Post # 1
This has happened to me so. many. times. I think the only reason it doesn’t happen very often anymore is because I have stepped on every conceivable land mine already and there just aren’t any left!
I was born in Quebec and lived there the first many years of my life. Then I moved to Seattle and finished grade school out there. Neither of these places can be considered bastions of racial diversity, and the result is that I missed out on a LOT of apparently important information. My parents taught me that the n-word was bad, but that was about the long and the short of it.
The first instance I remember was in 6th grade when we were learning about Japan and working on a group project. I referred to the Japanese as “Japs”, thinking I had cleverly found a shorter version of the word to save time. An TA working nearby actually pulled me into the hallway to tell me she was disappointed with me for using that kind of language and she hoped to never hear that nonsense again. Of course she never explained WHY it was bad to use that word, so it wasn’t until years later that I understood why she was upset. I guess the TA expects 6th graders to be familiar with wartime racial slurs from 60+ years prior.
From there it was all downhill. I thought the expression “Indian giver” referred to how the white people always made the Native Americans sign treaties giving them land, only to take it away shortly thereafter. Nope, apparently it’s a cultural slur against Native Americans. I thought that “call a spade a spade” was talking about cards. Nope, apparently spade is a racial slur and that expression is horribly offensive (and the person who informed me of this was VERY rude about it and refused to believe that I didn’t say it on purpose). I thought “coon” was short for raccoon, like coonhound or coonskin cap. Imagine my surprise when I was berated for saying “some coons spread the damn garbage all over the driveway.”
I hate it. There are so many slurs! Who comes up with all these? How are we expected to know all of them without being told! Am I supposed to sit my kids down someday and list out all the racial slurs I know, to make sure they don’t use them? That would be absurd!
Ugh. Just wanted to get that out, after seeing the ruckus in another thread when the OP unknowingly used the word “gypped” without realizing it is a racial slur. These are seriously some of my most embarrassing moments. Because invariably, the person who ‘fills me in’ is horribly, horribly offended, and has no patience for listening to the reasons why I didn’t know. Ignorance is no excuse, they say. And then I feel like rotten garbage for at least the next week, if not longer. Because apparently I’m either racist or stupid, and I’d rather not be either of those.
Sigh. Anyone else experienced this?
Post # 3
I legit did not know the last one was racist at all. And i have never thought of coon being offensive either since that is what we call Racoons around here.
I guess it depends where you live BIG time.
Post # 4
You are letting yourself care about it too much. There is a difference between using a word with hatred in your heart towards a group of people, and innocently trying to order an ice cream cone with sprinkles!
Also: If someone gives you crap about “spades,” just say you’re a Dashell Hammet fan.
Also: Wikipedia says it’s not racist, and I believe them. Because that doesn’t make sense. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/To_call_a_spade_a_spade
Also: You could just watch Grand Torino and just make sure never to repeat anything that Clint Eastwood says in that movie. That should about cover it.
Post # 5
@Tangled: she had an awful experience in 6th grade it is understandable why she is a little worried about it.
Post # 6
I guess because now I live in the DC area where everyone is all politically correct all the time … I have seriously been YELLED at for using words I had no idea were bad. It’s about the biggest foot-in-mouth I can possibly imagine!
Post # 7
@iarebridezilla: It’s the intention behind the slur that matters. You’re not considered a racist if you don’t know the meaning of the word or expression. If you say something by accident or mistake, apologize and move on. If people choose to get offended by someone who is not a racist, but who made an innocent mistake, they’re wasting a lot of good hate-energy they could direct towards a true racist who deserves it.
Post # 8
yikes, I use three of those on a regular basis and while I vaguely knew that “coon” had racial implications, my family always used it when referring to racoons growing up. I didn’t know until my late teens that it was supposed to be a slur.
Now I’m curious what calling “a spade a spade” is supposed to mean?! I also use “gypped”.
Post # 9
I just saw that other thread, and I had no idea either :-/
Post # 10
@Tangled: I was also suspicious about the ‘call a spade a spade’ expression, but I’m never using it again, just to be safe!
Post # 11
I think you are beating yourself up too much. As PP noted, there’s a difference between intentionally using it for hate and doing it out of innocence. Many words in our every day rhetoric apparently comes from a place of hate and racism and I don’t think everyone actually is aware of every single one aside from the obvious “n-word” type things. I had no idea the spade saying was racist nor have I ever used the word “coon” to refer to anything besides raccoons. If you correct yourself or make a mental note once you are made aware, I think it is fine.
Post # 12
@Sunfire: I agree. I did the same thing a little bit ago on a wedding board.. It was an honest mistake and I didn’t know it was considered a racial slur.. you would of thought I killed a puppy the way some people responded. It was an honest mistake.
Post # 13
I’m usually on the other side.
While I am personally almost impossible to offend, I am always offended for others. So I’m often calling others out on their cavalier attitude of subtle racism, sexism etc.
I go so far with it, that I chewed out a life guard at my pool for yelling across the pool to another lifeguard that the boys on the courts wouldn’t play basketball with them because he was white and they were black. The pool was full of people from all different backgrounds as well as children. I find any sort of conversation where race or color is used IN ANY WAY is unacceptable.
Now that I live in the south, I find myself constantly correcting people.
I don’t know how people DON’T know that these things are rude.
So your post interesting…
Post # 14
OP, I get worried about that too. I moved to the US from Russia when I was 10, and even though it’s been a long time, I still feel like there are things other kids learned that I didn’t. I just try to pay very close attention any time I learn these things and never forget.
@Tangled: She cares about not offending others, even if it’s by accident. That’s not a personality flaw and she’s not wrong for it.
The world would be a better place if we all corrected ourselves and learned a lesson when we accidentally offend instead of standing our ground and defending our right to say offensive things. I don’t think people should be guilted for unknowingly using racist terms, but I definitely think they should learn.
Post # 15
I always think of JAP as “Jewish American Princess” which is such a long island thing and is just offensive instead of racist.
Whats the spade thing? Off to find this thread…
Post # 16
@hisgoosiegirl: Gypped comes from gypsy. Basically it is derogatory because when you way you were gypped it means someone shorted you on something. The implication is that gypsies will short people or “gyp” them out of things.