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Old 02-09-2019, 10:57 PM
Orwell Orwell is offline
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"Gringo" - Is it offensive? How offensive?

My wife and I ate at a Mexican restaurant in Georgia today. The restaurant was located in a neighborhood that seemed pretty Latino, based on the business names and other signs. In the restaurant, nearly all of the customers appeared to be Hispanic, and the waitresses all spoke Spanish to each other. We had a great meal, and our waitress was very attentive and helpful, and spoke very good English.

While we were eating, we heard a group of waitresses talking in Spanish to each other, and we heard the word "gringo" a few times. Since my wife and I were the only white people in the place, it seems reasonable to assume they might have been referring to us. Or perhaps they were referring to other non-Hispanic people. I don't care, and I didn't feel offended. But is the word "gringo" offensive, or intended as derogative? Is it at all similar to white or black Americans using racial slurs such as "wetback" or "beaner"? Or is it a mild perjorative, or not negative in any way?
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Old 02-09-2019, 11:22 PM
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Curious to see what people will say. I've never thought of it as offensive, but then, I haven't been around a lot of Latinos. But I have spent a lot of time in a city with a local chain called "Taco Gringo."
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Old 02-09-2019, 11:24 PM
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It's supposed to be offensive sometimes. Doesn't really work so.....
It can be casual, just US, or white or non Spanish speaking. No offense intended

Sometimes with a little giggle factor since it's also meant to be offensive sometimes.
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Old 02-10-2019, 01:00 AM
Siam Sam Siam Sam is offline
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I think it's all about context. "No, not that customer, the gringo over there" versus "Fuck that stupid gringo."
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Old 02-10-2019, 01:38 AM
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Originally Posted by Littleman View Post
It's supposed to be offensive sometimes. Doesn't really work...
I think this is true.

Personally, it never bothers me.

Lucas/whiteboy
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Old 02-10-2019, 02:42 AM
LoneRhino LoneRhino is offline
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When I was taking Spanish classes in Mexico, I referred to myself as a gringo and my teacher let me know that it considered very offensive.
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Old 02-10-2019, 03:48 AM
guizot guizot is offline
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Since my wife and I were the only white people in the place, it seems reasonable to assume they might have been referring to us.
Not really. They probably were just gossiping about la fulana de tal's new boyfriend.

As mentioned above, the connotation of the word gringo depends completely on context, and varies from country to country.

For example, if it's used as direct address it can be more disapproving. But often it's just used as short-hand in a conversation to refer to a third person, indicating that person is not of Latin American origin, but from the States.
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Old 02-10-2019, 08:00 AM
Bayaker Bayaker is offline
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As others have said, they would most likely have been referring to you in a descriptive way, so no need to take offense. Now if your waitress had walked up to you and said "here's your check, Gringo", you might want to tip less

Around these parts, "all the waitresses spoke Spanish to each other" could be true even in a Chinese restaurant.
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Old 02-10-2019, 09:03 AM
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OK, that's pretty much what I was thinking. I don't go around looking to be offended, and didn't worry about it. Just curious after my wife mentioned hearing thm say "gringo" a few times. I actually gave the waitress a good tip, as she was nice, attentive, and helpful with ordering.
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Old 02-10-2019, 09:07 AM
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When I was taking Spanish classes in Mexico, I referred to myself as a gringo and my teacher let me know that it considered very offensive.
Is it still offensive if no one is offended?
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Old 02-10-2019, 10:11 AM
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I actually gave the waitress a good tip, as she was nice, attentive, and helpful with ordering.
Which is what’s tips are supposed to be for.
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Old 02-10-2019, 10:26 AM
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Interesting. I'm also curious about the status of the word "anglo" to refer to white people.

I'm white, and if somebody meant to offend me, I'd like to be aware they had some problem with me, but I wouldn't take offense. IMHO we white people have way too many unfair advantages to get offended.
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Old 02-10-2019, 10:43 AM
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"Gringo" - Is it offensive? How offensive?

