Social Question

Dutchess_III's avatar

Should I have taken offense at this?

Asked by Dutchess_III (46743points) April 1st, 2014

One of my daughter’s friends, Betsy, is from Puerto Rico. She works at a convenience store so I see her often, and sometimes I slip in comments about her being ‘Mexican’ cause it makes her ‘mad.’ :) She’s funny when she’s mad! Before anyone flips out, she doesn’t really get angry. It’s just a running joke between us.

I was in there the other day and we were talking about Corrie’s kids and how different they all are. Betsy asked what ethnicity Corrie’s dad is because she has that brown thing going on and I am all white. I told her he’s, like, 1/16th Indonesian (I actually have Indo genes too, from my Mom’s side. It’s very obvious in one of my sisters.)

Should we both be taking offense over the fact that race even comes UP in our conversations?

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46 Answers

Aster's avatar

I have a good friend who is Hispanic and , on occasion, I make reference to her ethnicity usually in a positive way, like about her skin and her cooking. There is no way we can determine if your friend takes offense but, to be on the safe side, I would knock off the jokes. It could be she has already taken offense but is hiding it. So I don’t see the point in continuing it. Sometimes, not often, this sort of thing ruins a relationship. Lots of other things to remark about , right? The very fact that you asked shows you’re aware of what could materialize. Whether it’s worth stopping is up to you, of course.

KNOWITALL's avatar

If you’re both laughing and bantering, no offense should be given or taken. I mean, you are in Kansas after all, not a lot to talk about right?! :)

JLeslie's avatar

Of course not. It’s completely American to me to discuss our family’s heritage. It is what America is.

Dutchess_III's avatar

@Aster so many people on here just freak out anytime ethnicity is mentioned. The point of my question is to underscore that there is nothing wrong with mentioning a person’s ethnicity. Nothing at all, unless you make negative sweeping generalizations about an entire group of people.

JLeslie's avatar

Are you in Kansas? Why do I always think you are in OK?

KNOWITALL's avatar

@JLeslie I think the whole mexican thing awhile back was because people thought you may have sounded racist, while most of us who know you, know that’s not true. :)

Seek's avatar

The only people who can determine whether you should be offended is you.

That is: Were you offended by that situation? No? Bully for you. Was she? No? Bully for her.

CWOTUS's avatar

I don’t know what it is in particular that you’re trolling for here. Obviously one doesn’t take offense with one’s friends when they ask questions about one’s heritage, and in particular not when it’s the subject of a running joke between them. So it’s not a genuine question, clearly.

The subtext seems to be “Why would anyone take offense at such a trivial non-issue?” and “What is wrong with people that they can’t endure innocent and friendly questions such as this?”

Is that part of what this is about?

You’re obviously not “enough” Asian to have endured the “Where are you from?” question that I know many people with Asiatic features are asked on a daily basis in the USA, and which questions can’t be answered with, “Well, we moved from Omaha a couple of years ago,” or “San Francisco,” without being hit with the follow-up, “No, where are you really from? Where were your parents (or grandparents or whatever) born?”

It’s like: “I know you don’t really belong here, and now you know that I know, too. And I want to know where you belong so when we have to start internment camps again, we’ll know where to put you.” I’d resent the hell out of the question, myself, in that case.

longgone's avatar

No…but you knew that already. If you’re trying to find out why many of us understood that calling a little girl an indian could be taken the wrong way, this question probably won’t help you.

JLeslie's avatar

@KNOWITALL I didn’t understand that “Mexican” was a derogatory term until a few years ago. My husband and I kind of laughed when we learned. We knew some people were prejudiced or racist against Mexicans and people form Latin America in general, but we didn’t know people use the term Mexican to describe all Hispanics. When we used to hear people do that we just thought they were ignorant or stupid and either laughed at them or tried to educate them. We didn’t get offended at worst we got annoyed, but rarely that. With my husband he is Mexican, so if someone says he is Mexican, well, he says he is Mexican. LOL. We can tell when someone is saying something offensive of course, but for instance a guy I used to date, his family was from Ecuador, and I had a friend who would refer to him as Mexican and we would correct her. I did not understand at all what she was doing. She wasn’t prejudiced, it wasn’t that, she in my opinion was just clueless. Even when I corrected her she didn’t get it until years later.

I know @Dutchess_III isn’t ignorant about it, in fact she obviously keenly understands better than I did that Mexican is used by a lot of people to describe anyone who is from south of the border, and that not everyone south of the border is Mexican.

livelaughlove21's avatar

Wait a minute…I thought Mexicans were Indians.~

Dutchess_III's avatar

They are @livelaughlove21. Most of them also have European blood too, although there are small, isolated pockets of individuals that don’t. But apparently the term “Indian” is racist.

