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Let’s say you’re seating in the lunchroom chatting with your co-workers, and someone makes a racist (sexist, homophobic, black, or some other stereotype-based) joke. What do you do? Call him or her out on it and say goodbye to your work relationship – especially here in Dominica where everyone is quick to take everything on personal level. Don’t say a thing (and imply that it’s ok). So what do you do if a co-worker is making racist jokes about someone?

My recommendation? Play dumb. Put on a confused expression, act as if you don’t understand the joke, and ask your co-worker to explain it to you. He/She will not be able to explain why the joke is funny without evoking a racist stereotype. You can then question the stereotype, thus pointing out the racism of the joke, without being offensive and without humiliating your co-worker. Racist jokes rely on an unspoken, shared knowledge of racist stereotypes. Some might go far as saying that without the stereotypes, there is no humor.

Everyone’s been in this uncomfortable situation before. How have you dealt with it? How will deal with it if the situation presents itself? Share with us your knowledge on racist stereotypes in the comments.

How to Deal with a Racist Joke at Work [lifehacker]

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10 Comments »

Comment by Dan
2008-10-06 10:37:08

My personal rule has always been “if it is racist, it isn’t funny”.

My own personal situation is an interesting one. Ethnically, I am the child of Jewish parents. But my mother married a Christian after she and my father divorced, and he adopted me after my father died, giving me his last name. My original surname was distinctly Jewish.

The result of all this was that people who were anti-Semitic were unguarded in their comments around me. It would have been very easy for me to take advantage of their ignorance and prejudice, but I never did. Instead I would ask they what in particular they did not like about Jews, or believed about Jews. Often they would become confused or flustered, and give reasons that made no sense at all or indicate that they really new knew nothing about Jews and were only repeating what they’d been taught. Then I would look them in the eye and tell them about my ethnic identity and give them a bit of an education.

It is interesting to note that the nazi position on Jews, while it exploited deep religious prejudices, treated Jews as a race, not as a religious group.

What I know is this: One can never truly experience another person’s life and feelings at the deepest level, but in all cases prejudice is stupid and wrong.

Comment by Cristie
2009-02-19 16:31:04

I agree with you. Being prejudice is out right wrong and very disrespectful. I’m actually dealing with some racial and ethical issues in my workplace and I stumbled upon this site. I think it’s so wrong to judge someone just because of their religion or race. I always view people by their character. I try my best to show everyone the same amount of respect that I expect to receive in return.

 
 
Comment by Dan
2008-10-06 21:18:02

One clarifying remark: You use the word “homophobic”. That word is politically-correct slang. Deconstruct the word and it means “irrationally fearful of homosexuals”.

Contrasted to things people are (race, gender), homosexuals are distinguished by their behavior, not by what they are. Unless, that is, one recognizes that they behave as they do because they are unwell mentally.

But just as we don’t tolerate the behavior of mentally-ill pederasts, we should not tolerate
homosexual behavior.

We should not be prejudiced against mentally ill people, but neither should we consider them normal.

And we should not use slang terms. Use “homosexual” and not “gay”. Use “repelled by, or disapproving of, homosexual behavior” and not “homophobic.

In high school (health class) my daughter once referred to heterosexuals as “straight” and was admonished by the teacher that “straight” implied that “gays” were crooked or bent. She asked whether “gay” implied that heterosexuals were then “sad”.

George Orwell in “1984” (see his NewSpeak Dictionary) showed that one can control thought by controlling language. That it the objective of those who enforce politically correct speech.

A person who disapproves of or is repelled by homosexual behavior is not prejudiced.

There is no such thing as homophobia.

Comment by Suki
2008-10-07 09:46:47

Dan,

I’m surprised that you feel so strongly against those who are homosexual that you would continue to make it a point that something is wrong with someone who chooses to express their love for someone of the same sex. Of course, you know my position on the matter so that there is no point in restating my position, however, I would like to again, be on record saying that a person who chooses to make disparaging remarks or jokes about an individual’s sexual preference is indeed guilty of prejudice. I am of course not suggesting that you would do that I am simply saying that it is equally distasteful, unacceptable and yes, homophobic. Just because you don’t like it doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. It is no different than someone who tells me that they are not racist, they just disapprove or are repelled by a person of a different race – if the shoe fits, don’t be afraid or embarrassed to wear it.

