Author Topic: How to alienate me in one easy step- help dealing with racism/ignorance  (Read 3046 times)

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Amanita

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So I work security in an apartment building, and in between rounds I sit in an office where tenants can easily find me. Now, I don't mind chatting with tenants- some of them are really nice people who I can have interesting and intelligent conversations with. But there's one who managed to make my poopaditty list last night.

She came into my office around 3 am, going on about how she couldn't sleep, holding a cup of coffee. She's bored and wants to talk. Ok, fine. I mention that I would like to visit Dubai one of these days, and she says "Oh, I wouldn't! I don't want to give anything to the dark races over there!"
I really wish I had shut her down at this point, I think I was a little too gobsmacked. It's not often I hear somebody come out and openly express THAT kind of bigotry. She also managed to diss a chunk of my family tree, going on about how she and her relatives felt it was okay to disrespect a maid of the same heritage as some of my relatives, because she wasn't from the right part of the British Isles.

Now, between rounds it's not uncommon for me to work on art projects- sketches and designs, sometimes other things. I've even hand sewn trim onto a coat- it helped pass the time between rounds, and keeps me awake. One of last night's art projects was the design for the decorative shroud of a lightsaber handle I'm building. Since I needed to measure the handle, I had it on the desk. She asked what it was, and I explained that it's a costume prop in progress. "You ever see Star Wars? Kinda like that." She answered "Oh, I don't like Star Wars". Okay, fine. But then she lost me completely when she continued- "People with sick minds made that". Yeah, THAT was over the line and offensive. And I confess, I did let her know that she had offended me, saying "You might not want to chat with me then, because I'm a big fan, I like science fiction and fantasy, it's kind of a big thing for me.

She also managed to offend me, being the skyscraper lover I am- She went off on a rant about how she hates the high rise buildings in my city, and believes nothing more than 8 stories should be allowed. This ranting included a lot of misinformation, which proves she knows NOTHING about even the basics of engineering or city planning. To me, I find that as annoying as some other members find it when somebody spouts off with blatant medical misinformation or quackery, like it's gospel truth. I finally told her that she wasn't going to convince me of the evils of high rises, I knew too much about engineering, and like skyscrapers too much.

So how do I shut her down and get her out of my office the next time she starts up like this? Unfortunately it's not professional to tell her "Get out of my office you ignorant bag of wind!"

SoCalVal

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Re: How to alienate me in one easy step- help dealing with racism/ignorance
« Reply #1 on: October 21, 2012, 03:03:34 PM »
Next time (and practice scenarios in your head so you could be prepared the moment one of them happens)

She came into my office around 3 am, going on about how she couldn't sleep, holding a cup of coffee. She's bored and wants to talk. Ok, fine. I mention that I would like to visit Dubai one of these days, and she says "Oh, I wouldn't! I don't want to give anything to the dark races over there!"

<put up hand so she has a visual to stop speaking> "I'm sorry you feel this way, but I don't agree with this viewpoint and am not comfortable with this conversation.  Cheese Nip?"

But then she lost me completely when she continued- "People with sick minds made that". Yeah, THAT was over the line and offensive. And I confess, I did let her know that she had offended me, saying "You might not want to chat with me then, because I'm a big fan, I like science fiction and fantasy, it's kind of a big thing for me.

You were fine here and if she continues, see above.

She also managed to offend me, being the skyscraper lover I am- She went off on a rant about how she hates the high rise buildings in my city, and believes nothing more than 8 stories should be allowed. This ranting included a lot of misinformation, which proves she knows NOTHING about even the basics of engineering or city planning. To me, I find that as annoying as some other members find it when somebody spouts off with blatant medical misinformation or quackery, like it's gospel truth. I finally told her that she wasn't going to convince me of the evils of high rises, I knew too much about engineering, and like skyscrapers too much.

Sounds like you did fine here.

So how do I shut her down and get her out of my office the next time she starts up like this? Unfortunately it's not professional to tell her "Get out of my office you ignorant bag of wind!"

Bean dip, bean dip, bean dip.  Don't even acknowledge anything that has come out of her mouth and, until she gets the point, have some work task (imaginary or real) that you have to do at that moment when she starts up again -- something that'll take you out of the office, even if it's just to go to the restroom (bonus points if going to the restroom involves having to boot her so you could lock up when your station is unattended).

However, I don't feel racism/bigotry should go unaddressed.  I would probably say, "I don't share that viewpoint and bean dip her."

