Overt and covert racism

Posted by Ria, 25 Dec 08

racism2.jpg

Paula (Asian) thinks it’s a lot easier to deal with overt racism. When someone calls her “slitty eyes” or when people pull back their eyes to try and mock hers, she feels it’s much easier on her conscience since she has proof of the person’s feelings towards her race. Messed up as it is, she’d rather deal with someone yelling out “Yo ching-chong - where you from?!” than having to deal with the more covert and ambiguous acts of racism and prejudice.

I kinda agree with her. Trust me; there is nothing as bad as not being certain whether a remark was racist or not. It’s really hard to publicly address such situations and this leaves you with that weird feeling in the gut most of us hate so much.

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When someone bluntly lashes racist remarks at you, you know to steer clear of those people. What makes a lot of blog battles so frustrating is that we face so much covert are-you-sure-that’s-what-she-meant racism. It’s much harder to prove and judge. How do you fight back at something you aren’t sure about? And what’s more frustrating is that most covert racists are highly unlikely to think or even admit that their behavior is racist.

Here is an example of what I am talking about. I have realized many a times that when I am shopping at my usual store, this sales woman usually treats white customers much better than the rest of the bunch. And since I am mixed-race and dark-skinned, you can guess which category I fall in. I might be crazy but the thing is, she has never bluntly refused to assist me but clearly, she is much more willing to spend time with other customers … white customers.

Well, the other day I was in the company of my acquaintance (a very hot white dude) and as soon as we stepped into the store, she was different. She acknowledged us and was so interested in assisting us and answering all our questions.

Now this is exactly what I am talking about. I am not sure whether her acts before were racist or not. Maybe I usually find her in a bad mood and on this particular day, she happened to have had some crack that lifted her spirits. I am not sure. What’s frustrating is, much as I feel all customers of all races should be treated the same, I can never ever confront her about it because I am just not sure!

Am I being too focused on race? Am I a covert racist too for trying to blame this woman for something that most likely didn’t even happen? What are your thoughts on overt and covert racism?

34 responses to "Overt and covert racism"

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  1.   oneEddy says:
    Posted: 07 Dec 10

    I think one can ignore racist comments and attitudes- but these attitudes lead to institutionalized racism which is responsible for the lack of progress among certain groups-that to me is the real problem.

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  2.   Lokita says:
    Posted: 05 Dec 10

    "As man is the best of the animals when perfected, so he is the worst when separated from law and justice. For injustice is most dangerous when it is armed and man armed by nature with good sense and virtue may use them for entirely opposite ends. Therefore, when he is without virtue, man is the most unscrupulous and savage of the animals." Aristotle "Self-respect and honour cannot be protected by others. They are for each individual himself or herself to guard. " Gandhi

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  3.   Bee1 says:
    Posted: 17 Nov 10

    i say, confront the F*****S. you go on wondering, "is that what they meant?" and never get to the bottom of the situation. if you feel someone is making snide remarks, ask them outright. avoid all of the awkward feelings and the hours you will spend wondering if the person meant what they said or not.

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  4.   sista says:
    Posted: 06 Mar 10

    Covert racism is a reality that is experienced on a daily basis by people of color. It is not something that exists in the mind. It is not language based, it is not an abstraction. Covert racism includes "white normativeness," or the assumption that whiteness is normal, and that non-whiteness is abnormal. People of color are treated as abnormal on a daily basis. Negative racial stereotypes affect their lives when dating, applying for a job, in the workplace, going out shopping, and in a variety of other ways. People of color are often assumed to be less intelligent and less trustworthy than white people. Black and asian women are often assumed to be easy and are not considered as serious partners by white people. Men of color are often treated with great suspicion and even violence should they try to date a white woman. White women are more highly prized for their beauty and overall value than women of color, and on and on. Another form of covert racism is the insistence that none of this exists, or that racism is practiced equally by all racial groups. Glock and the other whites who have commented here and refuse to acknowledge this as a reality, when has someone called you names based on your appearance, such as "slitty-eyes?" Have you ever been banned from a place, been refused a job, a date, service, or spoken to as an idiot, based on your race? Wake up and get an education, folks. Your comments here are based on ignorance, which is where racism starts. It is NOT a level playing field, and people of color are NOT making it up.

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  5.   onevictim says:
    Posted: 07 Jun 09

    I have been and am a victim of constant covert racism. I am of Indian origin in the US. I have been offered beef jerky, heard the word "dog" used in conversation where it did not really fit(eg. watchdog), which I believe is related to slumdog, have heard about "bad smells" in my work (sic), been talked to in an english accent (by non englishmen) referencing the colonial past, been asked sarcastic questions about arranged marriages. All not once not twice, but consistently as a recurring pattern. sometimes difficult to avoid or confront in a workplace when job and career are involved.