Homophobia
NOUN:

1. Fear of or contempt for lesbians and gay men.
2. Behavior based on such a feeling.

Psychologist and gay activist George Weinberg coined the term homophobia in his 1972 book Society and the Healthy Homosexual,[6] published one year before the American Psychiatric Association voted to remove homosexuality from its list of mental disorders.[7] Weinberg’s term became an important tool for gay and lesbian activists, advocates, and their allies.[8] He describes the concept as a medical phobia[9]:

a phobia about homosexuals….It was a fear of homosexuals which seemed to be associated with a fear of contagion, a fear of reducing the things one fought for — home and family. It was a religious fear and it had led to great brutality as fear always does.[8]

 
 
Comment by Dan
2008-10-07 22:54:43

I have no problem with anyone loving another person. I do have a problem with two men having oral and/or anal sex with each other, or two women having oral sex with one another.

My oldest friend of 60 years now is a psychiatrist. He told me that Weinberg’s book and the APA vote were political expediencies that don’t hold up medically. He continues to treat people who do not wish to be homosexual and who themselves view their impulses as an illness.

I disagree with religious teachings. They have no scientific basis.

I would no more joke about a homosexual than I would about any person with a disability or medical condition. It is not a laughing matter. It is sad. I feel sorry for homosexuals.

I will not comment further on this matter.

Comment by Suki
2008-10-08 15:59:59

I made a typo below and meant to say “A” rather than “An”. Your feeling sorry for homosexuals is reminiscent of Sarah Palin’s comment that she “tolerates” homosexuals *SIGH* – I hope that the day does not present itself when you may have to rely on one of these “sick” individuals to help you.

I must admit though that I am saddened by the thought that it would probably not matter how much “scientific” evidence you were presented with, you are not open to considering the possibility that homosexuality is normal. It is like the theory of the Bell Curve, there are people who will never accept the fact that black people are just as intelligent as anyone else no matter how many scientific studies provide evidence that black people are equally intelligent.

Just food for thought.

 
 
Comment by Dan
Comment by Suki
2008-10-08 15:46:39

How I am glad that heterosexual people are incapable of such acts… 🙄 Really ❗ ❓ An person who commits that kind of act is just sick.

 
Comment by Jake H. Subscribed to comments via email
2009-12-03 14:09:41

It’s always funny how anti-prejudice articles always bring out the unabashed bigots. Mr.
“Nah, I’m not homophobic … they are just diseased and worthy of only constant ridicule … here are some of my approved slants” And don’t freak out by the B word. I use it sparingly, and you surely fit the bill (if your other posts were not proof enough, your last was shameless and completely uncalled for).

And your prejudice is base only on actions? What actions? Gay men don’t have attractions or do anything intrinsically that isn’t expected of half of the population (women), and if your only talking about anal sex then your more than a bit misguided as to the rates they do that compared to everyone else (heterosexuals). You have a problem with their gender / biology probably far more than their actions.

Just another sad asshole too morally weak to not live on the backs of others.

PS: The APA changes, though probably expedited by politics, are incredibly sound medically and only continue to be strengthened by later research. You and your little friend are wrapped up in a conspiracy theory as unfounded and fear/ignorance based as the witch hunts of the past … though I quite doubt ANY reality will change your pre-decided prejudices.

 
 
Comment by Ginette Subscribed to comments via email
2010-12-13 07:20:24

my husband is white, other white men don’t know his wife is a black Dominican woman, so they take liberties that usually will get my husband angry, and they don’t understand why until they meet me, then they act all funny around him. When we (black people) aren’t around, 50% of white people, when they think it’s safe, will make ‘black jokes’. Especially at work.

 
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