In Canada, "Anglo" isn't an ethnic or racial term, but a linguistic one, meaning someone whose first language is English. The pair is "Franco", someone whose first language is French. They are neutral descriptive terms, shortened from "anglophone" and "francophone".

Last edited by Northern Piper; 02-10-2019 at 10:44 AM.
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Old 02-10-2019, 10:54 AM
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Which is what’s tips are supposed to be for.
??? Huh??
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Old 02-10-2019, 10:57 AM
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It is supposed to be derogatory to people who live in the states (as someone said), but personally I never found it offensive. I mean there are worse words to be called.
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Old 02-10-2019, 11:21 AM
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IMHO, 'gringo' is the same as 'gweilo' (Cantonese) and 'laowai' (Mandarin) in that it's all in the context of the delivery...I spend 35 years travelling though out China for business, and several years calling on customers in Mexico...this discussion came up several times in each place and always came to that conclusion...I've have colleagues refer to me as a gringo and qweilo, always in a good-nature, joking kind of way, but I've had 'gringo' hissed at me on the streets of Matamoros...I was with a Chinese colleague traveling somewhere outside of Changzhou walking in a train station when a little girl pointed at me and exclaimed, "Laowai! Laowai!"...it was actually kind of funny, she just seemed excited about seeing a foreigner...I don't know, I wasn't insulted, maybe there's just not a lot of laowai in that town...

EDT: If I remember correctly, 'gweilo' translates into 'foreign devil', so maybe that was more derogatory in it's root meaning, but I never took it that way, and none of my colleagues seemed to think it was a big deal...

Last edited by betterlifethroughchemistry; 02-10-2019 at 11:24 AM.
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Old 02-10-2019, 02:40 PM
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Is it still offensive if no one is offended?
People try to offend all the time in various ways, only for it to roll off of someone's back who doesn't care.

The issue here is the misguided notion that a word unto itself holds inherent characteristics, but all language acquires its nature through use.
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Old 02-10-2019, 04:05 PM
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I self apply it when I'm trying to get a patient to slow down because my Spanish is limited. That gets no reaction or a chuckle, but I don't think anyone's ever acted like I said something awful.
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Old 02-10-2019, 04:37 PM
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Very little offends me. One Major exception is Dog Farts.
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Old 02-10-2019, 08:40 PM
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In my experience, Caucasians don't seem to be easily offended by words like Gringo when not part of a blatant insult or threat.
When we lived in the Western Pacific, we embraced the label haole. Around the same time, the Fighting Whites intramural team from the University of Northern Colorado were surprised to find their attempt at an insult was loved by those they wanted to hurt.
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Old 02-10-2019, 08:50 PM
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I'll note that Gringo is the name of a documentary on "The Dangerous Life of John McAfee"...someone I certainly don't wish to be associated with.
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Old 02-10-2019, 09:41 PM
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Is it still offensive if no one is offended?
If a tree falls in the woods and no social justice warrior hears it , is it still offensive?
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Old 02-10-2019, 09:58 PM
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A dear friend and fellow vet of mine calls me Gringo all the time. I call him Hermano, because I am that sort of asshole.
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Old 02-11-2019, 06:14 AM
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If a tree falls in the woods and no social justice warrior hears it , is it still offensive?
Under the present social justice ruleset, it's not ok for the dominant, privileged group (whether or not a particular member of that group is dominant or privileged in a meaningful sense) to use ethnic slurs to refer to other groups.

Only formal names for them, sir. White people must call blacks as African Americans and Mexicans as I guess Hispanics or "undocumented workers".

It's totally ok for those groups to use ethnic slurs among themselves and to refer to white people. Who no longer have individual ethnic identity since they all have been interbreeding so we forgot who's originally irish vs french vs german, so long as their skin shade is sufficiently pasty.

I have a lot of problems with this, the primary one being that we don't really live in a world that privileges white people above everyone else. We live in a world that privileges rich people, and some white families have amassed inter-generational wealth that give them a huge leg up in America, which is designed to privilege this. And yes, in the USA the overwhelming majority of families with inter-generational wealth are all white, but any given white person has a substantial probability of actually coming from a poor bankground and thus they individually benefit little from all that 'privilege' floating around...