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  6.   sonal says:
    Posted: 23 Mar 09

    I like this site....it is very good....

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  7.   homesteader says:
    Posted: 29 Jan 09

    This is a new age / a free Millenium . Those that still refuse to change . Let them stay were they live and learn to move away from them . The only thing that stops progress , is refusing to move ahead . We each have to do this for ourselves . Personally , I have never met anyone that I did not show Total Respect for . As it makes the days go bye smoothly . Been there / done that , just learned how to do it Better .

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  8.   lhsiii says:
    Posted: 29 Jan 09

    I respect the opinions of all respondents, but its a tight rope for the groups more likely to be hated on than the groups more likey to "BE HATIN". For me, its always in the back of my mind! There are plenty of times I have noticed a settle difference in the way I am treated as opposed to others. Its like you don't want to throw the race card around because you end up looking typical.Sometimes there really is discrimination or bias. The best you can do is not to take on that negative energy because it is giving your personal power away! Try to not deal with those situations that you feel iffy about when ever possible!

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  9.   brerrabit says:
    Posted: 13 Jan 09

    I agree 100% with oldgreyman. I dislike the term race as it implies that we are all separate entities. I see us all as being from different cultural backgrounds but all from the same race. I do however accept that our society uses the term race do differentiate between people from different cultural backgrounds and reluctantly use the term to avoid further confusion. And besides, referring to us by the labels of white/black/asian/hispanic/whatever causes us to miss who we truly are. Referring to me as white tells you nothing of who I am and nearly nothing of my ancestry (German/Dane). If I need to refer to someone by such a label, I would much rather refer to them by their culture, not a confusing color label. Getting back to the point however, I also think that people see racism because they are looking for it. They look at situations expecting to see racism and - surprise! - they manage to find it. Or perhaps they end up creating it in environments where it isn't really there? ;) Not to say that racism doesn't exist, just perhaps not to the extent in which they think they see it. I have dated quite a bit interracially and there have been many occasions when whoever I was with will say something along the lines of "Did you see how that person was staring at us? You would think they had never seen a ______ woman with a white man before." And nearly everytime I had noticed nothing. Now it certainly is possible that I am dense to such things and have merely been blind to the racism, covert or otherwise, but I think it is also possible that they were reading more into a look from a stranger than was really there. Just relax and be who you are and accept others for who they are.

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  10.   HedPEHead says:
    Posted: 07 Jan 09

    OK, so what I don't get is this: why would ANYBODY get offended when someone calls them something they believe they are not? For those that didn't get that- I am never offended when I'm called "honky" "redneck" "cracker", etc. And it's because I know I'm NOT. The people that are saying racist things are only showing their lower evolution by being so stupid. Assholes come in ALL shapes and sizes, colors as well. Forget those racist dicks. Everyone else in the country has. Remember, we have a MIXED president now of a LOT of races. I believe that we live many lives, and most of those racists could've definitely been black, asian, hispanic, etc. They're just less evolved.......the racists, that is. Peace out

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  11.   oldgreyman says:
    Posted: 06 Jan 09

    there are two kinds of people. those that think there are two kinds of people and those that don't. cheers. :)

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  12.   InSide_Out says:
    Posted: 03 Jan 09

    VanillaChai- love what you said, all of it : )

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  13.   Walligator says:
    Posted: 31 Dec 08

    Why are people prejudice...IGNORANCE...ignorance is a lack of knowledge. Until we acknowledge that all races of people contribute to our society and our world,then we will always be at conflict with one another. When will we be able to sit down and have an open-hearted discussion on racism. I pray that we,as the human race,learn to love one another with the heart of a child. As quoted by Martin Luther King " Will we live together as brothers,or perish together as fools" . We are at a point in history whereas we can change the world.....If it is to be,let it start with me....CHANGE YOURSELF AND YOUR ATTITUDE

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  14.   homesteader says:
    Posted: 30 Dec 08

    Generally speaking , life is changing everyday and it takes everyone to make changes flow . As a child I was never taught to hate , my dad had been a gunner in a bomber over Germany in WW2 . He flew 52 missions - 25 U.S. then 2 R.A.F. then 25 more for another U.S. SQUADRON ,he taught us about freedom my brother and I . For all peoples , Love Les

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  15.   breeze36 says:
    Posted: 30 Dec 08

