I should also mention that immediately after returning to town, we went to see Offensive Fouls, a play for teenagers about interracial romance.
It’s a good topic to open up discussions on racism that go beyond, “It’s bad” and “I’m not one.” It’s really complicated, and for some people they never really get a sense of how much it totally sucks for those who are potentially the targets for it. Certainly, dating someone who is might be the first glimpses for young people, who are told that Canada isn’t a racist country and that we’re all colour-blind.
And it brought up the idea that people of colour in this country also struggle with their own self-hatred, that we often beat racists to the punch by being scared to admit that we are different, and that it’s our responsibility to bring stuff up even though it’s really hard.
I know that there was a time when I would make Asian girl jokes sometimes to shock. I stopped, because I realized that a lot of people don’t yet see the irony in that and that what I was doing was reinforcing stereotypes and making people feel OK about thinking certain things about me. No thanks.
I don’t remember what movie it was from, but as an African-American mother said to her self-deprecating daughter, “There are plenty of people who will do that for you. So stop doing it to yourself.”
That’s what people don’t understand when they say, “Oh, but my friend is (Asian, native, gay, Jewish) and they don’t mind when I say that. In fact, they use the word themselves.”
What’s happening is they’re trying to make you feel comfortable, and avoiding being labeled an outsider. No one likes to be singled out as being different, and beating you to the punch is a way to demonstrate that you can include us in those “jokes,” even if it does more harm than good. But that’s human nature.
Racism is racism, and sometimes we say those things first to get it over with. Doesn’t make it right, and I no longer allow myself or others to do it either.