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I think I have racist roommates/friends

HIGH NOONHIGH NOON Registered User regular
edited November 2010 in Help / Advice Forum
hey.

so me and three other friends have decided to rent a house for this academic school year. we all go to the same university, are in our early 20's, and met during residence in school the previous year, liked each other, and now live together. these guys are good friends of mine and i do really like their company. for the most part they are fantastic roommates; our house is, aside from all the empty beer cans (hey, we're students) that build up for recycling, our house is surprisingly well-kept and tidy. we even get compliments from friends whom we invite over.

enter two of my roommates. both in the same program, which is aerospace engineering. we go to school in toronto, which is an incredibly diverse, multicultural city. their program, according to them, has about 80% of people in Middle Eastern-origin. 15% are Chinese, and the 5% are caucasian. I as well as my three mates are all white.

both roommates have begun to start, in their words, "speak brown" to each other. Generally it's them talking about "going clubbing, mahn", making fun of Islam, and pretending, in their accent, to be terrorists and bomb people so they can get virgins in heaven or some ridiculous thing. Coming from a predominantly Muslim city myself, and having a Muslim girlfriend, I am deeply offended at it. What started as little fun between the two has now escalated into them remaining in their accent more often than having normal conversation.

and it's not just this. i am a huge fan of hip-hop, and often play records in my room, scratch, and mix songs togehter (i practice DJing and producing.) they refer to it as "n***** music" and basically tell me they think that I think I am black. o_O

it's become a major problem. i can hardly stay in the living room with them because, sure enough, one of the two is going to start "talking brown" again and become incredibly bigoted. i'm reluctant to tell both of them that they are being stereotypes themselves, both coming from very small towns in Northern Canada, because i try to remain respectful.

i haven't confronted them yet, mostly i've told them light-heartedly that they talk more in accents to each other than they do in their normal tones. my third roommate has described it to them as "theraputic", but i look at it as treading dangerous water. they have practically zero friends who aren't white, and i have many black and muslim friends from childhood, and i am actually starting to get nervous about inviting them over.

should i confront them about it? i thought it wouldn't annoy me as much as it does, but it is definitely escalating, and if they make a comment in front of my girlfriend about becoming terrorists i think i'm going to lose it. the way they hide it in front of her when she's over is cowardly and childish, and i've even told her about it, but she wouldn't say anything to them. i don't honestly know what to do. they chalk it up as fun and games, but i don't find it funny nor playful at all, and i'm not even part of the ethnicity they make fun of.

they're my friends, and otherwise very good guys, but honestly, i didn't see this coming at all. they weren't like this last year, when we lived in residence. what should i do?


tl; dr
two of my roommates make racist, bigoted jokes to each other so much that they talk in a stereotypical pakistani accent to each other more than they do normally. i now feel like i can't invite my muslim friends and girlfriend over for fear of them being deeply offended and/or start a fight or something. what should i do?

HIGH NOON on

Posts

  • FireflashFireflash Montreal, QCRegistered User regular
    edited November 2010
    I see they're acting very stupidly, and I can understand that you would find it offensive. But are they actually being hateful about it? They seem to at least be respectful enough to not do stupid shit like that while your girlfriend is there.

    Maybe they would benefit from knowing some of your Muslim friends. Have they met them before? Do they treat em differently than others?

    Fireflash on
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  • Chop LogicChop Logic Registered User regular
    edited November 2010
    "Hey, so, you guys are kind of constantly making fun of Muslim people when you're at the house. I know I'm not Muslim but I'm dating Lauren and she is, and I have some Muslim friends that I've wanted to invite over a few times. I just know that they would be really offended if they heard you talking like that, and it makes you guys seem really racist. It just gets annoying hearing it all the time. It would be cool if you guys could tone it down or just stop doing it."

    Segway into, are you really racist conversation, I have a muslim girlfriend and muslim friends and I'm worried about bringing them by, I live here too, etc.

    Chop Logic on
  • Fizban140Fizban140 Registered User, __BANNED USERS regular
    edited November 2010
    I am amazed that you have not met anyone like that before, there are a lot of people like this. They might not hate certain people but they will find it funny to make fun of them, kind of like fat people. Lots of people make fun of fat people but almost never when fat people are around, at least to their face.

    Fizban140 on
  • VeeveeVeevee WisconsinRegistered User regular
    edited November 2010
    HIGH NOON wrote: »
    should i confront them about it?
    YES
    If someone is doing something you don't like you can either remove yourself from the situation, or ask them to stop and explain why they should stop in a calm and reasonable manner. If confronting them doesn't get them to realize they are being Grade A Assholes and stop, then it's time to find different friends.

