, especially if you’re drifting on purpose!

    Regardless, try to invest more time in other people and less time in this group. If there’s folks who seem to be in your corner, try cultivating individual relationships with them, but this whole crowd has demonstrated way too much willingness to tolerate your feelings being hurt and not nearly enough willingness to call out xenophobia. *There are people out there who don’t tolerate racism.* You deserve to meet them.

  37. There’s not a lot of detail about the group that LW belongs to so maybe this is a suggestion for online groups in general…but is there a moderator or Administrator of LW’s group? If so, in addition to speaking up yourself, you should send a complaint to that moderator. This is the kind of behavior that would discourage new members from joining/participating and may make long-standing/existing members want to leave. Which would be a shame. There is no reason for one person to have this much control over others in the group and a moderator should put a stop to behavior like this, up to and including removing this jerk from the group. If this particular group doesn’t have a formal structure, then it is all the more imperative to speak up – tell other participants what’s happening, tell this jerk he’s being a jerk, even be prepared to leave the group if you still get a lack of support.

  38. Yeah, I am side-eyeing the rest of the friend group here – nobody in it ever sticks up for you and is like “Hey, Chad, that’s not cool!”? If not, why not? I would tell them the truth as soon as possible and let all the people who value “””keeping the peace””” over not being racist self-select out of your friendship.

  39. LW, if this guy is your friend, I’d hate to meet your enemies. I think it’s time to find a new friend, one who respects you and won’t belittle you or your history.

  40. LW, I’m Chinese, and I have gotten these types of comments too from people, so I can relate. I agree with CA and am glad that she brought the issue of racism to light. I don’t care if your instigator, LW, “meant” to be racist or not. What he did was still wrong, and he still should be called out on it. I know you don’t want to lose your friends, but what kind of friends devalue who you were created to be? Not true friends in my book. So I would just tell them right out that you don’t appreciate his comments and that those devalue people. If they say something like “Lighten up; it’s just a joke.” tell them that there is nothing funny about demeaning and devaluing people. There is enough hate in this world. Let’s counter it with love!

  41. This letter makes me hurt for you right from the beginning, LW. You say “I have a friend who I care about dearly” but it’s very clear to me that he doesn’t care about you…at all. I know that is hard to see and acknowledge, but people don’t talk this way to people they care about–ESPECIALLY not once they’ve expressed that they’re uncomfortable with it. There’s a tone to the things you’ve recounted that goes beyond “I was joking and just didn’t realize where the appropriate boundary was.” He’s specifically, aggressively targeting your heritage and the joking tone is just a cover to discourage other people from calling him on it.

    1. What comes to my mind is, “People who like you will *act like they like you.*” Dude is not acting like he actually cares about LW, to say the least.

  42. This story made me remember a fight I had with my husband recently.

    My little sister was deathly–deathly, frighteningly, hysterically–afraid of spiders as a child. She’s a grownup now, so she has learned how to control the expression of her fears, and she did once have a tarantula as a foster pet, but she still really doesn’t like them.

    For some reason, my husband started “sharing” spider pictures with her on Facebook. Which means they show up on her wall, or she gets a notification that “Mr. Toots shared a video on your wall,” and then she’d click on it.

    I would see this happen from my own feed, since we’re all “friends.” I kept thinking, “that’s mean, i wish he wouldn’t do that,” but I’d forget to bring it up. Then one time I was around him when I spotted it, and I said, “Why are you doing this? you know she hates them.” And he said, “it’s funny.” I said, “No, it isn’t, I don’t want you to do that anymore. Why would you think she would like that? Stop it.”

    Then about a month or so later, I was in the ROOM with him when he was about to post a spider on her wall. I said, “I thought I asked you not to do that.” He said, “But it’s a spider! It made me think of her!”

    Holy shit, did I let him have it. I pointed out that she was my sister, and I loved her, and that I’d spent her childhood holding her while she had hysterical reactions to spiders. And that he was proving that he was UNSAFE because he kept doing this. And that I didn’t want MY HUSBAND to be the one who was so insensitive to her. And that he was to never, ever, ever do it again.

    So, it’s not about race, but it’s a similar thing. “I know this one weird fact about you, and I’m going to use it to make a connection, but I’m going to ignore the negative emotions around it.”

    He wasn’t thinking empathetically. He’s not a horrible person, but he just saw it as some light teasing. But he kept doing it, over and over. And it was a sore spot (her phobia). And those just add up exponentially.

    For our OP, I might say a couple of things:
    * It was easy for me to say something here because it was my sister (and my *little* sister), and not me. If you want a script or a strategy, think about what you’d do or say if it was your younger sibling.

