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Usurper MrTeapot
First post since June in the Issues forum; some responsibility here, sir, don't mess it up. *gulp*

Firstly, I worry sometimes that I am an anti-semite (also homophobic, occasionally racist against any non-white person, sexist, ageist, anti-American, anti-anyone-outside-of-my-local-postcode etc - but I think this might be normal and I want to focus of Jewish people today Mr Psychiatrist).

I like to think that having a Jewish girlfriend (brought out my 'some of my best friends are black' card early here) gives me the opportunity to encounter Jewish stereotypes often, not only is she proud of her background - even if you ask her to say something in Hebrew, which she will umm and ahh about as if attempting to recall some GCSE level French - but I have occasionally dipped my toe in her family matters such as her two cousins' bat mitzvahs, hanging out with her younger cousins on the other side and even meeting her parents at least twice (*gasp*).

And there are a lot of true stereotypes that I can see...y'know, from them. Those family, members. Them Jews. I mean, no, erm. I'm not a racist.

For example, after the second bat mitzvah we went back and had tea and I spent a lot of time with the adult conversation, whereas I'm more comfortable hanging out with the children usually. Oh, great, another creepy sentence. So back on track, I was talking to the adults, and I asked them what they do, as you do in polite conversations.

It went like this:

"Hi, I'm an accountant."
"I'm also an accountant."
"No, I'm not an accountant, I'm actually a lawyer."
"Really, you're a lawyer, Tim's a lawyer, aren't you, Tim?"

"And what about you, you're not a lawyer or an accountant are you?"
"No, thankfully *laughs* but I do work in a law library..."

True story. Although one was a sculptor too. He sculpted bums. I genuinely want to see one, not a joke, he impressed me by talking about his bums.

It could be that that side of the family is just that way inclined, most of them enjoy maths, computers and have long conversations about history so of course those career paths are common options. I think that's awesome and I'm happy to talk to them about it, apart from maths...urgh. But if I just say what they do and the fact that they are Jewish makes it an obvious stereotype. There are some members of the same branch of family who are not at all really religious and care more about their hair length and climbing rocks in China - they were not at this bat mitzvah so we're included in the story.

There are other examples, some I'm not too happy about and are a bit hard to talk about.

1) Because money is one of them, but I am staying away from this one as I can't speak on behalf of my girlfriend here and my opinion is the fact that she is cheap is just who she is and is a comic element in our life together, although in equal measures annoying.

2) Anyone who knows the Big Bang Theory won't be able to tell me what Howard's mum looks like, perhaps not without picturing a Jewish stereotype in their mind's eye. The stereotype I'm going here might not be so obvious unless you have experienced it, (or unless you are from New York maybe? Am I being racist to New Yorkers now?) and I am talking about the shouting through walls, over floors, through doors, generally shouting to each other and expecting a shouted response back.

In my experiences of it, with several people, there are some who don't know that it is an ineffectual way to communicate (putting it as simply and delicately as I can) and others who recognise it but do it anyway (either accidentally or without care) and those who don't do it at all, which might seem to remove them from the equation but I am including them as they presumably experience it more often (a sibling or spouse opposed to me being not of the family) and have numbed themselves to this way of communicating. It's caused me discomfort in peoples' homes and issues within my own household. As it is a negative stereotype I prefer to place it on the cultural entity which is 'Jewish' in order to detract it from the people themselves. Unlike the example of chosen career paths, I would like to put some distance between the person I interact with and the negativity I find myself to experience. That I think is where some of the racism bit comes in.


Now I am going to go to an example from today.

I am at work. So put me in a professional customer service based position where a man in his 40's would like to have an item printed. He has sent the file to the printer and has come to collect those two pages.

He expects them to be free as he remembers college being free and it is a similar operation he hopes I can perform. I remind him that we have a very low price considering the area and offer up our benefits over local competition. He suggests that if he gives me some paper, which he assumes is where the cost is coming from, then I could give him his two pages (12p RRP) for free. I explain that is the ink that is the bulk of the cost and he would still have to pay the whole sum.

Right. So do you think you know where I'm going with this? Do you? Seeing as I've opened up something (I really have no clue what this is - I'm not an Issue's man really) to do with stereotypes and racism towards a particular ethnic group/religion?

