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Do black people eat pizza?: Prejudice in real life.
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Oct 10th 2006 edited

OK, then, let's really stir the melting pot here. I don't think I'm overgeneralizing when I say that probably all of us have encountered prejudice somewhere, from someone, at some time. Unfortunately, it's all around, and I'm sure most of us can think of dozens (or hundreds...or more) of times when it has reared its ugly head around you somewhere. Maybe it was directed at you, maybe you heard someone make a derogatory comment about an entire group of people. Case in point: a few weeks ago I was on the phone with a woman I know casually and have probably spoken to a total of five times. The conversation was going swimmingly, when she suddenly made a comment about interracial dating and marriage; her exact statement, in regard to her own family, was, "we don't cross-pollinate." I was stunned, as usual; I'm not that naive, but for some reason, it never fails to surprise me that some people think like that, never mind verbalize their feelings (plus, like I said, I barely know this person, so I was especially surprised that she'd make a comment like that, out of nowhere, when we'd never had any conversations previously that even broached the subject from a distance, and she certainly had no reason to believe that I shared her feelings about this). And I think I've also briefly touched on the fact that I used to work with teachers who thought nothing of making degrading statements about students (behind their backs, of course) based on race, religion, financial status, etc.

So I'm wondering: what do you say to the person when faced with these types of situations? I don't mean what do you wish you had the guts to say; I mean how do you actually handle it? I'm curious. Does it depend on the person speaking? The situation? The comment itself? What do you do?

This really does relate to "The Office," since Michael makes some shockingly ignorant statements and assumptions (he assumes that Stanley's wife must be black in "The Dundies"; he wonders if black people eat pizza in "Boys & Girls"; and in "Diversity Day"...well, pick almost any scene). It's really hard to believe sometimes that an adult in today's culture could truly be so ignorant and unaware, much less be a manager.

Oct 10th 2006 edited

Ooooh, GREAT thread, LT. I was just posting in the "What do you do for a living?" thread, so I'll go:

As I stated in that thread, I am a college professor. When people hear that, they are immediately impressed. Then they ask, "What field?" And I reply, "Dance".

I get two responses to this:

Response #1: "Cool!"

Response #2: "Uh, you can get a degree in that?"

If you looked up my MySpace page, my quote is this: "Sigh, yes, you can get a degree in that."

Back when I was just a lowly dancer (please note the sarcasm), the response was always (from straight guys, anyway), "Oh! What KIND of dancer???" (Insert leer.)

Believe me, you can take one look at me and never, ever, think "exotic dancer", but that's what they thought anyway. (And I am not disrespecting exotic dancers; everyone has to make a living.) I think being (a) female, and (b) a dancer in THIS country, anyway, always gave people license to presume that I was hotter, sluttier, looser, than the average female because of what I do.

Now, I am no puritan, but I am an artist first. I really believe thought-provoking art, whatever the form (music, writing, theatre) can change the world. And it always irritated me that some people would presume that what I do automatically implies that it is about sex, and therefore, I am some kind of whore.

And I am particularly irritated that becoming a professor somehow makes what I do, and have always done, acceptable. That is ridiculous. And the saddest thing about that is, sometimes I DO feel legitimate in my work now that it is contextualized by my "acceptable" professor status. The treatment I have gotten in the past was so pervasive in my own judgement of myself that I am guilty of feeling relief for being something other than "just a dancer". Which is code for "I have no brain" to so many people, dancers included. Sad.

Oct 10th 2006 edited

LT- While her comment was ignorant, she obviously does not play a large enough part of your life to warrant a full on tirade. If you feel strongly, you can tell her in very simple terms that you do not subscribe to that belief. Leave it at that.
Parenting has taught me to "pick my battles". You have to decide if this person is worth your time, friendship, and energy. I don't think there is any one right way to respond to comments such as that. It's up to the individual and the situation.