    I think that Glock has a valid point. Racism is something that all ethnic groups have in common. I know people that always talk about "white people this" and "mexican people that" and so on...they are being just as racist as the ones they talk about. We all have prejudices that's never going to go away as long as we perpetuate it. Children aren't born not liking a certain race they learn it. I believe we are all given a clean slate at birth (tabula rasa). We learn and we apply that knowledge. If you learned that black people are lazy, that's what you expect. If you learned that white people are arrogant then that's what you expect. As long as it's taught it will be there. The story above is one that has been heard over and over again, the names just change. Everyone has experienced this. A white person walks into a predominatly black club and the attitudes change. Put any race in that situation and you get the same result. The key is to change your outlook and change the way you deal with it. Stop crying about it. If you feel she is a racist, stop going to that particular store. Shop somewhere else. Do whatever you need to do to change the story.

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  16.   Glock says:
    Posted: 29 Dec 08

    Ok, and so was mine.

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  17.   Glock says:
    Posted: 28 Dec 08

    If anyone feels "personally attacked" perhaps "they" can look at some of "their" previous posts where they make a comment in reference to my comment dealing with the nature of the photo. Then...they say "wanna talk or just be quiet". So who exactly "attacked" who. Actually, I wasn't attacking anyone. I was only trying to engage in a honest discussion about this topic. But hey...whatever floats your boat.

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  18.   homesteader says:
    Posted: 28 Dec 08

    A store of great multitude and size worldwide has a 10 foot rule in effect for all employees / which means if you are searching for a product and look lost - if a store employee is within ten feet of you it is their job to ask "May I help you to find something ? " and then they normally will escort you to where the product is located . It is what I call Wally World . Love Les P.S. when I came to Texas gasoline was 17.9 cents a gallon and 4 beautiful girls at the gas station check my pick-up truck for me . ONE EACH - CHECKING TIRES , OIL , WASHING WINDSHEILD AND PUMPING GASOLINE , All for $1.79 for my ten gallon tank and hamburgers were 5 for a dollar .

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  19.   homesteader says:
    Posted: 28 Dec 08

    I came here to comment on a story , instead was confronted on a personal level . Be I correct or be I incorrect , my wife walked bye looking over my shoulder and asked me why anyone should be biassed about my comments and even be on this site ? Yes my wife is what she calls an other of the prettiest brown skin color that I Love so much . Love Les

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  20.   vanillachai says:
    Posted: 28 Dec 08

    Hello, I am of European decent & experience the same thing at the stores sometimes...it is prejudice...but sometimes they treat me w/ no respect because I look so young...sometimes it's because I'm dressed in jeans & not a business suit...which is all wrong...but it happens...& I hate it...I believe customer service in general has been going downhill for a long time in America...the intelligence level in general has been going downhill...poor diets...lack of education...less interaction w/ people & more w/ computers...& just the hustle of everyday life...people are in a crunch for time & often times RUDE. If you have the energy...the best way to counteract this is to go up to her (w/ no attitude) & be so nice & pleasant (picture her as an abused child or something)...it will shock her into thinking twice about her attitude & maybe change her energy. I'm sure that sometimes there are definitely race issues & you'll know...but sometimes it's other prejudice...age, income etc...unfortunately we all deal w/ it on some level...one last thought...is that sometimes people are just uneducated & when you communicate w/ them they misunderstand being straight forward for "rude"...in a world where we have less & less time...& tend to be more direct...there can be many misunderstandings...unfortunately...sometimes the whole sugar sweet attitude goes a long way...we can only control our own actions...so sometimes we must look at how we react to these situations instead of trying to change it from the other side...sometimes being the bigger person sux...but it is also a good experiment in seeing how YOU can turn a situation around.

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  21.   homesteader says:
    Posted: 28 Dec 08

    I also excelled in French and Latin - threes years each in high school alas English was my worst subject . MY daughter teaches 10 th grade English at the present time .