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Old 02-11-2019, 07:39 AM
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In Canada, "Anglo" isn't an ethnic or racial term, but a linguistic one, meaning someone whose first language is English. The pair is "Franco", someone whose first language is French. They are neutral descriptive terms, shortened from "anglophone" and "francophone".
Same for Spanish: anglo doesn't mean "white", it means "person who (only) speaks English". Short for anglófono.

Many years ago I was tutoring two Hispanic students and we'd moved to Spanish. A young man who'd been holding up a wall nearby was equally surprised when, upon noticing him, we switched back to English and apologized for all the Spanish, and when we asked if he was anglo and then quickly said "uh, sorry, we mean, you don't speak Spanish, right?" Being about the same shade as Mahershala Ali, he found it hilarious that in Spanish he's considered anglo when in American English he definitely is not, "oh man, I have to tell my Grandma about this, she'll love it!"


As for Gringo, originally it meant "from the US" and was despective; in time it has lost the despective connotation (so, it's despective or not depending on context) and gained a different meaning of "clueless outsider who expects 'abroad' to be exactly like 'back home'" (which isn't considered despective if it happens to be true; undesirable, certainly).


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It is supposed to be derogatory to people who live in the states (as someone said), but personally I never found it offensive. I mean there are worse words to be called.
Not who live, who are from, and specifically who are aggressive about being "an American citizen" or suchlike; the kind of people who goes to a foreign country and stands in the middle of the town square yelling "does nobody here speak my language?". It originally comes from a response to American soldiers invading Mexico, something which I'm reasonably sure qualifies as aggressive behavior.
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Old 02-11-2019, 09:01 AM
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but any given white person has a substantial probability of actually coming from a poor bankground and thus they individually benefit little from all that 'privilege' floating around...
You don't understand what "white privilege" means.
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Old 02-11-2019, 10:58 AM
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One of those words that depends on context.
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Old 02-11-2019, 11:06 AM
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There's a limit to how offensive it's possible for a term to be, that refers to the socioeconomically dominant ethnic group of a region. By contrast, terms for less privileged ethnic groups, even if they start off value-neutral, can often become offensive.
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Old 02-11-2019, 11:20 AM
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Amish have called me English, I’ve been described as Anglo by Spanish speakers. Both incorrect and so a matter of indifference. Seems just descriptive anyway.
Gringo seems to have pejorative connotations, and I don’t think that ever is truly entirely lost on the user. Its use doesn’t bother me unless preceded by words like pinche.
Gabacho, on the other hand, crosses the line to deliberately insulting, IMO. Still doesn’t bother me.

Gringo is sort of like Brits using “Yank”. Not fighting words, but can be an indicator that the odds of the user being a bit of an asshole exceed base probability.
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Old 02-11-2019, 11:31 AM
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I wouldn't be so sure that she actually heard what she thought she heard. Non-native speakers of Spanish will "hear" all sorts of familiar-sounding terms that aren't actually there. The same is true of most languages with which the hearer has only a basic or passing familiarity.
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Old 02-11-2019, 11:46 AM
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When I lived in Mexico, the term "gringo/s" was usually preceded by "pinche/s" when meant to be used offensively. Normally until it was known that I wasn't Mexican, I'd be referred to as "güero." Spanish is a very expressive language, and to use "gringo" as an insult is pretty unimaginative.
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Old 02-11-2019, 12:07 PM
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. . . Spanish is a very expressive language, . .
Yes, most languages are not very expressive. They mostly exist so that people can order pizza and things like that.
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Old 02-11-2019, 12:57 PM
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Yeah but what Balthisar meant was that Spanish is a language in which one is supposed to be creative when cussing or insulting someone. In English, "Variations on the theme of F" is rude but not particularly offensive of the language itself; in Spanish what would be considered offensive of such a speech is the lack of creativity of the speaker. The reaction of most listeners would be along the lines of "seriously? You don't have anything better?"
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Old 02-11-2019, 02:34 PM
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There's a limit to how offensive it's possible for a term to be, that refers to the socioeconomically dominant ethnic group of a region. By contrast, terms for less privileged ethnic groups, even if they start off value-neutral, can often become offensive.
This is one of the most preposterous things I have read in awhile. It completely ignores intent, context and linguistics, and instead focuses on external characteristics that are largely irrelevant. A listener/target can be offended or not, but the real key is the intent of the speaker.