    Since this is a group chat, you could even make it an official thing:
    “Hey, Doug, and everybody else: I need to tell you all something. I am officially really tired of jokes or comments about my ethnic heritage, or Other Country. They’ve gone on too long, and they’re too negative (but frankly, I don’t want to hear any positive things either). I want to be able to enjoy the group chat without feeling attacked, even if people mean it in fun. It isn’t fun for me. I hope you can respect this request, since we’re friends.”

    Be “official” about it, if you’d like. Then you can craft something, sit on it for a day or two, and then send it.

    Be sure to add the “please respect my wishes” or “please let this be, and don’t pick at it.”

    Or, write one to the group that says, “Yes, actually, I have blocked Doug. That’s because it seems that the only way he can communicate with me is to make vaguely disparaging comments about Other Country, or my ethnicity. It’s gotten really, really old, and it’s gone on so long that it was starting to feel hostile. So I’m taking a break. I hope you can all respect my boundaries, since we’re friends, and just leave this alone.”

    (though I love, love, love boskage‘s script)

    1. This reminds me of a Miss Manners response, when someone wrote in asking something like “What’s up with these women’s libbers, they’re not ladylike?” and someone else wrote in asking, “Can I advocate for women’s rights and still be a lady?”

      And Miss Manners said (to paraphrase): Any lady who feels uneasy about demanding equal treatment for herself may simply decide that she is crusading for equal rights on behalf of all other women. Standing up for others being, of course, extremely ladylike.

      So that was obviously a while ago, because I haven’t heard “women’s libbers” used without irony since I was a toddler.

      Point being, I think it’s really 100% fair to hit the patriotism button* and say, “Hey, he was insulting my country! I don’t have to listen to him disparage my country, and all the people who live there and come from there.” which can be easier (for some people, I dunno) than saying “He was insulting me, he was making me upset.”

      *I’m sorry. Mine is really big, though, it’s hard not to bring it up.

    2. TootsNYC, I love your story and how you acted and defended your little sister. This also gives us perspective on the side of the person doing things like this. In your husband’s case he was clearly thoughtless and had not thought things through. Yor sister’s (quite common) arachnophobia had somehow become synonymous with your sister in his brain. I sympathize with you all in this; I was also very much afraid of spiders in my youth and I am happy that no-one saw me through my phobia but through my love of other kinds of animals, especially cats.

      I also wanted to second your love for boskage’s script. I actually tried to tell them that, but while I was writing my comment my computer crashed and I was too tired to write it all again.

  43. Thought experiment:

    LW, what if you gave yourself permission to view this “friend” from your position of intellectual and moral superiority over him, and allow yourself to feel some righteous contempt, not only for his views, but for him, personally?

    Like, it’s not possible to have “good judgment” about a situation without rationally…you know…*judging.* And that’s what you’re doing here, rationally *judging* the inaccurate statements your “friend” is making, as well as his irrational conclusions.

    To put it more colloquially, your “friend” is stupid, and what he says is stupid. You’re not stupid, and it’s okay feel really good about that. It’s okay to feel good about being objectively *better than his stupidity.* What if you just enjoyed that feeling for a while?

    There can be a tremendous amount of social currency in having hurt feelings, but focusing on one’s hurt feelings can sometimes block the ability to be correctly dismissive of the source of the hurt feelings. Again, this guy is stupid. You’re better than his stupid, so much better that his stupidity shouldn’t be able to touch your legitimate superiority over him. You have the power of being right! That’s the most important thing in the world, and you have it!

    What if you don’t apologize for having that power? What if you just wield that power, and enjoy wielding it?

    Because it’s hard to be hurt and anxious while you’re enjoying yourself, and, as a bonus, outwardly wielding that power can sometimes shut down stupidity before it gets very far, especially with the support of people you respect.

    You’re so much better than this guy, LW. Enjoy it, and, if you feel like it, you can deign to let him know that, too.

  44. You’re better than that whole group chat, LW. Taking screencaps of your private messages??? Supporting a confirmed bigot??? Asking why you blocked a known bigot??? Cut them loose and find some new friends.

    1. This was my initial reaction, too: anger at the hurtful member of the group and the seeming cowardice or the indifference of the others – and then I remembered all my own experiences and knew that it might not really be that easy, especially when the LW is suffering of anxiety, just like me.

      Groups of people do not come with the handy Dungeons & Dragons categorization of alignment: that person making continuous racist “jokes” is probably not chaotic evil and the others true neutral. I see this more as a group dynamic thing – and there may be a geek social fallacy of accepting everyone involved here.