Oct 10th 2006

Whoops, never answered the actual question: What do you do when confronted with said predjudice?

The people that can't believe one can get a degree in dance always ask, "What kind of classes do you teach?" Answer (I don't teach ALL of these, but between my colleagues and myself):

Kinesiology (anatomy with movement)

Philosophy of Dance

Pedagogy (dance teaching)

Choreography

Dance Improvisation

Dance History (two sections; one gen ed, and one for majors)

Dance Education (K-12)

And so on. (Plus all the studio classes: 4 levels of Jazz, Modern, and Ballet; specialty forms such as Hip-Hop, African, etc.)

That usually shuts them up.

Oct 10th 2006

PurseGirl - you're right; my husband essentially said the same thing ("You're not going to change her mind by going off on a rant, Michelle" - those were his exact words). And I don't want my kids to hear her words; they're young, and they definitely don't hear it here, so I'm not yet ready to explain to them that some people think that way, etc. etc. etc. It's funny: I've always wondered at what point it is that we start making conscious decisions about the friends we keep, rather than just accept almost anyone who happens our way. I don't know. But I pretty much have made the decision to end that brief friendship.

whatevs - you know, until you wrote about it, I never even thought about occupations being a hotbed for nasty generalizations, but now that I've read your post, I see that they most definitely are. Makes me wonder how many offhanded remarks I've made to people, unintentionally, that were offensive (although, I'm positive, never to a dance professor, if that makes you feel any better :-). Many, I'm sure. Perhaps I have more in common with Michael Scott than I originally thought.

Oct 10th 2006 edited

Oh, LT, don't get me started...

I have offended SO MANY of my students on SO MANY levels by speaking my mind without thinking...Sometimes I am afraid to talk, but then, I have to remember, I will ALWAYS offend someone with my remarks, because I am one person and I am talking to a class that has anywhere from ten to twenty-five students at one time.

I think you have to forgive yourself for everything from your upbringing to your authourity to your willingness to speak your mind, etc. At one point in my teaching career I was afraid to say anything...at all! Because I knew I would offend someone at some point. But, don't you grow through speaking your mind and possibly offending someone in doing so?

I live in a world where PC-ness and speaking to the truth that stereotypes exist for a reason-can paralyze me at times. But I soldier on, because I do understand that stereotyping is dangerous, but, if we are not afraid to acknowledge that we MUST retain a sense of humor about said stereotypes...Well, that is where the genuine dialogue begins. And that is where we grow and learn.

Whew! Deep stuff...which is why I love this group of people.

And I think we love Michael because we all identify with him. He's doing the best he can, but from a provincial point of view.

Oct 10th 2006 edited

Whatevs, so true. It is hard to be PC all the time. We can only do our best but sometimes things slip out. This reminded me of something I said to my cousin this weekend. It isn't predjudice but it wasn't nice and it slipped out. Here it is. My cousin showed me a picture of a sexy, stewardess Halloween costume that she was going to buy. She was trying to convince me to dress up for Halloween when we take the kids trick or treating. I was secretly horrified that she was planning to wear that outfit around the kids (she has a 1 year old). It would be fun for an adult party but not for taking your kid around the mall for candy (though he'll probably get a bunch!). She kept hounding me until I sarcastically blurted to my husband, "Jason, do you mind if I dress like a stripper for Halloween?" NOT my finest moment. I have to say that my cousin didn't miss a beat. She said, "You don't have to dress like a stripper." But my husband's mouth fell open and he never did answer the question.
I guess my point is that sometimes things come out no matter how hard you try to repress them. Mine was pretty trivial and actually funny now that I think about it.

Oct 10th 2006 edited

Pursegirl,

I so appreciate your honesty. What is it about Haloween that forces all of us women to dress like hos? I have done it; I won't lie. But I see my kids do it EVERY Haloween, and it makes me think. My kids are all so beautiful, WITHOUT dressing like a prostitute. Why does Haloween encourage them to dress like hookers? Or myself, for that matter? I, at the ripe old age of 36, I am over that, but why did I only get over it at 36? What is WRONG with us chicks?

