"I don't mean to sound racist but..."

This weekend at work, a colleague said to me "I don't mean to sound racist..." So I stopped him and said: "Well, that means that whatever is about to come out of your mouth is going to be blatantly racist." He went straight on the defensive. "No, no!" He responded. Anyway, I stopped what I was doing, looked him directly in the eyes and heard him out. "This should be good", I thought.

He started again in his Essex/cockney accent: "I don't mean to saand racist but I 'ate it when foreigners who can speak English speak their language to other people that can speak English an'all. It does my head in." Pause. Now, I don't I need to tell you what race he is.... And so it continues....

Now if his point was that it's rude when someone speaks their mother tongue (that you don't understand or can't speak) in front of you, totally disregard your presence, then I would have understood what he was saying, because I myself find that annoying at times.  But that wasn't even the point he was making.

"Well", I began challenging him, "Supposing English isn't their first language and both people feel more comfortable speaking their mother tongue to each other?"

"I don't care!" He replied in anger "If they're in this country they should speak English."

"Wow!" I said, taken aback "So, for example, when White English people go and settle in Spain, do you think that all they speak is Spanish? Do they totally abandon speaking English?"

He tried to explain himself but I wasn't having it. I dismissed him, at which point he took the liberty of informing me that he wasn't speaking to me any more. Ha! "Is it cos I is Black?" I asked humourously, just infuriating him further. As if I actually cared. He's not even deep enough to hold an intellectual conversation with.

"Listen" ,I added while he began throwing his toys out of his pram, "Just because you can only speak one language, don't knock those that have the ability to speak two or more.If you want to bring up an issue with me, make sure you actually have a valid point because right now you sound dumb."

I don't like to pull out the racism card any time someone offends or discriminates against me because I would forever be paranoid, but the prejudice undertone to what he said really opened my eyes to his true character. What he said wasn't actually racist but the intention behind his words was fueled by racial prejudice.He was totally showing his ignorance.

I find it rather amusing whenever an ignorant white person assumes that because I'm Black, I eat jerk chicken, rice and peas every day of the damn week. Don't get me wrong. I love to tuck into a good Caribbean dish, but erm I'm African and also enjoy the delights of my own traditional cuisine. But they wouldn't know that simply because of some of their lack of willingness to learn about different cultures (and why should they when staying in a little bubble is much more fun?)

For goodness sake. I speak and write far better English that the guy telling me about the language itself and I wasn't even born in this country.

Maybe he's blind, but last time I checked I was blacker than black. If that's how he feels about "foreigners" then he was speaking to the totally wrong person. He should have made that point to his white friends, who, I'm sure would have appreciated it far more than I did. They would probably agree with him and have a good ole hyena laugh about it while drinking a pint of beer and scratching their balls.

There's not one person on this planet that can honestly say that they have never said,thought and/or done anything racist at all in their lives. Racism exists. Fact. In some people is dormant and others, very active.
Racism: the maximum of hatred for a minimum of reason.

I once saw on twitter: "Question: When does a black person become a nigger? Answer: When they leave the room." Very clever, I thought to myself sarcastically but the irony is that they were actually showing themselves up in that "joke".

Maybe it's an inferiority complex that they have, but the sooner racists start seeing individuals for their human worth rather than as a colour, the sooner they'll actually start valuing their own selves. Rant over.  :)


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8 comments:

  1. Hello Rebecca,

    Thanks for the post.

    To be perfectly honest, I don't see anything racist about that guy's concern.
    In fact, his opening (no matter how unfortunate and inappropriate it is) sounds like a naturally developed defensive reflex when he automatically expects being branded as racist for expressing his nationalistic feelings. And I am sure that there is a lot of people out there happy to brand me (impertinently) as racist or nationalist for my opening of this comment.
    From what you are saying, his point is that he feels uncomfortable with other people speaking a foreign (whatever that means) language in his presence. Who does not? Some people get used to it, others challenge it.
    There may be different reasons why the foreign language speaking people do it. As you said, it can be just more comfortable for them to talk in their mother tongue, umm, ok, but what about other people's comfort? I find it easier and more comfortable to talk to my sister in our mother tongue which is Czech, but whenever her English boyfriend comes to our house I would automatically switch to English, to prevent him feeling uncomfortable. The same would apply even to whispering in Czech among other czechs, English among the english... I guess it's just a question of being polite, considerate, even empathic towards your immediate environment.
    You find that guy's concern rooted in his ignorance. What about that sort of ignorance when there are people who would ignore your presence and take advantage of the fact that you don't understand their language to talk about you "behind your back". Or other sort, when other people join a society (e.g. immigrate) without any effort to integrate (e.g. learn language)and take benefits of that society for granted? What this fella said was a pretty simplistic expression of his feelings. He could put forward a bit more of his share to this game but I don't think it's enough to make him a hater.

    I'm sorry, but I really don't see any relevance between the bit where you are talking about this collegue of yours and the conclusion where you are mentioning "jerk chicken" steretype, your English language competence and balls scratching.

    To me it really sounds like you are "pulling out the racism card" without even being offended or discriminated (by this particular person). In fact, some might say that you are offending that geezer for his lack of sophistication and maybe a bit of ignorance.

