I put myself for not standing up to racism at my place of business

So, I’m in the staff restaurant eating my lunch today. On the table next to me, a guy tells a racist joke to the people sat at his table (including a manager). I will not go into details, suffice to say the joke was very derogatory about black people. I felt very uncomfortable. Why, in 2008, do people think its acceptable to say these things, especially knowing that other people around them could listen in. Just because I’m white, you assume I won’t be offended? I guess I’m pitting myself for not standing up and saying something. But what would that achieve, especially as there was a manager at their table who thought shit like that was funny. Anyway, just wanted to share as it has been bugging me! Fuck!

So the joke wasn’t funny, eh?

Yes, because you are white, they probably assume you’re as racist as they are, at least that’s been my experience in similar situations. Although, some of the group may not have been as racist as the jokester or as others, but felt unwilling to protest because of the presence of the their manager who apparently went along.

Check with the official policies on such matters and see if they were violated. If so, you could file a grievance/complaint with HR and/or with EEO, but only if you have other unhappy witnesses who would be willing to “testify” on your side in any proceeding/hearing.

Not necessarily pertinent to the OP, but at a former workplace, I was amazed to see that some “minority” people were pointedly excluded from the governmental employer’s antidiscrimination policy, by state law, i.e., they were not “protected” against discrimination as the policy covered only “unlawful” discrimination. Some employees were paranoid about people carrying voice recorders with them to record their frequent redneck bile.

(While updating your resume)

The next time it happens, wait for the laughter to die down, clear your throat, and say, “Hey, maybe you didn’t know this but my mother is black.”

Better yet, pull out your wallet and casually ask the joker if he wants to see a picture of your baby boy.

After they finish squirming, quietly say, “Just kidding.” (Or you can be truly mischievious and let them believe you’re really black).

My father did this a long time ago, except without the “just kidding” part. A jerk he was working with kept telling “nigger” jokes, not knowing there was a “nigger” in his presence. My father said nothing until lunch, when he showed the guy a picture of his mother. The guy then apologized, but my father felt victorious.

Never underestimate the power of embarrassment.

I sort of like your idea, simply because it’s probably the best way to embarrass the morons, but there are ways in which i think it’s problematic.

I think the problem is that it sort of assumes (or at least perpetuates) the idea that this sort of shit is only really offensive is there’s another black person in the room. Ideally, what would happen in such situations is that any person should be able to say “That shit is stupid and racist” without having to appeal to his or her own race as justification.

In the OP’s case, i understand why he didn’t say anything. It’s hard to say or do something that could spell trouble in your place of employment, especially in these economically depressed times.

Recent anti-black thing I heard at work, regarding Obama’s run for US President: “If they get in power, it’ll be just like South Africa.” :smack: I did have some choice words, but nothing amounting to an office pitting. Still, I haven’t heard a word against “them” since.

Agreed. Back in 2004 when Barack Obama was running for US Senator, one of my husband’s coworkers told him that he wasn’t “gonna vote for no nigger.” My husband rolled his eyes at the guy and walked off, while his coworker was left saying, “What? What? Oh come on…” After Jack Ryan withdrew as his opponent, the IL GOP got Alan Keyes to run. I wonder if he voted for the Libertarian candidate to avoid voting for a black guy, or just skipped that part of the ballot?

I have a joke in reserve to deal with a situation like that. Haven’t ever had to use it. Don’t know if I ever will.

Q: What do you call a black man licensed to fly aircraft.

A: A pilot, you fucking racist.

At work this fellow made this racist joke about Mexicans. I freeze for a good 10 seconds in shock while my brain processed that he just said that to me. Then point out I’m a quarter Hispanic. Then he asks if it’s Mexican or Spanish from Spain. Apparently he never heard of Central and South America. I mention it’s Argentinian. He then goes on about how people from Spain look down on Mexicans because they’re part Native American. Apparently he figured he could back out of his little racist embarrassment with more racism. I point out I’m part Native too, and then turn my back to him and go off and do my own thing.

If I would have stayed there would have been words. The kind of words you shouldn’t say at work.

Now he’s going all guilty white guy on me.Being super friendly and creeping me out.

It’s just weird especially considering I’m half white, raised by my white half and generally white looking. Except in the summer when I’m in the sun alot. I tan really easy and look Hispanic. Since I’ve been biking alot so got a good tan going and speak very little Spanish this has caused me some confusing conversations at work with people who speak it as a first language and just assume I’m fluent in it.

Out of idle curiosity, do you know any of the people at that table? Do you work with them on a regular basis? Were you part of any conversation that was going on before the joke reared its ugly head? If you just overheard it and you weren’t part of the conversation before then, it was probably better to say nothing. (I hate that shit as much as the next anti-racist, but ya gotta pick your battles sometimes.) Perhaps a noticeable disapproving glare and an obvious switch to another seat might have gotten the point across.

If you know the idiot who told the joke, you might make a point of mentioning your office’s hostile work environment policies and hint that you recently spoke to your HR person for clarification on the subject. Just enough to get him thinking maybe names were mentioned.

Overall, though, good on you for realizing something ought to be done and I hope you do get the chance to call this asshat on his bullshit at some point.

Can we hear the joke?

It didn’t work for me. I was with a similar guy talking about nigger this, nigger that, and I acted really indignant and told him that I was married to a black lady and would he please stop his racist comments.

I kept a poker face, but he continued. He said he didn’t mean to offend me, but wondered why in the world I would marry a “Goddamn Nigger”.

Some men just can’t be reached…:wink:

Pit me too, samarm, while you’re at it, because I’ve been in similar situations and didn’t do the right thing (or anything, for that matter). Goddamn it, where are my balls? When people at my workplace go off on the Somali immigrants in town or Obama’s race or any of the other ignorant bullshit they believe, why don’t I say something? I always step back from confrontation–I’m the conciliator, the one who likes things nice and steady. It’s my nature, and I know assertiveness is an attribute which I sorely lack. Anyone have some spine to lend?

So without any irony or :rolleyes: at all, I add myself to your pitting.

Confronting racists can make you feel good, but it can also make you feel even worse. Now that you’re over your initial shock, you can think about what you might want to do in future if this were to happen again.

My suggestion? Approach the table and say something like “I can’t make you not tell racist jokes, but they are very offensive and others can hear you.” I’ve used this tack in the past and it seems to be somewhat effective. You might even be approached by someone else in the group thanking you for saying something. There are times when it feels like everyone thinks one way but if one person speaks up we find that opinion is more on their side.

Don’t beat yourself up over it.