Racism - Are "Good" statements racist?

United States
September 27, 2008 2:40am CST
I am an adopted Asian-American. Growing up I can not tell you how many times I heard statements like "Oh, you must be good at math and science" or "All you Asians are smart, bla, bla". The funny thing is that I do kinda fit the Asian stereotype, violin and all but I was offended by comments like these. I would just act like they didn't say it or change the subject. I know that these people were not racist in the sense that people normally think of as racist so I definitely do not hold it against them or anything. However, I do think racism has many levels. Do you think comments like these are racist? Do you think I am being overly sensitive? Have you had or seen or heard similar comments?
4 people like this
7 responses
@bbrenner (20)
• United States
28 Sep 08
They are racist comments whether folks want to admit it or not. I don't really think that you are being overly sensitive. My mother is Native American. My father is German. My hubby is Jamaican and my children are African-American. You wanna talk about getting racist comments?? My hubby thinks the term African-American is racist and I cannot truly argue that with him. Truth is my children are American, but they are Black. They have never seen Africa nor their father or his father before him. I am a quarter Cherokee Indian, but I am of very fair complexion, blonde hair and green eyes. Should we discuss the stuff I get due to my blonde hair or my bra cup? Nah! When you get right down to it, no one is full blood anything anymore except if you live in the Bush or on a Reservation. The whole things is all kind of silly if you ask me. We bleed the same color. We don't mind who we lay next to in the nursery or the cemetary. Racism is a huge thing in America. Take a caucasian soul in Jamaica surrounded by black folks, no issues. Now put that beautiful Jamaican soul down South in America ~ entirely different situation. Well, that's my take on it anyway, what do I know?? Bless you Lizard. I had a youth say to me at the Church one day, "No offense Sister, but I wanted to buy these really cool shoes at the mall, but they looked like something a Black person might have." Go figure! Most of my family are Black. I couldn't believe that I got that at the Church of all places!!
• United States
30 Sep 08
Exactly!! I feel the same way about the term Asian-American, even though I did use it, so my fellow myLotters could see where I was coming from. Terms like that make a distinction between race when we are all just people and as you said "bleed the same color". I hope people read your comment because I think you explained well how the "good" comments are actually racist.
2 people like this
• United States
10 Oct 08
hello lizard211, my name is wade! nice to meet you ! i feel like your peers are being racial in a sense. in order to say one race is very intelligent, you have to say that another race isn't for example, you know how to play the violin. and you are asian and people are so quick to assume, that every person who is asian are naturaly born with these qualities, no one is... when you think of a nineteen year old black man. you would never guess that he plays the violin too and has a high grade point average in college and loves alternative music...well i do lol ! some people fit sterotypes, and some don't in every race or culture, p.s great discussion !
1 person likes this
• United States
18 Oct 08
Welcome to myLot! I usually respond quicker but haven't logged in for about a week. Anyway, I believe we are on the same page when it comes to this discussion. No matter what color one is, one is a human being. Keep up the violin and the good grades. Thanks for your response.
@Latrivia (2889)
• United States
27 Sep 08
I wouldn't say they racist, per se, but they are very stereotypical. Racism carries with it a negative implication, and usually involves bias against a particular race. Stereotypical or generalizing people, however, may not necessarily have any negative feelings towards a particular race, but do believe certain stereotypes.
1 person likes this
• United States
27 Sep 08
I see your point. I define stereotypes as you do - generalizing a certain group of people, in a good or bad way. I see the word "stereotype" as being the main category and subcategories as being racism, sexism, etc... Anyway, thanks for your response.
@owlwings (39593)
• Cambridge, England
27 Sep 08
I think there is a difference between positive and negative racism. We often call the former 'nationalism' or 'national pride' when we use it to refer to ourselves. The word 'racism' has so many negative connotations that it is hardly appropriate. Often, the kind of comment you are referring to is not so much 'racist' as the kind of generalisation which takes no account of the person referred to. It is of exactly the same order as assuming that a street sweeper, for example, is uneducated or justifying someone's behaviour by saying "Well, that's an Aries for you!" We actually encounter this sort of thing all the time. How many people have struggled under the shadow of a brilliant older brother or sister or have been branded "the black sheep of the family" because they are different from 'the norm' (which is usually a high standard). Conversely, we tend to express surprise when someone from a lower, uneducated class 'makes good'. I think that merely acknowledging someone's race does not imply a racist attitude. It is when people are excluded from something specifically because of their race, skin colour or other racial characteristic or, conversely, included or given benefit (usually to the exclusion of others) for no other reason than their accident of birth, that it can begin to be called racism. As I have said, though, many such examples are not implicitly racist at all, even though the classification is made on the grounds of race. What is really abhorrent about the kind of statements you mention is the unjust and unwarranted classification, not that race (presumably skin colour rather than culture) was the pigeon-hole used. So you play the violin, do you? Then you must be good at math because a lot of musicians are also good mathematicians ... see what I mean?