      If we could actually provide the LW with another group of friends I would also advice her to take a break of the group to get some distance and to value it later with more perspective but we probably cannot. (Or can we? Because I would LOVE to be there for her. For some reason her letter has had a deep impact on me and I have thought of it and her a lot.)

      Groups can really go sour – or even be based on a very toxic dynamic and according to my own experiences the bystanders also suffer from it. It is just so that all groups are not that easily exchangeable. I reread the LW’s letter a few times and realized that we do not actually know how this particular group initiated. She does mention her tendency to anxiety – but that might not have anything to do for the existence of the group.

      Not wanting to disclose the circumstances of other people I use myself as an example. I am very passionately interested in the ways of storytelling, especially the Scandinavian school of role playing games and larps. Many of you are not probably that familiar with it so I will write a brief introduction. We see role playing games and larps not only as a source of entertainment but also as a source of education and art – and that means that we also write games of very serious or even disturbing matters, including racism, rape culture and living with a mental illness. As you can guess, these kind of games are not meant for entertainment but for education and promoting empathy and understanding. The games I have been writing have often been initiated from people wishing to share their own experiences, for example after periods in mental institution or after losing someone dear. They had had the lead and I (and the other co-writers) have offered their expertise and support. For me, one of the greates things in the world has been seeing them succeed, feeling empowered, seen, understood and accepted, as an equal.

      I am telling you this because I wanted to explain how many of the groups in which I have been have been created: around a shared, passionate interest and love for something, in this case, a particlar style of storytelling. As so often in geek circles, people come from very different backgrounds. Many have personal experiences of bullying – and this often leads to a group in which geek social fallacies are rampant. Getting to share a passion is fantastic – and very important – but it does not mean that people sharing it are perfect, often far from it. I have been belittled, my decades of expertise completely forgotten, I have encountered people who cannot function as a group if they do not have a common enemy – and most often I have experienced that people truly hate to be called out for sexist, homophobic or transphobic behaviour (And guess who tends to be the one to call them out? Sometimes I hate it that I seem completely unable to mind my own business if there is any sort of bullying involved.)

      So, what if this one group has a truly special meaning for the LW? Perhaps she just cannot find another, similar group easily. If it were a Game of Thrones fan club then finding another might be easy, but what if it is a group for passionate creators of amigurumi Cthulhu animated videos (uh, sorry for the weird example)? Perhaps there just are not that many people interested in this particular subject and this channel is one of the few possible ones. Changing from a geek group to another might also not be that easy since some groups are very opinionated on their interest. Suffering from anxiety and trying to change a group can get really rough when one has to face comments like: “Hey, you are from [gorup name]. I truly do not like the way you have portrayed amigurumi Nyarlathotep. The videos of your previous group are blasphemous!”

      If there were ways of helping a group through a crisis or correcting a distorted dynamic I would love to invest in those. Groups do need help to flourish, just as families and other kinds of intimate relationships do.

      1. I really appreciate this thoughtful reply. The easy advice is to just leave the group, and I don’t disagree with it – but I am glad to see people willing to acknowledge how difficult it is. I was in similar straits two years ago, and to my utter devastation, I discovered that setting boundaries around how one member of the group was allowed to treat me did, in fact, mean that I was ostracized from the group at large; even knowing now that I’m better off with people who will respect my boundaries, it’s still a really raw wound that’s severely impacted my ability to form new friendships in the city I ended up moving away to.

        If there were ways of helping a group through a crisis or correcting a distorted dynamic I would love to invest in those. Groups do need help to flourish, just as families and other kinds of intimate relationships do.

        This this this. LW, if your group is one that has access to these kinds of resources – if they’re based in a faith community, or part of an educational setting, or anything else that has even a little formal structure to it – my advice is to take advantage of those resources. If not, then I empathize with the difficult decision that’s before you, and I hope like hell these relationships, if they are as meaningful to you as they say they are, can be salvaged.

        1. Thank you, jaqbuncad – and I am so sorry that you have had to experience being ostracized after setting boundaries. The same has happened to me one time too many and I have also experienced the same effects you described, the raw wound that severely impacts one’s ability to form new friendships. I have some new friends but I am all the time waiting for them to leave and it seems I cannot help it.