Last edited by Orwell; 02-11-2019 at 02:36 PM.
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Old 02-11-2019, 09:08 PM
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You don't understand what "white privilege" means.
Do tell. Tell me about how poor whites get privilege. Assuming they have no college degree or startup capital, what generally happens to them. For a hint, tell me where the prescription drug epidemics are most severe.
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Old 02-11-2019, 09:19 PM
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My wife and I ate at a Mexican restaurant in Georgia today. The restaurant was located in a neighborhood that seemed pretty Latino, based on the business names and other signs. In the restaurant, nearly all of the customers appeared to be Hispanic, and the waitresses all spoke Spanish to each other. We had a great meal, and our waitress was very attentive and helpful, and spoke very good English.

While we were eating, we heard a group of waitresses talking in Spanish to each other, and we heard the word "gringo" a few times. Since my wife and I were the only white people in the place, it seems reasonable to assume they might have been referring to us. Or perhaps they were referring to other non-Hispanic people. I don't care, and I didn't feel offended. But is the word "gringo" offensive, or intended as derogative? Is it at all similar to white or black Americans using racial slurs such as "wetback" or "beaner"? Or is it a mild perjorative, or not negative in any way?
Context is everything. Let me ask you...if you were the only black people in the place and they were speaking in a language you didn't understand but you heard 'negra' a few times, would that be offensive? My guess is yes. And gringo can be more deliberately derogatory. That said, I call my wife a gringita all the time as well as guera which means approximately (blonde) white girl. So, it depends on who is saying it and in what context it's being said. It's less derogatory, IMHO, than 'wetback' or 'beaner', which are pretty offensive. I can't think of a good analogy though, but maybe how a lot of folks seem to say the word 'Mexican' would be a good parallel.
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Old 02-12-2019, 12:02 AM
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Do tell. Tell me about how poor whites get privilege. Assuming they have no college degree or startup capital, what generally happens to them. For a hint, tell me where the prescription drug epidemics are most severe.
Again, you don't understand what the term means.

"White privilege" is the concept that, all else being equal, white people still enjoy advantages in judicial, economic, cultural and media areas over a black (and to a lesser extent) Hispanic person purwely on the basis of their skin color. Two people making $16k a year, driving a 1995 Focus and with a high school education will, on average, have different experiences when pulled over for a traffic ticket or entering a retail store based on their skin color. The question isn't "Are there poor white people addicted to opioids?" it's "How does the judicial system, on average, treat two poor people addicted to opioids when one is white and the other black?" White privilege is the result of a systemic effort to keep down and segregate black people throughout our nation's history, with a constant litany of how they are uncivilized, thugs, rapists out to steal our white women, gangbangers, welfare queens, reproducing like animals, thieves, murderers, drug dealers, stupid, lazy, etc.

That said, I'm not really trying to convince you that it's a legitimate thing -- you're just using the term wrong when you say "But there's poor white people so they're not privileged".
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Old 02-12-2019, 01:42 AM
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I think it depends on context. There is probably always a tiny hint of condescension, but it can be good humored like towards a child, or recreational tribalism like rival sport team fans. And in forming connections, it can be a gentle form of hazing. Then again, it can be used in a hateful way, but at that point it is likely to be accompanied by additional colorful expletives.

I had a good friend in college whose family was from Honduras. His extended family still lived there, but his immediate family lived about an hour away. I got to know them well enough that when he and they went out Honduras for the summer I got to tag along for a couple weeks. I heard "gringo" a lot. And sometimes, what I got the impression was slightly saltier, "El Grencho". And I accepted that it was conceivable not all of it was friendly, or that things might have been said out of earshot. But they also all went incredibly out of their way to show me around, help me do things, and even threw me the most amazing birthday I have ever had. So if my otherness was the subject of gossip or judgement, I'm more than willing to let it slide.