    Would you consider it a racially motivated attack to be asaulted by 5 english geezers telling you to "f*** off to where you came from, this country is in this s**t because of people like you...."? And even me being whiter than white was no good to me.

    Maybe I missed something in your post or maybe I'm missing something in modern culture context. I hope you don't take this as I'm trying to start a beef.

    All the best

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  2. rebeccamoniquewilliams17 January 2010 at 20:24

    Hi Petr,

    Thank you for taking your time to read the post.

    What he actually said was not wholly racist in itself, but the angry undertone to the way he said it revealed deep rooted racism. This is a snapshot of what this person is like. I've witnessed some very obvious and indirect racist comments made by him so I suppose, it's easier for me to understand.

    I DO in fact state in the post that it is annoying and rude for someone to speak their language in front of you when you don't understand it. I DO make that point and agree with it. But that was NOT the point THIS person was making.

    Maybe I wasn't clear about what point this person was trying to make. Let me put it into a personal perspective. He was saying that you, as a native of Czechoslovakia, shouldn't speak your mother tongue AT ALL in this country, not even with your sister (private or public), simply because you're in an English speaking country. You can both speak English so shouldn't have any other language choice. In other words abandon your mother tongue if you have made the decision to live in this country and if you don't then you simply don't have a right to be here.

    Yes, if someone goes to live in a different country and doesn't make any effort whatsoever to learn that country's language then that can be frustrating for others but again, that was NOT the point he was making.

    My link to jerk chicken etc was me simply giving an example of how some people's choice to be ignorant can lead them to making a fool out of themselves.
    My language competence has very much relevance in this post. How can someone who is telling me that if you live in England, you should ONLY speak English when they don't even speak or write it very well themselves and my ability to grasp the language puts him to shame?

    Racism doesn't have to be screaming "Look at me! Look at me! I'm racist!" to actually be racist. Racism can be a very subtle remark, glare etc.

    Why start off a sentence with "I don't mean to sound racist but..."? Subconsciously, he knew exactly what point he was trying to make and knew that it was offensive. He should have re-thought where and whom he made the point to, especially as he works with many people who do not speak English as a first language.

    As ever,

    Rebecca-Monique

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  3. To be honest he is speaking the truth for anyone from any country around the world if u live in that country u should expect to speak there mother tongue when in there company. If that means work, travel or school it's only right that you do not make them feel on the back foot or uncomfortable in there presence. There is no way that racist comes into the conclusion u could be from like i previously stated anywhere around the world, To me u are playing the typical sterotype racial card and looking for sympathy and look at me im being attacked but he was just pointing out that he feels people from other country's while in public should speak that language of that country and very right he is o and sorry if my speeling aint up to scratch like my typical cockney essex balls like his but u obviously hate the truth and like all wannabe aspiring journalist u talk and make bullshit out of FUCK all

    Kind Regards

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  4. rebeccamoniquewilliams29 January 2010 at 21:42

    Thanks for your comment ASHLEY aka "Ali"! LMFAO!!

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  5. I find it highly amusing that you contradict your own point. If you believe that as someone living in this country you should speak proper English, may I suggest using a spellcheck? Or just some basic knowledge of grammar - full stops come at the end of a sentence. It's "you", not "u" and "I" should be capitalised as well.
    Regardless of how rude it is to speak a different language in front of people who do not speak it, maybe you should learn to speak your own language first.
    As you put it,
    "Kind Regards."

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  6. Mr donald roberts21 February 2010 at 12:04

    note to Mr Ignorant: self loathing equals low self esteem, an inferiority complex and most of all it's deemed as a mental disorder. So why don't you try self-loving instead it's much easier to adopt, requires less energy and might even be the antidote to your hate for others.

    Wikipedia:
    Self-hatred, self-loathing, also sometimes autophobia refers to an extreme dislike of oneself, or being angry at oneself. The term is also used to designate a dislike or hatred of a group to which one belongs. For instance, "ethnic self-hatred" is the extreme dislike of one's ethnic group.
    The term "self-hatred" is used infrequently by psychologists and psychiatrists, who would usually describe people who hate themselves as "persons with low self-esteem." Self-hatred and shame are important factors in some or many mental disorders, especially disorders that involve a perceived defect of oneself (e.g. body dysmorphic disorder). Self-hatred is also a prime feature of many personality disorders.
    Personal self-hatred and self-loathing can result from an inferiority complex.

    Watch the video and witness the ignorance in your belief and mind set. Now flip the coin around and imagine yourself been treated like this whenever you go abroad. You see, it does not quiet stand does it? [your argument]

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  7. Mr donald roberts21 February 2010 at 12:08

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KW1wkVY6RFI

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  8. Mr donald roberts21 February 2010 at 12:48

    Yes its annoying when people speak their language in a public space or setting but to be that wound up about it is both ridiculous and pathetic.
    Just look at how much energy she's using just to make her point. Sorry but anger at that level stems from something in her personal life of which needs addressing.
    I feel sorry for her next victim. I wonder what her next annoyance might be, probably "You're in my country. F**king eat my f**king food and close down all your curry houses and take back all your influences with you 'cause we don't need them any more". Lol, that would be the day. Watch how that mentality would take your racist asses back to the dark ages.

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