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  22.   homesteader says:
    Posted: 28 Dec 08

    P.S. That duck is yellow or I am color blind

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  23.   homesteader says:
    Posted: 28 Dec 08

    I have two black kittens and I call them cat . I know exactly what you say alas if it where I yelling slure words and there where one of me and seven of them , in real life they woulda kicked my butt . When you have lived with people who treat you badly , you tend to forget the manners that you were taught by your parents . I myself cannot blame others that have been disrespected their whole lives . Because they try to defend themselves . Turn about to me would be considered Fair play . I in my younger years lived in Houston , Texas and many was the time that I would be the only white in a Black mans dance club and I can remember being treated very well . Racism is a way of the world , but that does not mean that I have to worry about it . I learned along time ago to go with the flow , because I also realize that I was not always correct in the way I carried myself . I move from Cortland , New York to Austin , Texas to find a job and was there on a Saturday and hired the next Wednesday as a hot tar roofer , My first day on the job , I was on a 22,000 sq. ft. roof at town lake @ 106 degrees heat for 14 hours . Most of the others on the roof working beside me where Mexican or Black and they way they helped me survive the intence heat , is something that I will never forget . In the part of New York , I was from I do not think I had ever known a Mexican person , nor many blacks . But after that first day on the job I had found many friends for life . If you choose to think as you want to , that is your life . Mine is only filled with dislike for the thieves that have stolen from me and I know them bye name . I in my travels have never met anyone that I could not show respect for , because that is my way . Thank you . Love Les

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  24.   Glock says:
    Posted: 28 Dec 08

    Perhaps you haven't looked at the picture. If you will notice the "white" duck is calling the "black" ducks "niggers". You can call it "seven to one odds" all you want, but that is not the message the writer was attempting to tell. My problem with the story is not so much that racism exists, it's that the stories here are generally depicting whites as having the corner market on racism. As for me, that certainly has not been my personal experience. I'm sure others have different experiences, and I respect that. But black racism is a taboo that nobody wants to acknowledge exists. If we want to have discussions and debates about racism, lets do it from all angles. Now sure you can talk in platitudes all you want "Please all enjy each other, learn to avoid/ignore people of all intelligence", but that to me is not an honest discussion.

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  25.   homesteader says:
    Posted: 28 Dec 08

    and a Tactical advantage by being on higher ground

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  26.   homesteader says:
    Posted: 28 Dec 08

    in the picture all I see is seven to one odds , wanna talk or just Please be quiet . Thank you , Love Les

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  27.   homesteader says:
    Posted: 28 Dec 08

    got one short leg from an auto accident , never could run - therefore do knot understand Race . Please y' all Enjoy each other and learn to avoid / ignore people of lower intelligence . Life goes on day bye day , change is what you find in your own heart n' soul . Who really cares about someone who is different in their ways ? Enjoy how Well that you carry yourself , Love Les

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  28.   Glock says:
    Posted: 27 Dec 08

    The picture at the top tells it all. Once again, another story about those evil white people being racist. As the demographics of this country changes constantly, we see these dipictions of whites always being the racists. Rarely will a story even explore the possibility that people of another race can hold racist views. Racism will never go away. We all know it. Sure it would be great if it vanished but unrealistic. I think it would be fair just to acknowledge that people of ALL groups can hold racist views. I certainly have experienced it as I'm sure most people have at sometime in their life.

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  29.   salsera77 says:
    Posted: 27 Dec 08

    Is there anyone else in that store that can wait on you? The next time she comes over to you can you say "No thanks, I'm/we're just looking" and go get the other sales person to wait on you? Reverse the covertness!!!!! In this case you don't need Miss Dr. Jekyl Mrs. Hyde waiting on you.

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  30.   Glock says:
    Posted: 26 Dec 08

    Those evil white people!

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  31.   Red says:
    Posted: 26 Dec 08

    Stuff like that happens

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  32.   Nevahafta says:
    Posted: 26 Dec 08

    Ria... don't be nieve. It is racism and you should call her on it. I certainly hope you guys didn't make a purchase for which she will get commission. In either case, I do agree with your friend Paula. I have more respect for a person who is truthful on their views (no matter how ignorant they may be). The reason for this is because when you know where a person stands you know what to expect from them as well as how to treat them (due to their lack of knowledge). However for the ones who are covert and pretend to be your friends... those are the one that have most potential for hurting you in a number of ways.

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  33.   starthai says:
    Posted: 26 Dec 08

    Ria, I think your gut feeling is correct. I notice that with white women, when they are jealous or envious of a women of color they tend to downplay it when there is a white male present, especially if he is hot. It makes sense, because those characteristics in a person(especially women) are extremely unattractive.

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  34.   homesteader says:
    Posted: 25 Dec 08

    People who talk like that , only show how Low their intelligence is . I feel we all are put on thie earth to live and enjoy the variety of different peoples . I myself am knot perfect , but my wife who I met here / Thinks that I am a Marvelous person , my neighbors drove bye yesterday and delivered X-mas gifts for us . People need to grow up and look in the mirror every morning and see that they are no better than me , can't you see . It is not where you are from / It is how you show respect for all others . Love Les

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