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Old 02-12-2019, 02:14 AM
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Do tell. Tell me about how poor whites get privilege. Assuming they have no college degree or startup capital, what generally happens to them. For a hint, tell me where the prescription drug epidemics are most severe.
It's very frustrating to have to repeatedly explain that "white privilege" does not refer to economic status. But here we go again...

White privilege means you get the benefit of the doubt from other white people. It means store owners don't follow you around and security guards won't kick you out for wearing a hoodie. It means when you call about renting an apartment, the landlord can't tell from the sound of your voice that you are one of 'those people.' It means you are 50% more likely to get called for a job interview than if you had a stereotypically black name. It means when your pregnant wife goes to the doctor, the doctor doesn't immediately assume she is a single mother. It means when you get a job, people won't accuse you of being a 'diversity hire' or wonder about your competence. It means that if you commit a disciplinary infraction or break the law you will be punished less severely than a black person who committed the same offense. It means you are allowed to sit in a Starbucks without someone calling the police, and it means you are allowed to buy Skittles and iced tea without being chased by a vigilante.
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Old 02-12-2019, 07:12 AM
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Context is everything. Let me ask you...if you were the only black people in the place and they were speaking in a language you didn't understand but you heard 'negra' a few times, would that be offensive? My guess is yes.
If the word in question was negra, it would be stupid to be offended: it's not derogatory, and in your example and assuming it refers to the woman (not to, say, a jacket) it's descriptive. In some dialects of Spanish it can also be used as a term of endearment towards a woman who may or may not be black.

I've seen an angla get offended and make an enormous ruckus because two latina tourists were talking about un vestido negro, a black dress. Please don't be that anglo.
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Old 02-12-2019, 08:50 AM
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It's very frustrating to have to repeatedly explain that "white privilege" does not refer to economic status. But here we go again...

White privilege means you get the benefit of the doubt from other white people. It means store owners don't follow you around and security guards won't kick you out for wearing a hoodie. It means when you call about renting an apartment, the landlord can't tell from the sound of your voice that you are one of 'those people.' It means you are 50% more likely to get called for a job interview than if you had a stereotypically black name. It means when your pregnant wife goes to the doctor, the doctor doesn't immediately assume she is a single mother. It means when you get a job, people won't accuse you of being a 'diversity hire' or wonder about your competence. It means that if you commit a disciplinary infraction or break the law you will be punished less severely than a black person who committed the same offense. It means you are allowed to sit in a Starbucks without someone calling the police, and it means you are allowed to buy Skittles and iced tea without being chased by a vigilante.
Perhaps so. I guess it just seems like what we call "white trash" or "trailer trash" or "residents of florida" : meth or oxy abusing folk who work menial jobs and frequent payday loan places don't exactly get a whole lot of "privilege" helping them out. They just are slightly less often victims of overt racism it sounds like to me.

But these people - who are a huge chunk of the population (well, ok, most of them don't abuse meth but still) - get discriminated against if they ever do get into college or see a job somewhere nice because institutions assume they enjoyed a lot of "privilege" growing up. While sometimes foreign blacks from countries where they were treated well get diversity admitted to Harvard.

Also these are the people who are in favor of a wall. Guess who suffers the most in absolute terms if there is a flood of cheap laborers who are desperate for the slightest amount of U.S. currency. Guess who doesn't have health insurance and gets really shafted by our insane health care system. Guess who has trouble affording rent anywhere nice because our country uses corrupt methods of managing land. (we give the most voice to existing homeowners in a nice area who in turn want their assets to keep inflating in price forever)

Last edited by SamuelA; 02-12-2019 at 08:53 AM.
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Old 02-12-2019, 09:40 AM
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Perhaps so. I guess it just seems like what we call "white trash" or "trailer trash" or "residents of florida" : meth or oxy abusing folk who work menial jobs and frequent payday loan places don't exactly get a whole lot of "privilege" helping them out.
Compared to who? Black people on meth and using payday loans?
  #43  
Old 02-12-2019, 10:00 AM
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Inigo Montoya Inigo Montoya is offline
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Originally Posted by SamuelA View Post
Do tell. Tell me about how poor whites get privilege. Assuming they have no college degree or startup capital, what generally happens to them. For a hint, tell me where the prescription drug epidemics are most severe.
Hey, at least white people can get prescription drugs and the prices are reasonably stable. The Negro has to make do with whatever's on offer at the local street corner.