Oct 10th 2006

I wasn't thinking of it as a generalization on women's costumes but you have a point. A lot of costumes are in the provacative catagory. I guess people dress like that because it's the one day of the year when they can without judgement. That's why I feel bad about my remark. I feel I was being judgemental. Lucky for me, she did not take it personally but I am sure I embarassed her. That was my Michael Scott moment.

Oct 11th 2006 edited

Pursegirl and Whatevs...interesting conversation here. I live near two fairly large universities and it amazes me the provacative costumes that people wear every year. Sure, some of them can, and some cannot get away with the costumes they wear. But, why do they have to 'get away' with anything? Is underwear really a costume? LOL.

I hate to cross network/show lines, but, to a small degree I found this thread making me laugh actually. Not sure if any of you saw the How I Met Your Mother halloween episode last year, but if not, it addressed this very discussion of halloween costumes

Barney: A girl dresses up like a witch, she's a slutty witch. If she's a cat, she's a slutty cat. If she's a nurse-
Lily: Wow, we get it.
Barney: She's a slutty nurse.

I cracked up, because he's right, yet, why??

and, on to another point Whatevas raised....

I live in a world where PC-ness and speaking to the truth that stereotypes exist for a reason-can paralyze me at times.

Ditto. And, I hate it. I barely survived 3 years of law school due to other people's inability to speak the truth sometimes. I call things as I see them, sometimes to a fault, but, lets just say, many professors and colleagues of mine hated what I had to say. And now, I'm in the professional world and have to keep my mouth shut more than i'd care to, yet, there still comes a point where PC'ness be damned, if you'll excuse my french :)

Nov 18th 2006 edited

I have two rather odd examples:

One, my (adopted) brother's fiancée went off on a rant about "Jewish mothers" when I mentioned to her that most of the girls I've dated have been Jewish. Basically, she seemed to feel that I needed to gather a little more experience in the area of goyish women before deciding to make the committment to a Jewish girl for life. She was apparently unaware of two things:

1) My then-fiancée, now-wife, is Jewish on her mother's side, and hence Jewish herself; and
2) My own mother's mother was Jewish, making my mother and me technically Jewish.

This was, I understand, occasioned by her first boyfriend's mother; she seemed to have gathered some impressions from a high school relationship of which she couldn't let go. My family is made up mostly of goyim, and my name is English. Basically, I reacted with disbelief at the fact that my brother had not informed her of the fact that we were Jewish. I mean, our parents are both agnostic, and we exist in a mostly-Catholic cultural environment, but as much as we have an ethnic identity, it is that of Lithuanian Jews. My shock was such that I didn't really have anything constructive to say other than, "Were you not aware that Jesse & I are both Jews?" At which she apologized profusely. What it really did was give me a different perspective on my brother; it's almost as though he's been passing -- it's like a kid with an Italian father and a Black mother pretending to be just dark-skinned Italian. I don't know. It's hard to explain.

Two: People -- especially gay men -- have a very hard time accepting the idea of a bi-sexual man marrying a woman. I get a lot of, "So you're not actually queer," or, "So you found a Black guy to sleep with and then went straight back to the ladies, eh?" (I dated a Black guy in college.) It's a very strange sort of reverse-descrimination. I'm still, after years, at a bit of a loss at how to respond to this situation; I have a tendency to get angry, because that's what I do when all rational responses fail me.

And then there is, of course, three: Being called the f-word when out with your boyfriend. These people, I feel free to assault verbally, using all of my wit and cunning, such as it is. Though sometimes it's just safer to shut up and act like you didn't hear, believe me.

Nov 18th 2006

DwightfromtheFuture. We share the same ethnic background. I too am a Lithuanian Jew. Were you one of the posters involved in the Yiddish conversation last week? I tried to search for it, but I couldn't find it.