• United States
28 Sep 08
Thank you for dropping by - appreciate your comment and your examples. I just think racism enters our society at many different levels and can be positive, negative, and ignorant. This one person I know, starting talking about Asians but was referring to them as "ch_nks" (I can't use the word here on myLot but I trust you know what word I am referring to). I know that this person did not have a problem with Asians but this person seriously did not know that "ch_nk" was a derogatory term. I know this sounds a little unbelievable but true. I had to tell this person it "just wasn't cool". Would you call this person racist? I know it was just ignorance but this is what I mean by racism. I would call it racist.
1 person likes this
@owlwings (39593)
• Cambridge, England
28 Sep 08
I think I know one type, at least who would do that. They think they are really cool - especially with non-PC terminology - so they think you should be too. In fact they are using the words, often, not in an intentionally racist way, but rather to demonstrate that you are, in a way, 'racist' by taking offence. That, at least, is one kind of person I have encountered. I'm sorry that I don't know what you can do about them except (a) walk away (b) certainly never let them see that you are bothered (c) If there is any possibility of disciplining them (if it's in a work situation, for example), making a suitably dignified complaint to their superior. Whether they think they are being racist or not, they are being unreasonably disrespectful and that, really, is what is at the root of racism - or of any apartheid attitude.
1 person likes this
@owlwings (39593)
• Cambridge, England
28 Sep 08
Maybe I have the wrong type. There are, indeed, those but there are also people who, as you say, have not learnt any different. They are so used to the word you describe being used about people of, shall we say, a generally oriental appearance that it is, sadly, natural to them to use it. It is certainly insensitive of them and shows a lack of education but, depending on the context, it may be little different in their minds (and, of course, no less hurtful) from using such words as Shorty or Lanky or Four-eyes to indicate physical characteristics. I didn't mean to say, of course, that racism doesn't exist. I just meant that we should be careful of our language and try not to let the meanings of words get out of hand. Racial discrimination certainly does exist and is to be abhorred but, while it may be inaccurate on several counts to call you Chinese (or the less complimentary equivalent), it need not be racism, per se.
1 person likes this
• Canada
28 Sep 08
I wouldn't consider it racism just because racism is about hate and I don't believe that comments like this are meant to hurt you but were worded wrongly . I beleive that many try to say something nice and go about saying it a manner that may hurt or offend someone but was not intended to hurt the individual whereas with racism the remarks are meant to hurt as they stem from hate . I can understand you feeling sensitive on this matter but try to brush it off as the ignorance of people as well all do and say things unintentionally and then when pointed out realize what we said or the way we said it and feel bad :)
• United States
30 Sep 08
Oh, I don't think they were meant to be hurtful or anything like that. I am just trying to say that I think racism is not just the "hate" comments (see my comments above). Thank you for dropping by and responding. Have a great day/night!
1 person likes this
• United States
30 Sep 08
Just another thing. I don't want you to think that I am hurt over comments like these - but thank you for your concern. When I hear comments like these, I am offended but more than anything else, it just gets me thinking about what is racism, what makes people say them, etc... In my opinion, I think everyone has a little of racism in them, including me. I grew up in a white family. When I was a young teen, I went to a Hmong New Year celebration. I can not tell you how uncomfortable I felt (even though I knew quite a few people) being surrounded by non-whites. This experience started making me think about color, race, etc... And, I must say it goes both ways. I have been called "twinky" by other Asians - white on the inside, yellow on the outside.
1 person likes this
@relundad (2311)
• United States
29 Sep 08
I think I would say that what you are describing is stereotyping. Racism to me is when a person dislikes and thinks that a person of another race,culture or nationality is inferior to them for that reason only.
• United States
30 Sep 08
I am hearing you - I guess my definition of stereotype and racism (see my comments above) are a little more broad. However, I do believe that your opinion is shared by most people. Thank you for your response.
1 person likes this
@Genevie (140)
• United States
10 Nov 08
God just made ONE human race and he said to Love your neighbor as yourself!!! God Bless You All! Thanks!