I met a young man just the other day, an acquaintance of a friend. He (I’ll call him Mr A) comes from a wealthy family, attended university in Boston, USA. My friend describes him as privileged and obnoxious and I agree with her. He is a cocky bastard and did not endear himself to me when he, almost as soon as we met, made what I consider to be a remark that betrayed his racism and ignorance.
We were talking about maybe going to an African club and I remarked that my fiance, Don (an African man) is puzzled by how Malaysians seem to do nothing but eat at parties. Why is there no dancing at Malaysian parties?
My friend then mentioned that Don also can’t understand why Malaysians seem to be eating and snacking constantly. ‘He doesn’t eat much at all,’ she said, to which her acquaintance replied, ‘But he’s African so he’s probably used to not eating.’
When I observed that his remark was racist and ignorant, Mr A said ‘I can’t be racist – I have African friends.’
When I said that that was the oldest and lamest defence in the book and didn’t wash, he shrugged and said, ‘Well, at least I can take a joke.’
I wrote about this incident on Facebook and a couple of friends thought Mr A’s ‘joke’ was funny. Maybe I would have too, once upon a time. However, I now advocate political correctness – ‘Oh are you one of those politically correct people?’ asked Mr A as if he were enquiring about my criminal record as a paedophile.
I think it’s easy to make racist, sexist and other discriminatory remarks. It’s tempting to poke fun at those who are not like us. It’s convenient to call our rude and prejudiced comments, observations and opinions ‘jokes’ and to say that those who dare point out our arrogance and insolence are overly-sensitive and without a sense of humour. It’s also common to excuse ourselves by saying that our words don’t qualify as racist, sexist etc because either we never intended them to be, or X, Y and Z who are members of the group who should be insulted don’t feel slighted at all – in fact they think we’re hilarious.
There is power and safety in numbers, and right now, the numbers still favour the bigots. Those of us who resist should, apparently, just lighten up. However, I have no wish to be a coward, to throw in my lot with the hypocrites and the bullies, the highly-deodorised, ‘ever-so-educated-but-dismally-ignorant’, privileged and entitled masses.
I choose to roll up my sleeves and fight the good fight, not simply roll my eyes and walk away. What are a few bruises if they mean a clear conscience and a good night’s sleep?