    Veevee on
  • admanbadmanb unionize your workplace Seattle, WARegistered User regular
    edited November 2010
    Hmm. That's an interesting one.

    My guess is that your roommates are not horrible, racist people. Their behavior sounds more like the boundary pushing of people who now have an outlet for their thoughts. On some level, they realize that what they're doing is bad, or they wouldn't stop when your girlfriend is over.

    That said, they're making you uncomfortable and affecting your ability to live there. You need to confront them, probably one at a time, and explain why what they're doing is causing you problems. Emphasize how it affects you, rather than trying to describe their behavior as bad. That will, hopefully, appeal to their empathy rather than make them feel... persecuted.

    If that doesn't work, you should move.

    admanb on
  • MagicToasterMagicToaster JapanRegistered User regular
    edited November 2010
    Never have any part in these jokes, because the moment that you do, you're telling them that you're OK with it.

    MagicToaster on
  • HIGH NOONHIGH NOON Registered User regular
    edited November 2010
    Fizban140 wrote: »
    I am amazed that you have not met anyone like that before, there are a lot of people like this.

    oh i have, but i honestly didn't expect this coming from them in the year prior that i've known them. i think because residence always had people of every race living incredibly close they kept it to themselves.

    HIGH NOON on
  • KyouguKyougu Registered User regular
    edited November 2010
    They sound less racist and more just plain stupid. Just talk to them, don't be to confrotational about it, but just mention how much of an ass it makes them look.

    Kyougu on
  • Fizban140Fizban140 Registered User, __BANNED USERS regular
    edited November 2010
    You can confront them about it but don't expect them to change, they just might change how they act around you.

    Fizban140 on
  • NotYouNotYou Registered User regular
    edited November 2010
    I have a friend who kinda acts racist sometimes. My solution is that me and I my friends continually rag on him for it at the slightest opportunity. It's really, really easy. Racism has more stigma around it than minorities do these days.

    NotYou on
  • WildEEPWildEEP Registered User regular
    edited November 2010
    :whistle:Everyones a little bit racist sometimes,
    It doesnt mean they go around comitting hate Criiiimmeeeeees.:whistle:


    This sounds to me like they think its humorous and pushing the boundries - but they fall short of actually attending any clan meetings. Basically, they're your average run-of-the-mill lazy racists. As soon as you bring up that you dont want them to do that anymore, that your girl would be offended, that your friends would be offended, and you ARE offended, they're probably gonna knock it off.

    You just gotta bring it up, stand firm, and call them out on their bullshit.

    WildEEP on
  • ceresceres When the last moon is cast over the last star of morning And the future has past without even a last desperate warningRegistered User, Moderator mod
    edited November 2010
    Are you offended?

    Don't use your friends as a shield. "Hey if my friends hear you they're going to be offended." No. YOU'RE offended. Tell them to kindly leave it outside.

    ceres on
    And it seems like all is dying, and would leave the world to mourn
  • FagatronFagatron Registered User regular
    edited November 2010
    HIGH NOON wrote: »
    my third roommate has described it to them as "theraputic", but i look at it as treading dangerous water.

    I wonder if this isn't part of it?

    I am assuming they come from places that are predominantly white? Maybe being immersed in such a different cultural group is somewhat jarring for them and this is how they're dealing?


    I grew up in a very white community in the foothills of California. I was never exposed to any racism that wasn't quickly shouted down or dismissed as idiocy, and my dad lived/worked in East LA when he was young, and my grandparents lived in LA. I was exposed to plenty of other races when we'd go down to see them, and even had several "family" members that were El Salvadorian and Japanese.

    However I moved down to San Francisco not too long ago, been living in the Richmond District for a year and a half now and it is definitely jarring seeing the cultural differences between born Americans and first and second generation Chinese immigrants that never really assimilate with our culture, same thing with actually being around inner city Black and Mexican people regularly.

    As an example Chinese people have no or very limited senses of personal space. They will shove up against you or careen through you in a manner that seems very rude when you first encounter it, but then it gradually becomes a cultural norm when you realize that the majority of them do it. Also they seem to have a rampant disregard for traffic at crosswalks. I am going to guess that both these things come from having a lot more people and a lot less cars in China, but I can't be sure because I haven't actually been over there, just things I've observed here.

