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When I saw this Guardian article I was delighted.  www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2010/mar/03/racist-question-brown-answer-curious  It wasn't just me!  In fact Ariane was much kinder than me, for stating she didn't believe it was racist.  But the 1400+ comment debate that followed largely featured defensive derailing, belittling and accusations of oversensitivity.  And to a person, these defensive harangers chose to distract from the fact that she was not  complaining about the first question, only the follow-up question(s).  Featuring the word "really. "

In a nutshell, when a complete stranger asks  "where are you from?" - this is not an insult of any sort.  And I cheerfully offer up my home town.

If they follow it up with - "but where are you really from" - that person is both insulting me and outing themselves as ignorant.  And I do not tolerate ignorance but I won't rise to the bait of insults.

Because the key word is "really", although "no" and "but" can be added as fun intensifiers.  It  means a complete stranger is accusing you of lying, and denying you the right to self-identify, and asserting their entitlement to extra information to reinforce their prejudices. 

My evolved response is to tell them my birthtown, and to end on a question "how about you?".  I nod and smile at their answer and then turn away, walk off, or never return to their place of business.

Don't get me wrong, I'm glad that overt racism is no longer socially tolerated, so that bigotry has to invest in the joys of plausible deniability.  But it's still alienating and distressing.

Date: 2010-03-06 02:59 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] friend-of-tofu.livejournal.com
I liked that article. Despite being whiter than jasmine rice, I still find the "where do you come from?" question difficult to answer simply, and am relieved to be able to say "London" instead of needing to bore people with my whole story.

It's an odd misconception that you should somehow feel connected to a far-flung country because your ancestors lived there centuries ago, even if your entire life has been spent morris dancing in Loughborough.

This was pretty much how I felt about living in Britain when I was younger, although having family here made it less weird. I'm used to it now, though, but I never feel especially "British", whatever that means.

I'm glad that overt racism is no longer socially tolerated, so that bigotry has to invest in the joys of plausible deniability.

One of my favourite Stewart Lee lines ever: "If political correctness has achieved one thing, it's to make the Conservative Party cloak its inherent racism behind more creative language"

Date: 2010-03-07 02:13 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] circelily.livejournal.com
Thanks for that clip link. Made me laugh like a drain. Maybe the Labour Party should unearth those old Tories campaigns with a banner across saying something like: "Do you really want the "Good Old Days" back?"

Date: 2010-03-07 02:42 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] friend-of-tofu.livejournal.com
That would actually be a really smart campaign, if anyone bothered to do it. Of course, a) the Tories would just go "we're not like that now", and b) Labour have plenty of not-so-very-historic fail of their own eg the homophobia towards Peter Tatchell when he ran in Southwark in the '80s.

I really enjoyed the whole of that Stewart Lee show, which you can easily find on YouTube. And I liked his antagonistic radio performance about PCness, where he attacked the audience for being a bunch of idiots!

Date: 2010-03-08 09:09 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] circelily.livejournal.com
hmm. Sadly too true. I always liked both Lee and Herring and Collins and Maconie back in the last millennium *small eeek* . Lee has gone from strength to strength, but the glitter well and truly came off Andrew Collins when I read his autobiography. Which included a really huffy "why me" chapter whinging that Christina Ricci hated him. Just because he'd spent a whole interview asking / telling her that the only reason she had a career was her looks. *spit*

Date: 2010-03-09 08:06 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] friend-of-tofu.livejournal.com
I never liked Lee & Herring in the '90s, found their comedy a bit obvious - also, like the Beastie Boys, it was before they properly discovered politics - re-watched the old Stewart Lee clip about vegetarianism being fine but food was too tasty, where he slut-shame a couple on benefits who have 14 kids in a council house, or something, and I was thinking "he'd never dream of doing that now!".

Stewart Lee has definitely become a much better comedian, as his fame has somewhat diminished. He makes much of this cruel irony in '41 Best Stand-Up', which is great.

Andrew Collins, URGH.

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