Situations where you may encounter racism can often come about suddenly. These situations may be so offensive that you are at a loss for words, or these situations can be so commonplace that a person does not recognize them as offensive or racist. For example, you may be at a party and a friend uses a racist slur to refer to people of a certain ethnic group. One person laughs nervously, another looks away, and yet another person nods approvingly. But no one says anything. What do you do? Call the person racist? Walk away? Explain that it offended you? Discuss the harm done by racist comments?
Read the following scenario and imagine being in this situation:
Kevin and C.J. have been friends since elementary school. Even though C.J. has been attending college out of state for the last year, the two have remained close friends. On some occasions, however, both C.J. and Kevin have noticed some changes in the other. Kevin has noticed that C.J. is a little more serious about life and C.J. has noticed that Kevin has begun to refer to members of other racial groups in very derogatory ways. After being around Kevin for three days, C.J. has decided to discuss the problem.
C.J.: “What’s with you, Kevin? Why do you call people names like that?”
Kevin: “Ah, it doesn’t mean anything. It’s just talk.”
C.J. “Yeah, but it’s hard to ignore. It sounds real harsh to me.”
Kevin: “Come on, C.J., don’t take things so seriously. I would never say those things to anyone’s face.”
C.J.: “I guess.” (C.J. didn’t want to start anything with his friend, so he just shrugged his shoulders and let the issue drop. He felt it wasn’t worth getting into a fight over, but he did not feel comfortable with Kevin’s explanation.)
.substantively answer the following questions:
1.) Describe, in your own terms, the dilemma facing C.J.
2.) Have you ever been faced with a similar dilemma with a close friend, acquaintance, or family member? What happened? How did you deal with the situation?
3.) Why are we often afraid to “start anything” with people, who have offended us or made us angry? What keeps us from speaking up? Is it easier to say something to a friend or to someone you have just met? Why or why not?
4.) What is the harm of using racist terms, if the person or group being referred to does not hear the comment?
5.) Consider Kevin’s phrase, “It’s just talk.” Can some of the things we say be labeled as “just talk” and not really mean anything? Why or why not?
6.) How might C.J. have talked with Kevin, about his use of derogatory language, without causing a rift between them?