Actually. He started it. Ta da!

"What do you mean I still have to pay, why are you being so Jewish?"

That second a lot of things went through my mind. The times I spent in college making pseudo anti-semetic statements to mock the racist attitudes of those around me, making similar anti-semetic statements to my uncle in Jerusalem after we watched Borat and falling about laughing. Later having non-comical anti-semetic arguments when Palestine inevitably came up. Mocking the stereotypes of my girlfriend (see above). I realised I could be a bad person.

Hopefully, my saving grace is that I tried to counter this when it happened.

The first thing I said is "I don't understand what you mean" (I did lie earlier when I said 'that second' as it probably took the duration of this sentence to formulate).

When he said it again, with anger, not comedy did I realise the full extent of what he was implying. I believe that he was making a clear connection between someone being cheap and people of the Jewish faith/ethnicity (I think BBC confirmed it is a culture not a religion, but meh, who's hashem then? That's what I say BBC.) and that we do not tolerate. That is something for TV, Films and any other media except real life. No, sir, I cannot handle that.

(Actually now that I think of it, I do have a bit of a big nose, maybe he meant that I was Jewish, who knows...?)

So here's the kicker. I am in this 'professional environment', I am in this zone of servitude where my mind is talking in my vernacular but my voice is oh so professional. I can't just switch to f'in and blindin' at him, telling him to get teh f'ork and whatnot. I'd never be able to justify that, I came pretty close with the word retard once and that I'm not getting into that kind of trouble again.

Also, there is no one around me. That seems like an opening to say what I want to him without repercussions, but I am in polite mode. I feel I can only flash him angry eyes and firmly say that I do not understand as that is not how I think, get his blasted 12p and make sure he leaves.

I wanted to say something, I had all his pent up aggression afterwards that I would kill for the opportunity to unleash, but without someone else being there (a reader as a witness or another staff member to back me up afterwards), if I had said anything more angry to him then I would have led to a confrontation of some kind that wouldn't have done me any favours.

That was hate speech, as clear as I could ever experience is. The question I guess I've come to on this ramble is how do I react in the workplace? Am I even allowed to be offended by that seeing as I'm such a flaming racist myself?


Postscript: When I was thinking this over later, someone was sing a Steps lyric, I can't remember what now, but it was strangely appropriate. Bonus Bananas if you can correctly identify it. Thanks for reading btw.
I think there's a difference between acknowledging stereotypes and actually using hate speech - you said you did it in jest and I'm not sure if that qualifies you to be a true blue racist, but it certainly falls within grey area. This is a good example:

There's a difference between pointing out that an action was racist whereas being racist entirely can be a step up. I think a lot of people have had thoughts that flow with stereotypes one time or another, but I don't know if that qualifies them for the label 'racist'. I'm in an advantageous group as a white female. There were a lot of conversations on another forum and very few white people understood, for instance, that whether or not a black person uses the n-word is none of our business because it was never used against us. I'm pretty against saying racist things in general, jest or not. I think one important thing is just to remember who you are - if you're in the position of power as a majority, it's pretty important to handle matters like that with some class and dignity.

And yes, there will be times when stereotypes show themselves in groups of people. I was fascinated when many of our asian customers at work started pausing in line to review their receipts. Only them, almost 100% of the time. I hadn't known this as a stereotype before witnessing it, and found it pretty interesting while wondering why just them? Was it a coincidence? Were people of other races just not being judicious enough about their finances? That was food for thought.

Another interesting thing was the babydoll test. They took a group of toddlers and gave them a white, olive, and black doll while asking questions like 'which one do you want to look like?' and 'which doll is the bad doll?' even parents who hadn't addressed race or been negative about it were shocked to see their children enforcing negativity at the black doll and positivity at the white doll while ignoring the olive one almost altogether. We have a huge problem when kids even as young as that think that way - I was fortunate enough to have the race conversation when I was very small and really didn't 'get' racism until I was old enough to see the hatred in other people. I'm grateful to my parents, because without actually facing it, a child can see those negative stereotypes out in the 'wild' and adopt them. That said, I don't know how I would have done on the babydoll test. The point is, it's depressing and while I'm glad people are paying more attention to racism as a problem rather than just pretending it doesn't exist, there is a long, long way to go.
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