          I have found out that the same principles apply to abusive relationships of all kinds: people stay in them for similar reasons. People are also abusive because of different reasons (and I definetely do not mean to say that I accept abuse). In one of the groups I belonged there was a lady who had suffered many hardships during her life. When she entered the group at first she was a great friend and then something changed: she started to order me and one other woman around and we were the ladies with most education in the group. I stll believe that behind her behaviour was her own feelings of being inadequate but still her behaviour was insufferable and abusive. We managed to create one project and after that the group just stopped existing.

          I still miss dearly my friends from that group (though not her that much; I realize that I can never have back the person she was when she joined the group) but they are all gone now, all changed and different. Still, if I somehow got to do it all again, I would because, creatively speaking, those were some of the most enjoyable things I have ever done.

          Take care, jaqbuncad!

  45. “Your country isn’t on this 200 year old map therefore it’s not real” is the dumbest thing I’ve heard in a while… well, aside from all the other racist, sexist, xenophobic stuff people like this guy like to say. I realize this is an aside, but by that criterion more than half of the countries in Europe aren’t “real” including, e.g. Germany.

    1. And 50 years ago, the country in which the good Captain lives was not “real,” by this metric. I hope LW sics an army of unicorns and dragons on him.

  46. If this guy, or other members of the group, give you pushback of ‘you never minded before!’, (setting aside the factor that said pushback gives you important information about them as people and friends), I”m a fan of the phrase ‘burned out’.

    -Hey Problem Guy, I’m getting burned out on the jokes/lecturing about my background. Can we not?

    -Yes, I blocked Problem Guy. I’m getting really burned out by his constant joking/lecturing about my background.

    The phrasing sidesteps the issue of ‘What, were you LYING about not minding before?!?!’; it emphasizes that you’ve been trying to grin and bear it for the sake of not making waves, but doing so is unpleasant for you, and you’re going to make an effort to start avoiding it for the sake of your emotional well-being.

  47. I’m reminded of an Ellen DeGeneris joke about people who say something nasty and immediately follow it with “Just kidding!” “Really? Well then, clearly you don’t know how to kid! You see, if you did, then we’d BOTH be laughing”.

    LW I get that you have anxiety and are feeling social pressure and this is hard but for your sake I hope you can establish some boundaries for yourself with this person and his terrible behavior. Honestly, what you are doing now is working very hard to make it as easy as possible for him to continue his hurtful nonsense AND cut yourself off from your friends who (hopefully!) would support you. All at great emotional cost! The abused staying silent doesn’t protect them, it protects abusers.

    1. I like the Ellen response, and the reading most charitable to the group is that they still see it as harmless kidding. If they watch South Park with Cartman’s casual misogyny and anti Semitism and anti-Canadianism, for instance, it might seem like this kind of thing is part of the zeitgeist. If most of their friends are white men, they might think we’re post-racial, post-everything. (Not defending, just… channeling a bunch of programmers I know.)

      It’s also very possible it is harder for the others to interpret the interaction because it is all online. Thus, there is reason to hope that the others are just ignorant and lacking in empathic imagination. If the LW helps guide their response, they might help redirect that guy. E.g. “X’s insults and bizarre fixation on my heritage are growing old, and I’m tired of listening to them. I can’t see how they’d still be entertaining for any of you.”

      Thought experiment: Would you be treated better/more neutrally if you rejoined with a fake identity? What would it feel like hiding that part of yourself vs. being vulnerable about it? Do you have emotional connections with folks you would lose as a n00b, or is it all just shop talk or commentary & snark about a common interest?

      (I don’t recommend actually creating a different persona, because it sounds like directness is path forward to wholeheartedly belonging to this community, but that might help you evaluate what you can expect from folks in the best case scenario.)

      Good luck, LW!

  48. Hey, LW, I’m sorry you’re having to deal with this. I hope you can end up with a friend group you can trust to support you in situations of this kind, whether that takes the form of your current friends or new ones.

  49. There’s a scene from the movie Ingrid Goes West where a brother character (I think) says something along the lines of, “That was a good racist story” or maybe it was… “Thank you for that racist story”, as he leaves the situation. Of course it is said with gentle sarcasm.

    IMO it was a funny scene, and when I watched it, I recall wanting to “save it for later”/pocket it. So here I am sharing such 🙂

    I’m thinking this would be a good way of relaying your feelings in a more Matter of Fact-ly manner. I don’t see a person reacting as defensively to this compared to if one said “you’re racist!”.