Slightly off-topic but addressing bigotry where you can't really escape it -- I once attended a Catholic bible study where this guy out of the blue asks the small group present "What do you think about these ethnic Catholic churches?  I think they focus more on being ethnic than on being Catholic, which is really wrong."  Others in the group tried to correct him, but he was determined to bad-mouth ethnic Catholic churches and with no basis for his opinion (I had steam coming out of my ears on this one but didn't trust myself to speak).  The next time the group met (two weeks later), it was still bothering me so when the opportunity arose, I addressed what he said and why it was wrong.  It might've made the group uncomfortable but as the sole individual in the group at that time part of a non-Caucasian ethnicity, I felt I needed to not let such bigoted ignorance slide by.  He hasn't made another comment like that in my presence, which is good because enough time has passed that I would be more likely to just tell him off were he to express another such bigoted opinion.

I know you can't tell off this woman since she's one of the tenants, but you can make yourself scarce or outright ask her without acknowledging what she just said, "Is there a security issue you need handled?  If she says no, then you could say I need to go do X or I need to go to the restroom so I need to lock up."  I'd say tell her what you really think of her ignorant opinions, but I know that's much easier said than done (which several posters on this forum forget when they suggest rather strong and/or bold responses).  Another tack I once tried with a racist coworker (another inescapable situation since we worked together closely every day) was to ask her why she holds the opinion she does, which didn't work (I really was trying to get to the bottom of why she was so racist about this one group since she insisted upon being so open about her dislike but she only got defensive and upset and insisted her viewpoint was shared by everyone she knew in her age group -- about 30-40 years older than me -- so I knew it was a losing situation and that there was no reasoning with her).  I think the only way I found to deal with it was to say repeatedly, "Well, I don't have a problem with them" then change the subject.



MrTango

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Re: How to alienate me in one easy step- help dealing with racism/ignorance
« Reply #2 on: October 21, 2012, 05:10:30 PM »
When I was a security guard, I'd occasionally say "Oh, looks like it's time for another set of rounds." to get rid of people I didn't want to chat with.

PastryGoddess

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Re: How to alienate me in one easy step- help dealing with racism/ignorance
« Reply #3 on: October 21, 2012, 06:21:32 PM »
When I was a security guard, I'd occasionally say "Oh, looks like it's time for another set of rounds." to get rid of people I didn't want to chat with.

Yeah but then she might decide to tag along *shudder*

You may want to pull the clueby4 out and simply say "that's not very nice"  with a taken aback look and a mild tone of voice.  I've found this works with people of all ages without offending them.  They know I don't like hearing it and either stop talking to me (YAY!) or don't bring up those topics around me when they do talk to me

Amanita

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Re: How to alienate me in one easy step- help dealing with racism/ignorance
« Reply #4 on: October 21, 2012, 06:56:01 PM »
If she tries to tag along, I could always tell her I need to visit the mechanical spaces, which are off limits to the tenants. Yes, I do have the keys:)

I do feel that outright racist stuff like that needs to be called out, diplomatically in the case of people you work with, but it should be dealt with. So if she starts that again, I'll be ready to say something.

And if she gets all upset and starts squawking, I'll be sure to write it up, and tell my supervisors- my supervisors don't tolerate BS, and I know at least one of them would most likely have my back if that tenant tried to make any sort of official trouble.

Twik

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Re: How to alienate me in one easy step- help dealing with racism/ignorance
« Reply #5 on: October 22, 2012, 09:44:36 AM »
I once overheard someone who was forced to listen to a co-worker say some really disgusting things. His method of dealing was to respond to everything with the word "Really." Said with totally flat aspect and deadpan affect.  Conversation eventually becomes like hitting a tennis ball over the net, with no one hitting it back.

"Purple people are killing the planet! We must eliminate them!"

"Really."

"I plan to sell my children for scientific experiments!"

"Really."

"I ... you're not interested, are you?"

"Really."
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cicero

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Re: How to alienate me in one easy step- help dealing with racism/ignorance
« Reply #6 on: October 22, 2012, 11:13:23 AM »
i Probably would have responded with something like:
Ignoramusia: "Oh, I wouldn't! I don't want to give anything to the dark races over there!"
Amanita: "to the what?"
Ignoramusia: (hopefully would get the hint): "ummm i mean to the  ummm people".
Amanita: "so, bean dip before you go?"

I also would probably, at the first encounter, have stood and said "listen, management really doesn't like tenants hanging around here. so was a security issue you needed help with? no? OK, see you around, then" while discreetly walking her to the door. IOW - no, don't make it about the contents of what she said, but about the fact that you really can't talk with her right now (or ever).

