On Life and Love

Racism: how much of a bitch should I be?

I’m never sure how vicious to be when I encounter racism and have the ability to put a stop to it. For instance, last night, during a game at my apartment, Tookie suggested someone break a bottle and use it as a weapon. The excited response from Gimpy Phil was, “Nigger knife!”

Um, what? This shit ain’t happening in my damn house.

The moment passed just quickly enough that I wasn’t sure I should go back and harp on it. I was on edge for the rest of the evening, though, ready to jump in and tell some folks to take that shit elsewhere if they said anything else like that (whether about blacks or any other race). I don’t even know half the racial slurs these guys throw around, but I know how they joke, and I can usually detect when it’s something racial.

I won’t be one of those folks so anxious to fit in and to smooth over conflict that I’ll let people run over me in that way (or many ways, really). I had a friend in high school who let that shit fly just so he could hang around the skater types.

I’ll ban a few people from my home and never play another game with ’em again if that’s what it takes. No skin off my back.

“Nigger knife.” Honestly.


  • Imani

    Okay, first you have to understand that Phil is a good person and wouldn’t mean anything by it. From there, let him become painfully aware of your displeasure. He’s really just socially inept, but he is trainable in stuff like that.

  • Lissa

    Yes, but it’s not just Phil. It’s Tookie and Seabass and a few other guys (mostly Theta Xi members, but that’s just who WO hangs around).

    I tend to believe that very few people can live in America and toss out the word “nigger” without an idea as to the meaning and implications of the word. And to say it in front of a black person?? What does that say about me, that folks that don’t even f’ing know me can feel perfectly comfortable saying that around me?

    It has nothing to do with being a good or a bad person. Those labels are useless. If I complain about sexism, I’m sure someone’ll tell me that a certain friend of WO’s is a wonderfully good person, even though she’s sexist and seems hateful towards women. It’s still a kind of hate, and I still have to decide whether I’ll tolerate it in my home and how much of a bitch I want to be about it.

  • Guy

    Your house, your rules. I say be as big of a bitch as you want to be about it. Your home is a refuge, you shouldn’t have to take any shit you don’t like there.

  • Brandon

    I don’t know these people. I don’t care to defend them and I certainly don’t want to be mistaken for defending that word. But I do have a tough time reading that simply using it is a kind of hate.

    Words like “retard” have a lot of baggage, too, but they don’t offend nearly as quickly as racial ones do. And saying something like, “I hate jackasses who drive BMWs” may not actually mean I hate my uncle, who drives a BMW.

    There is no word or concept that carries comparable revulsion for white people. It’s hard to relate. Because, honestly, it is hard for me to understand exactly why it’s not worse to say retard, other than because people seem to think so. But I believe you when you say it’s worse.

    Hate is a big deal, though. I don’t think because this kid made an off-color joke he hates black people, or that there is some sort of underlying racial animosty bubbling beneath the surface. It is certainly impolite and irresponsible, among other things, to use any racial slur in any house, let alone one belonging to a person of the race being slurred.

    If you had said “If you use that word you are not welcome here anymore” I don’t think that would have made you a bitch, though, so long as you were polite about it. I can see the same thing happening if a more traditional swear word that offended the host’s sensibilities.

    Hate is harder to prove, though. That’s my complaint. Use of offensive language isn’t necessarily proof of hate any more than an incorrect spelling of a word or the use of an inappropriate verb tense is a sign of poor education. It simply indicates a place where improvement is needed; if yelling at him helps him and his friends improve, then yell.

  • Lissa

    Brandon: You’re right. My comment implied that I considered the mere use of the term “nigger knife” to be hateful, which I don’t. It’s f’ing disrespectful, but not necessarily hateful.

    But here’s the thing: it’s generally accepted in American culture that “nigger” is more offensive than “retard”, so why would you casually throw out the term at all? Why would you throw it out in the home of a black person?

    And you’re right, “retard” really is just as indicative of disrespect, disregard, and that smug sense of superiority. I’m not sure how many people hate folks with Down syndrome, etc., but there’s certainly some of the [perhaps] more important baggage of superiority there. It may be as simple as the fact that there hasn’t been a movement recently to restructure the way we consider learning-disabled folks (that I know of). Many people do consider that a pitiful and horrible and subhuman way to be, even now.

    One question (that doesn’t directly relate to Phil) is this: how far does the disrespect have to go before it is hate? How many “funny” racist jokes (about any race) would someone have to make before it’s more than disrespect and into hate?

    You said “Use of offensive language isn’t necessarily proof of hate any more than an incorrect spelling of a word or the use of an inappropriate verb tense is a sign of poor education.”

    “Nigger” offends me, but I think it’s beyond the category of “offensive language”. “Fuck” is offensive language. “Nigger” is a racial slur. That’s above and beyond “offensive”, because it has context. It means something.

  • A

    It may be hard to believe, but I have been in that same sort of situation. As you may know, my room has been a magnet of interesting but amazingly disrepectful and inconsiderate people. They’re not the “bad” people, but I was on that edge you spoke of for weeks at a time. I hate tension and ill will, but I also hate that sort of disrespectful attitude; it can make my blood boil – and I hate being angry. Mark my words, it is not something up with which I will put any longer there.

    So I too feel as Guy does. Your Home is your Refuge.

    And besides, such comments are inexcusable – a friend should never hurt a friend in jest.

  • Javid

    I can sympathize with your discomfort. It isn’t the presence of the world that is upsetting, but rather the fact that someone lacked the respect to say it. I myself am guilty of saying offensive words. I know I bring race into conversations more than I should, but I’m very careful of the audience I’m with. I’ve been the recipient of some words and language that offend me. If you aren’t considerate enough to respect those around you, then you shouldn’t be welcome in their home. I’ve recently realized that most jokes can actually offend someone. What makes it worse is when people justify these jokes by saying that people that believe that they are offensive are just exacerbating the situation and are the cause of the problem. If you are around me, you better not start going off against Muslims, because that is one of the easiest ways to get me to go off.

  • jed

    I was tempted to hit him myself
    do not bother being subtle or anything to any of the theta xi guys (and yes that applies to me too)
    lacking social skills does not excuse much if anything, so dont worry about that part
    you should not have to worry about training someone

  • Temple3

    If you can’t be a bitch in your own home…

    I’m with Dulin. Straight jugular. What’s a little blood between friends. Just as he can’t take back what was said – it’s in the air; you shouldn’t have to clean up the blood. Once it flows, it’s on. There is tremendous possibility in a volcanic eruption of epic proportions. If Hawaii teaches us nothing, it is that we should all be lovas of the lava. The hotter the better.

  • Guy

    I say alot of offensive things all the time. I think people have a right to do so. However, I say them on some backwater website that nobody has to visit and anyone is free to leave. I wouldn’t walk into someone house and blurt that shit out. The way I look at it is your home is your own personal dictatorship. You don’t have to justify shit. If someone says they like Pepsi, and you like Coke, feel free to kick them out. It’s your own personal world, you don’t have to write a thesis explaning the rational behind it.

    Besides, if you can’t be streefree in your home where the hell else can you go to relax?