Fritz: I know about the race problem - I've studied the race problem
Duke: You don't know nothing about the race problem You've got to be a crow to know about the race problem
  #44  
Old 02-12-2019, 10:20 AM
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Originally Posted by Isosleepy View Post
Gringo is sort of like Brits using “Yank”. Not fighting words, but can be an indicator that the odds of the user being a bit of an asshole exceed base probability.
This.
  #45  
Old 02-12-2019, 11:02 AM
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XT XT is online now
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Originally Posted by Nava View Post
If the word in question was negra, it would be stupid to be offended: it's not derogatory, and in your example and assuming it refers to the woman (not to, say, a jacket) it's descriptive. In some dialects of Spanish it can also be used as a term of endearment towards a woman who may or may not be black.

I've seen an angla get offended and make an enormous ruckus because two latina tourists were talking about un vestido negro, a black dress. Please don't be that anglo.
Sure, they shouldn't be offended, but people get tense when they don't understand most of what's being said but pick out a few words. You are from Spain, so it's a bit different there than in the US (or in Mexico where I'm from) wrt racial tension, and I've seen some folks (you are right, mostly white folks) get angry at the word 'negra' or 'negro', whether used to indicate the color of a dress or as a general descriptor for a person of color. There are, of course, more offensive and derogatory terms used in Spanish when one means to be offensive, but people can easily take offense at things, especially when they can't get the context since they don't understand the language...or maybe understand a little bit and are just picking out a word or two because they had Spanish in high school or just picked it up because a lot of things in the US have Spanish roots.
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  #46  
Old 02-12-2019, 12:24 PM
Balthisar Balthisar is offline
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Originally Posted by XT View Post
Sure, they shouldn't be offended, but people get tense when they don't understand most of what's being said but pick out a few words. You are from Spain, so it's a bit different there than in the US (or in Mexico where I'm from) wrt racial tension[.]
I trained my ex-wife to use "oscurito" instead of "negro" in the United States, just so standers-by wouldn't experience this tenseness. The downside, of course, is it probably is more akin to English's "darkie" which is arguably much worse.
  #47  
Old 02-12-2019, 01:54 PM
Jackmannii Jackmannii is offline
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If I'm ever referred to as a "gringo" in a Mexican restaurant, I might just break into song.
  #48  
Old 02-13-2019, 10:41 AM
elfkin477 elfkin477 is offline
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Like haole, which some Hawaiian friends use when pointing people out, I wouldn't get upset about being called gringa unless the speaker knew my name and always insisted on calling me that instead.
  #49  
Old 02-13-2019, 11:22 AM
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Stuntman Mike Stuntman Mike is online now
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Not only does being a called a gringo not offend me, but neither does ALWAYS being seated in the back of the dining room at my favorite taqueria. It's in the legit Mexican ghetto, not one of those gentrified hipster sanctuaries. I clearly don't belong there, nor am I really wanted... but I tip big, and the food is magnífico. Muy bueno!

Last edited by Stuntman Mike; 02-13-2019 at 11:23 AM.
  #50  
Old 02-18-2019, 03:53 PM
Siam Sam Siam Sam is offline
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Originally Posted by elfkin477 View Post
Like haole, which some Hawaiian friends use when pointing people out, I wouldn't get upset about being called gringa unless the speaker knew my name and always insisted on calling me that instead.
In Thailand, the relevant term is farang. It is completely innocuous, but still you can find a handful of people, usually professional disgruntlees, who are offended and wax forth on the subject on any given occasion.
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