    After awhile you just kind of dismiss these things as "Well, they're Asian." It's not a hateful or a judgmental thing, just a fact of living alongside them every day and shopping on Clement Street.

    I did make the observation to one of my best friends back home, who happens to have about a decade back on me, that "Oh my god living in the city has made me more racist than living in the country ever did." and his response was "Well yeah, there's a reason stereotypes exist Fagatron."


    I'm not excusing their behavior. Their "brown speak" and the terrorist and virgin jokes sound fucking retarded and you should confront them about that shit; but I can see how this is happening, especially if they're just huddling around each other and clutching what's comfortable instead of immersing themselves in what their Middle Eastern classmates have to offer culturally and really getting to know them.

    They wouldn't happen to be Carlos Mencia fans would they?

    Fagatron on
  • DarkewolfeDarkewolfe Registered User regular
    edited November 2010
    ceres wrote: »
    Are you offended?

    Don't use your friends as a shield. "Hey if my friends hear you they're going to be offended." No. YOU'RE offended. Tell them to kindly leave it outside.

    For reals. Don't say you're worried your gf might be offended. If they really are adopting an inappropriate attitude toward, for instance, Muslims, you should be stepping up to correct them and help them discover why their attitudes are inappropriate.

    Darkewolfe on
    What is this I don't even.
  • IrukaIruka Registered User, Moderator mod
    edited November 2010
    Darkewolfe wrote: »
    ceres wrote: »
    Are you offended?

    Don't use your friends as a shield. "Hey if my friends hear you they're going to be offended." No. YOU'RE offended. Tell them to kindly leave it outside.

    For reals. Don't say you're worried your gf might be offended. If they really are adopting an inappropriate attitude toward, for instance, Muslims, you should be stepping up to correct them and help them discover why their attitudes are inappropriate.

    Seriously. Be offended. I hang around mostly white dudes, and theres a big difference between an offhanded, racial stereotype that they are aware of on multiple levels, and strait up constant racist jokes. They are in an cycle of supporting each others stupidity. You can help by telling them their jokes arent funny, and introducing them to new people, but you have no obligation to go any further than "stop being racist around me, and dont do that shit when I bring my friends over and embarrass yourselves, you idiots."

    Iruka on
  • UnderdogUnderdog Registered User regular
    edited November 2010
    ceres wrote: »
    Are you offended?

    Don't use your friends as a shield. "Hey if my friends hear you they're going to be offended." No. YOU'RE offended. Tell them to kindly leave it outside.
    Yeah. I'd take Chop Logic's suggested opener and cut it down to this.

    "Hey, so, you guys are kind of constantly making fun of Muslim people when you're at the house. It makes you guys seem really racist and it also gets annoying hearing it all the time. It would be cool if you guys could tone it down or just stop doing it."

    Underdog on
  • VisionOfClarityVisionOfClarity Registered User regular
    edited November 2010
    Fizban140 wrote: »
    I am amazed that you have not met anyone like that before, there are a lot of people like this. They might not hate certain people but they will find it funny to make fun of them, kind of like fat people. Lots of people make fun of fat people but almost never when fat people are around, at least to their face.

    That doesn't make it ok nor does it excuse the bad behavior.

    Honestly OP, I'm surprised you didn't call them out the first time they did it. The longer you let it go on the harder it's going to be to make them stop so call them out now.

    VisionOfClarity on
  • MimMim I prefer my lovers… dead.Registered User regular
    edited November 2010
    The whole "n-word music" thing and them saying you're trying to "be Black" plus the accents are obviously offensive. You should definitely confront them about it, but be prepared for them to continue doing it behind your back or them mocking you.

    Mim on
  • DracilDracil Registered User regular
    edited November 2010
    Fagatron wrote: »
    Also they seem to have a rampant disregard for traffic at crosswalks. I am going to guess that both these things come from having a lot more people and a lot less cars in China, but I can't be sure because I haven't actually been over there, just things I've observed here.

    Quite the opposite. Disregarding traffic in Asia will get you killed really quickly. Traffic jams in Asia are a fucking nightmare.

