Meeting people is a pain in the ass. Whoever first said “just be yourself” deserves a punch in the face because that shit’s impossible when you’re trying to make new friends. You usually can’t crack the same jokes that make your best friends laugh to a stranger because different people have different boundaries, and you can never be sure of those boundaries until you get to know the person. This seems like a simple fact to me, but it’s surprising how often people you’ve just met cross the line and say something that makes you uncomfortable. It especially sucks when they say something prejudiced. If you happen to find yourself in the awkward position of deciding to whether or not to address the situation and point out the bigotry in an acquaintance’s statement, I encourage you to say something. Be concise, straightforward, and non-judgmental, and if you’re met with any of the following excuses, be prepared to debunk and demolish them.
“It was only a joke!” The thing is that jokes are supposed to be funny and racism is not funny. Period. Anyone who relies on offensive and ill-informed statements to get a laugh isn’t worth listening to.
“But its true!” It’s amazing that some people actually believe stereotypes, but that’s because they don’t know about self-fulfilling prophecies. Any given stereotype doesn’t exist because it’s a truth, it exists because some idiot made it up and patted himself on the back every time a person did something the reinforce the stereotype. Every time you see a woman get into a car accident, it will remind you of the stereotype that women are bad drivers, but you won’t think anything when you see a man get into a car accident because that stereotype doesn’t exist. Generalizing groups of people through stereotyping is just really uncreative and boring, to be honest.
“I work with/am friends with said group of people!” This is an embarrassingly tired excuse for racism, but people still rely on it. There just isn’t any logic behind it. Being around people whom you are prejudiced against does not qualify you for the Nobel Peace Prize or some shit. It’s called life and it would be a whole lot easier for you if abolished your bigoted views.
“But I identify as said group of people!” The bottom line is that women can be misogynists, minorities can be racist, homosexuals can be homophobic, and the list goes on. Being prejudiced against yourself is extremely harmful.
“You’re just too sensitive!” This is a great way to shut a person down, and it’s a bigot’s knee-jerk reaction to criticism. Many people who are prejudiced consider themselves to be hardened and knowledgeable in ways that other people (ie you) are not. When you criticize something that they say, they will divert the blame to you, saying that it’s your fault that their racist comments hurt or disturb you. That’s bullshit and they know it. Speaking up against prejudice doesn’t make you overly sensitive and therefore not worth listening to; it makes you a logical and rational human being. It’s not your other people are such idiots.