Wednesday, December 08, 2010

What would you do if someone at your school or workplace made a racial comment?

Recently, one of our core girls, Serena, was attending a school sporting event when the opposing team (an older and more diverse group) began to win. As the game progressed some of her classmates started using racially and socially demeaning chants. Appalled and embarrassed at the behavior of her fellow classmates Serena decided to take action and wrote a letter to the editor of her school newspaper.

Here’s her letter below.

Dear [school] community,
Almost every day at [school], I hear one racist comment, and that’s one too many. Hearing comments within our school is not okay, but making discriminatory comments in public while representing our school crosses an entirely different line. The fact that something like that would even pass through our minds makes me question our community culture. The delay in an administrative response is indicative of a larger issue. We are not upholding our mission in “educating our children to be culturally competent in a global community” (Diversity Action Plan). There are many people that I am proud to say think in a multicultural way, but there is a large group of individuals who continue to disregard our stated values. This either means that the values we say are true at [school] are not actual values, or that the people that continue to make disrespectful comments don’t belong in the [school] community. Making excuses for the actions that take place is something that needs to be stopped. “Just joking” does not make hurtful remarks okay to say. I hope everyone who reads this will take what I’ve said and make a point to check themselves and people around them to live up to the standards that [our school] should proudly portray.
Thank you.

Serena sets a good example for us all by refusing to accept inappropriate comments. She found her own way to raise awareness about an issue we sometimes try to ignore. Her experience is a reminder that sexist and racist “jokes” and comments are belittling no matter how you phrase them. At our latest TVbyGIRLS meeting Serena’s article led to a discussion about the best ways to respond to discriminatory comments. We wondered what our culture would be like if each of us spoke up when racism, sexism or any other “ism” occurred.

And it’s not so simple as Thryn, another teen member of TVbyGIRLS pointed out. Thryn asked how we respond to a group that is trying to reclaim and defuse language…as in lesbian women and girls referring to themselves as ‘dykes’.

Your turn: What do you think is the best way to deal with derogatory remarks?

Photo taken by BotheredByBees

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