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poundcake

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Re: How to alienate me in one easy step- help dealing with racism/ignorance
« Reply #7 on: October 22, 2012, 11:36:59 AM »
Depending on how much you want to engage with the crazy racist, my go to phrases are

"Did you really just say that?"

"I'm sorry, what?"

"Ah."

Diane AKA Traska

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Re: How to alienate me in one easy step- help dealing with racism/ignorance
« Reply #8 on: October 22, 2012, 12:28:51 PM »
First, the misunderstood skyscrapers.  I feel buildings are too SHORT in the city.  When you have over a million people living anywhere, you need to build UP, not OUT!

However, the main thrust.  Racists need to be called out.  They don't actually know that it's wrong... usually, their parents talked like that, because their parents talked like that, because THEIR parents talked like that... remember that the opposite of ignorance is education, so educate, don't denigrate.  Remind them that people not like them have jobs, families, hopes, dreams, worries, bills, and all of that.  At the most fundamental, they are just like us, they just look different.
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Moray

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Re: How to alienate me in one easy step- help dealing with racism/ignorance
« Reply #9 on: October 22, 2012, 02:23:42 PM »
I also believe that racists need to be called out, but that you shouldn't engage the crazy. Shut the conversation down ASAP using one of the phrases PPs have provided.

As far as the skyscrapers? Well, not all people have to like all things. I'd just let it go. Some people are fans of hard, imposing, steel and concrete structures thrusting into to the skies, and some are just "meh" over what they see as strictly utilitarian and unsightly blights on the skyline.
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Amanita

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Re: How to alienate me in one easy step- help dealing with racism/ignorance
« Reply #10 on: October 22, 2012, 04:20:25 PM »
Well, with that lady, I just told her bluntly that I was a fan of tall buildings, and that she wasn't going to change my mind, no matter what she said. That did the job and shut her up. And the rock she griped about? It makes feeding our current urban sprawl situation a lot harder, when city services have to be extended out ever further, which means LOTS of digging for sewer, water mains, gas lines, and so on. Even in our little city of 300,000 urban sprawl is really starting to hurt. We're really feeling the effects of traffic congestion on the roads into the city, the city is complaining about the difficulties of extending services out to all these outlying developments, but even still- mention putting a tall building up downtown and people lose their spit over it, like this city's supposed to be kept as some kind of hermetically sealed heritage snowglobe- a pretty thing for tourists to play with and look at.

I remember wanting to reach through a newspaper and slap a New York Times travel writer who visited my hometown, and groused about the high rise buildings we DO have, how they messed with the old stuff that the writer liked more. I wanted to say "Hello, you're in a working city, not a living history village! And you're in the financial district, what did you think we were going to have down there? You want quaint little towns, we've got a lot of them here, but this city isn't one of them!

(An aside- not all skyscrapers come across as hard and imposing to me- I remember encountering one in downtown Toronto that to me, came across as downright cute. Although I suppose anything might come across as cute and diminutive when it's sitting near the CN Tower ;D Unless its name is Burj Khalifa, that is >:D )

Yeah, not all people have to like all things, which is why I didn't get offended when she said she didn't like Star Wars. It was when she started going on about how it was made by people with sick minds that I did get offended. There's a LOT of very talented people who've worked to bring that universe to life- writers, actors, artists, costume designers, the list goes on. To write them all off in one fell swoop as "sick minds" is just so colossally ignorant that I don't even have words.

And I agree with Traska about how to deal with bigots- I remember reading a great story about a Native American woman at a Pow-Wow who did just that. She encountered a group of girls from a local college dressed in Pocahontas-style faux fringe-wear. She felt that pseudo-Native costumes like that were offensive and inappropriate, so she went up to that group of girls to talk to them. She didn't go all out on the attack, calling them names or suggesting that their ignorance made them worse than the outright bigots. (I've heard some people in the PC and anti Racism movements say that) She just went up, introduced herself and talked to them, explaining WHY their outfits were not appropriate, that a good many Native Americans find "faux indian" dress offensive, among other things. She then suggested they all talk to a Native elder who was present- he would be willing to enlighten them further. Really, those girls were not trying to be hurtful, the clothes were a misguided attempt to fit in. And by speaking to those girls with civility, she made an impression- they seemed to have learned something. Had she come out with guns blazing, screaming about what racist trolls they were, I suspect they would have gone on the defensive, and her words would have had far less of an impact.

bopper

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Re: How to alienate me in one easy step- help dealing with racism/ignorance
« Reply #11 on: October 23, 2012, 01:53:14 PM »
"I am sorry, do you have a security issue?"

"I am sorry, I am not interested in talking badly about other cultures."

"Excuse me, I have to go make my rounds."