    Dracil on
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  • mooshoeporkmooshoepork Registered User regular
    edited November 2010
    The Asians here also utterly disregard common sense. They always jaywalk and just walk out in front of cars. Its obviously not all Asians that do it, but if you drive through an Asian neighborhood you can tell the difference.

    mooshoepork on
  • ceresceres When the last moon is cast over the last star of morning And the future has past without even a last desperate warningRegistered User, Moderator mod
    edited November 2010
    Not here to talk about Asians.

    ceres on
    And it seems like all is dying, and would leave the world to mourn
  • BlackjackBlackjack Registered User regular
    edited November 2010
    This is a pretty good guide, I think.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b0Ti-gkJiXc

    Blackjack on
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  • DracilDracil Registered User regular
    edited November 2010
    The Asians here also utterly disregard common sense. They always jaywalk and just walk out in front of cars. Its obviously not all Asians that do it, but if you drive through an Asian neighborhood you can tell the difference.

    To bring it back to the OP. I'm offended by these statements. I think you should stop because they make you sound racist.

    That's really all there is to it.

    Dracil on
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  • FagatronFagatron Registered User regular
    edited November 2010
    Dracil wrote: »
    The Asians here also utterly disregard common sense. They always jaywalk and just walk out in front of cars. Its obviously not all Asians that do it, but if you drive through an Asian neighborhood you can tell the difference.

    To bring it back to the OP. I'm offended by these statements. I think you should stop because they make you sound racist.

    That's really all there is to it.

    To bring it back to the OP, it's not like dude is talking in an offensively stereotypical Chinese accent, all replacing all his "L"s with "R"s.

    There is a difference between highlighting cultural differences and acting in an offensive bassackwards manner all the time.

    It's like the difference between noting that a lot of White people from rural areas like listening to Country Music, versus throwing an awful Southern accent and calling it "White Speak" and talking about how White people are going to shoot you with all their guns all the time.

    EDIT: Also Dracil, I am sorry if I was wrong with the thoughts about why they might act in that manner, like I said, I've never been to China, and it was totally pulled out of my ass as a result of me trying to rationalize why what seems like a pretty large segment of Chinese immigrants seem to act that way.

    Not trying to derail, just wanted to apologize for my incorrect assumption.

    Fagatron on
  • ceresceres When the last moon is cast over the last star of morning And the future has past without even a last desperate warningRegistered User, Moderator mod
    edited November 2010
    Fagatron wrote: »
    Dracil wrote: »
    The Asians here also utterly disregard common sense. They always jaywalk and just walk out in front of cars. Its obviously not all Asians that do it, but if you drive through an Asian neighborhood you can tell the difference.

    To bring it back to the OP. I'm offended by these statements. I think you should stop because they make you sound racist.

    That's really all there is to it.

    To bring it back to the OP, it's not like dude is talking in an offensively stereotypical Chinese accent, all replacing all his "L"s with "R"s.

    There is a difference between highlighting cultural differences and acting in an offensive bassackwards manner all the time.

    It's like the difference between noting that a lot of White people from rural areas like listening to Country Music, versus throwing an awful Southern accent and calling it "White Speak" and talking about how White people are going to shoot you with all their guns all the time.
    Let's not get into this here.

    ceres on
    And it seems like all is dying, and would leave the world to mourn
  • The Black HunterThe Black Hunter The key is a minimum of compromise, and a simple, unimpeachable reason to existRegistered User regular
    edited November 2010
    Just tell them "ease up on it"

    work from there, get them used to the idea of it not being okay

    The Black Hunter on
  • SkyGheNeSkyGheNe Registered User regular
    edited November 2010
    Talk to them about it - it's the best that you can do.

    Unless people make a concerted effort to refer to individuals in their story as "this guy, this person, this woman" etc. when the fact that they're black, white, asian, whatever is irrelevant to what they're saying, their biases will continue to show up.

    SkyGheNe on
  • The CatThe Cat Registered User, ClubPA regular
    edited November 2010
    Fireflash wrote: »
    I see they're acting very stupidly, and I can understand that you would find it offensive. But are they actually being hateful about it? They seem to at least be respectful enough to not do stupid shit like that while your girlfriend is there.

    Maybe they would benefit from knowing some of your Muslim friends. Have they met them before? Do they treat em differently than others?

    That's not respect, that's cowardice. I don't know where this idea that 'its not racist if you're not actually setting fire to the brown person' came from, but its epically stupid and has to stop. You can still be racist without being the devil, and you still need to stop with that shit even though, yes, you aren't the devil. Its a childish, ignorant way to behave and making excuses for it is wrong.

    And its not a damn 'coping mechanism' either, because guess what? The idea that you have to 'cope' with people from other cultures? Also racist.

    Anyway, OP, there's nothing like taking someone's bigotry and running waaaay too far with it, preferably in mixed company for the extra embarrassment factor. You just need to be able to avoid either laughing or getting angry.

    The Cat on
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