  50. Captain nailed it. Once again. I liked “people show you who they really are” when you say no. Such an elegant way to describe the root of the fear. I have had the same issue in past where I knew instinctively the person was being a bully but no one stood up including me and it was awful. This person is a jerk. I don’t think he is your friend. Why is it so important for him to fixate on you? Why is it so important to make these ‘jokes’ that aren’t funny. Something else is going on here. This isn’t funny and I’ve got a feeling you already know you are dealing with a bully. This may be a defining moment for this friend group. They either are worth your time or they are not. If you are afraid to find out right away I’d suggest branching out and finding more peeps. Titrate this with other interactions so if this group dies go south and you find they are all in for the bullying and they are not supportive you are not left without a group bc that’s pretty hard. Focus on people who don’t hurt you and spend more time there. Then if you like you can choose or not to call out the bully. You can choose not if you like you are always free to walk away and if someone asks why you can just say you don’t like him and you can give a reason or not. That’s YOUR story to tell if you choose and in your own time. Take care of you… Sorry but this guy sounds like a real jerk

    1. Because sometimes people are complicated? If you look at TootsNYC’s post above, I’m willing to accept that their husband is a decent person, and someone that [sister] would trust in many emergencies; but he still was an arsehole towards her. The two are not always exclusive. Maybe this person is an arsehole all of the time; maybe they’re only an arsehole online, or have recently moved deeper into arsehole territory, or maybe it just wasn’t as obvious under different circumstances.

      I’m not trying to excuse a ‘friend’ who is not acting friendly at all; just trying to understand why the LW might think of them as such. Whether they’re a safe person to continue to have a relationship with depends on how they react when called out; and the LW does not owe them any further ‘chances to prove that they’re a good guy, really’; that boat has sailed a long time ago.

  51. Why she considers the person a friend she cares about dearly could be all sorts of things and LW isn’t obligated to explain.

    I remember back in my younger days of feeling invincible and convinced of my great knowledge of things…it was really hard under certain situational/topical instances to stand up and say something and call out someone for doing things that made me/others/everyone uncomfortable/angry/generally DO NOT WANT. I had to get to the “hey! Look! All the fucks I do not give!” when it came to whether the person I was calling out and telling them to knock shit off might feel uncomfortable or even if they got outright hostile…and that took a while for me to reach. I’m not saying that everyone is like that, some never get there and others seem born there it’s so natural for them…. This does not mean LW’s friends are off the hook or that the indirect support of (asshole friend) at the expense of actually being good friends to LW shouldn’t be a problem with which they are confronted and called to answer for. Just that perhaps LW isn’t quite ready to do the confronting of (thing that is a problem) that is going on in (group of friends and/or coworkers). There are tons of good suggestions here already if that is the case – LW you aren’t the only one who needs/ed time to find their voice and the strength to draw the biggest red line and say “this is where it stops” to the jerks in the world who thinks they get to ignore boundaries and rules on how they get to treat you – or others like you, or anyone. You are stronger than you think though. 🙂

    An aside…

    I sat and considered for some time, the fact that in online interactions it can be difficult to correctly read the tone. The friends may not ‘get’ how the jerk is saying things would be upsetting to LW, or read LW’s responses as conveying “she is upset by xyz, we need to tell jerk to knock it off”. Depending on what is said or is not said, it also might be impossible for them to know there’s a problem without having the ability to read minds – it happens, people don’t communicate clearly (or think that a “it’s fine.” means it’s fine but really it means that things are NOT fine but one must guess why/how/what and the correct solution, which is a pretty shitty thing to deal with). This is stuff that the “yes but…there’s a process one must go through before they can do x!” part of me gets hung up on, and making sure that someone has communicated things ‘properly’ before writing a group of people off as bad friends/bad human beings. I spent way too long trying to guess what had upset an ex, trying to discern whether that day was going to be an okay one where I didn’t have to drop everything and rush home to try and fix whatever the problem was, or one where I wasn’t going to be allowed to leave at all because he woke up and decided something as trivial as not having the right expression on my face when he looked at me was grounds for physically abusing me. Since he was terrified that if I left or even had access to a phone, he would be arrested, the solution he had come up with was imprisoning me until…he no longer worried that I might be upset enough to get law enforcement involved…sometimes it was an hour, sometimes 2 days with very little sleep. Trying to figure out that when a text from him said he was “fine” never actually meant he was fine, and twisting myself imto pretzels to rationalize why I made placating him a priority, why a thing he was terrified of should be my focus rather than all the things he did to terrorize me which were things that he could stop and not have to worry about his big fear anymore! If you’re not committing violent crimes you don’t have to worry about getting arrested for them! Being with someone who expects a mind reader, amongst other things, can do a number on the brain. Adds lots of weasels to the thinking. -However, at some point the friends are not failing to read the emotional subtext, they’re choosing to ignore it.

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