Nov 18th 2006

Were you one of the posters involved in the Yiddish conversation last week?

Yeah. My Yiddish is what you might call "nebulose", and what I have is mostly self-taught. The only Yiddish speaker in my family was my Litvish grandmother, and even she spoke mostly English.

Nov 18th 2006

This guy I worked with seemed to have some issue with Jewish people. At first he just expressed a passing dislike of Israel. Okay, fine, some people have reasonable objections to some of Israel's policies. That in itself doesn't mean much.

He's of Portuguese descent (his parents are from the Azores) and when another coworker of ours, also of Portuguese descent, mentioned that a decent number of Portuguese are of Jewish blood, he freaked a little bit. He kept denying her claim and then he jumped on the nearest computer to search Wikipedia. I found that sort of bizarre, but my fellow employees thought that his reaction resulted from his lifelong identity of being Portuguese rather than a disgust at the thought of being Jewish. That seemed fairly convincing.

In a conversation a few weeks later, he argued that the Jews try to "claim" things historically that they didn't do. He also said the Jews are very powerful.

All my alarms went off. What's wrong with this guy?

That's when my boyfriend (who happened to work with me) started to tease the guy a bit. If a person with an obviously Jewish last name appeared on TV, the boyfriend would say, "Look, it's a Jew... in the media. Oh, that's a surprise." Eventually, our coworker got that he was being made fun of and began defending himself, but it was too late.

The sad thing is that he's a pretty smart guy. Before the anti-Jewish comments, I would have characterized him as one of the least ignorant and bigoted of all my coworkers based on his education and general worldview. I don't know where that prejudice against Jews originated in his life.

Anyway, that's how I'd handle it. I am not big into meaningful confrontations with ignorant people. People with irrational biases against others are surprisingly irrational, and therefore difficult to convince. If I mention it at all, I'm usually just tease them until they're shamed. Sometimes it works.

Nov 18th 2006 edited

The sad thing is that he's a pretty smart guy. Before the anti-Jewish comments, I would have characterized him as one of the least ignorant and bigoted of all my coworkers based on his education and general worldview. I don't know where that prejudice against Jews originated in his life.

Some people can be so smart, yet so ignorant. Book smart is not the same thing as people smart or even common sense. Prejudice usually stems from ones upbringing and environment. Some also have had personal experiences that have shaped their prejudices. That's unfortunate. Rather than taking offense, I really have pity for them for their ignorance.

"Can't we all just get along?" - Michael

Nov 18th 2006

DwightfromtheFuture - so you're a bi-sexual man married to a woman? I'll just confess my ignorance here. I'm not questionaing bisexuality, or marriage, or being gay, etc...I just had no idea that bi-sexual people got married. Or wanted to get married. Aren't you missing out on a distinct part of your sexuality (being with men?)? I apologize for being so personal. I'm just...confused, I guess. Please enlighten. I don't want to ever unintentionally offend anyone. Not that I already haven't, but I'd like to not do it in the future, if I can help it.

Nov 18th 2006 edited

LT,

I'll just put my two cents in here, as I met a couple once who had an interesting arrangement:

I was in Vegas, and met a lovely married couple through a friend. They had been married for a few years, had two beautiful kids, and a completely open marriage.

Edit: I am not suggesting that this is the case with DwightfromtheFuture; every situation is different; I am merely pointing out one example from my personal experience.

They were both bi-sexual, and both had permission from the other to sleep with whoever they wanted to, as long as they took precautions. The interesting thing was that it was obvious that they were deeply in love. But, for them, sex with other people just wasn't a big deal. I found them fascinating, and I admired their willingness to be so honest about what I consider to be an unconventional arrangement.

Nov 18th 2006 edited

LT, I'm not offended, and I can understand how you can think that, but it's not really how I feel about it at all. What it comes down to is, if you're in a committed, monogamous relationship, you are always -- regardless of your sexuality -- restricting, at least in theory, your opportunities for sexual expression. People have different quirks and kinks, but if you find someone you love, sometimes you leave some of those by the wayside if your partner isn't interested. This isn't exactly the same situation as that, but it feels similar to me. I happened to fall in love with and get married to a woman. It could just as easily happened with a man, but it didn't. (Well, not the marriage part, but the lifelong commitment part.) Basically, if I were unwilling to do that so some degree, I would never be able to sustain a relationship. At least a monogamous one. And I really am a one-person-at-a-time sort of guy.

When I had a boyfriend for two years in college, it was a similar situation for me. But what it comes down to is that being married to a woman doesn't prevent me from admiring a nice-looking man when he walks by any more than it prevents me from doing the same with a woman. And that's good enough for me, both with the men and the women, because my wife is the only person I really want to be with, the vagaries of gender aside. That results in my being called "quasi-queer" by some of the gay men I know. In the long run, that means nothing to me.

Does that make any sense?

Nov 19th 2006

But, for them, sex with other people just wasn't a big deal.

I think we've all seen enough episodes of What About Brian to know how that can turn out.

Nov 19th 2006

I think we've all seen enough episodes of What About Brian to know how that can turn out.

That's exactly what I was thinking. As my gramma would say, "Whatever floats your boat." But I know that lifestyle wouldn't work for me. I don't think I'm the jealous type, but I know I would go out of my mind if I knew my husband regularly had sex with other women (and men) casually. Plus, I know myself well enough to know that I could never do that, either, without becoming attached to the other person, so...lose-lose. Or maybe win-win, depending on how you see it.

Thank you for being so up-front about your situation, DwightfromtheFuture. I appreciate your candor (and that you don't mind questions ;-). All marriages are complicated in their own way...I guess yours is just complex in its own way as well.

Nov 19th 2006

But I know that lifestyle wouldn't work for me.

Oh, LT and Brian, it wouldn't work for me either. I'm way too traditional to apply their philosophy to my own life. I guess I brought it up because (a) LT asked about it (how bi-sexuality might work in a marriage), and (b) in the spirit of this thread, that we can accept one another's choices without necessarily agreeing with them.

Just had to clear that up!

Nov 19th 2006 edited

Oh, I wasn't disparaging anyone's choices either, whatevs. I am a little fascinated by the whole concept of what works for some people, open marriage, etc.. I was just going off on a tangent about myself, that's all. Sometimes I'm a little more traditional than I think :-).

May 1st 2007

This is a fascinating thread to read.

May 1st 2007

Indeed. Im glad you bumped it or I would have probably never caught it.

Oct 5th 2008

Indeed. Im glad you bumped it or I would have probably never caught it.

three acres of beets, what in particular did you find the most interestingest?

Dec 17th 2009

We do not live anywhere near this area of town, because of not rich, but this is amazing to me. I don't know what else to say.

Dec 17th 2009

We do not live anywhere near this area of town, because of not rich, but this is amazing to me. I don't know what else to say.

Not that shocking, considering the welcoming committee's usual housewarming gift (a flaming cross). "What, we just wanted to show that firewood in these parts is very easy to come by."

Dec 18th 2009 edited

Sometimes things are stuck in the bylaws from decades ago. I was a member of an organization in college and one day we were pulling out old files from the 1890's and found the charter from when the group was founded. There it was, number four on the list, the society is open to "Any white student in good standing..."

Also, I recently found out that my grandparents had a KKK cross burned on their lawn (in upstate NY in the 1930s), not because of race, but because my Protestant grandfather married my Catholic grandmother.

Dec 18th 2009

There it was, number four on the list, the society is open to "Any white student in good standing..."

So someone could argue that you have ties to a racist organization. Don't run for office.

Dec 18th 2009

So someone could argue that you have ties to a racist organization.

Yesh.

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