JLeslie's avatar

Right. LOL. Indians. But, this chick is a Puerto Rican.

Seek's avatar

Many people native to Puerto Rico are related to the indigenous population that lived there before Columbus stuck his nose into the Carribbean.

Dutchess_III's avatar

@CWOTUS You can put a nasty spin on that if you want to, or you can see it as simple curiosity which is what it really is. If I went to Africa I’m sure they’d ask where I was from.

JLeslie's avatar

This one woman my dad and I hung out with years ago when we were vacationing in Cancun was Newyorkican and somehow we got on the topic of checking the race box on a form. She said she is Puerto Rican not black. All that time I would have thoug she was black, not that we cared or even thought about her race at all until the conversation. This is before Hispanics were divided into white and black on forms. My ex who was Ecuadorian used to check white not Hispanic back when the choices were simply white, black, Hispanic.

Dutchess_III's avatar

@Seek_Kolinahr Actually, it was Cortez and them guys who messed Mexico up.

The paleo-indians migrated from South American to Puerto Rico, so, yeah, the Puerto Ricans are related to the Native American Indians, including Mexican.

Seek's avatar

I do think it’s almost insulting that anyone of South American descent gets lumped in with Caribbean people as “Hispanic”, considering that Hispaniola is one very tiny island, and someone with Mayan blood isn’t related to someone with Arawak blood at all.

Seek's avatar

Like, “Eh, you’re not European, so you’re all the same”.

Dutchess_III's avatar

But it’s usually not meant to be insulting is the thing. Maybe ignorant, but not insulting.

Also, from Wiki: ‘Hispanic’ is an ethnonym that denotes a relationship to Spain or, in some definitions, to ancient Roman Hispania.

Seek's avatar

I’m just saying: You go right now and call a Scottish person British, and see how hard they punch you in the nose. And their country is officially part of the United Kingdom, both physically and politically.

And yet there are Cubans and Mexicans and Brazillians and Chileans, and they’re all considered “hispanic”.

And that’s even considering that Brazil was a Portuguese colony, not a Spanish one

JLeslie's avatar

@Seek_Kolinahr I don’t like the term Hispanic to describe Latin Americans. I prefer using Latn American or the country the person is actually from. I think Brazilians technically can be Hispanic, because it is for the people from the Iberian peninsula who came to the Americas. But, as you point out, many people are not from the Iberian peninsula who now live in Latin America. Cuba I think would be considered art of the Americas. Why do you mention Chile?

@CWOTUS When I am asked where I am from I answer the city in the US I am from, if someone presses and asks where my family is from or what I am, then I tell them. The only people who get offended by those questions are people who are afraid the asker is prejudiced, and the majority of the time the person asking is just curious. They might also get offended if they are from a country that considers it offensive to ask such questions, then it is a cultural thing, and seen in bad taste. My BIL hates the question because he is insecure and feels judged, but he lives in NY, no one is judging him for being Mexican. Domincan maybe, but not Mexican. ~

In America we are all from somewhere or native, so it is pretty common to ask or wear our nationality on our sleeve. Although, in parts of the Midwest and the South it is almost never discussed, because the people themselves have no idea where their own families are from. There is an absense of ethnicity in some parts of the US. Where I am from even if we are very Caucasian we ask where people are from or what they are. Irish, Scottish, Jewish, Russian, German, Polish, and on and on. My friends post pictures on facebook of Paczkis for the holidays. My BIL wore his Kilt to a wedding. My Russian girlfriend jokes about being Russian all the time. To leave out our ethnicity would be a shame. Shouldn’t we keep some of the traditions, languages, foods, and even clothing alive? If we are to be offended by the question where is our family from? Then how can we be proud of where they are from?

KNOWITALL's avatar

@JLeslie In our area, it’s a status thing to know where your family is from, or some people just don’t care at all, not much in between.

The racists will even make nasty comments in public, it’s a very odd dynamic, because for the most part, people would take up for a minority over a racist.

JLeslie's avatar

@KNOWITALL Where I am from talking about our ethnicty carried no meaning except that we were that. It was a total nonissue.

What is the status? Where are the good places to be from? That kind of sucks. Where we are from is simply an accident of birth. My SIL told her daughter when she was little that she should just lie and not say she was born in Dom Rep. I think it was awful she told her that. Like she should be ashamed.

KNOWITALL's avatar

@JLeslie England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland.

blueberry_kid's avatar

As a Puerto Rican who gets called Mexican all. the. time, no, you should not have.

I’m also a teenager so I take a lot of things as a joke. But, race is an changing and growing situation, especially in America. No matter what, people seem to find a way to bring up their ethnicity in any question because they’re proud of it. Ethnically different people seem to click when they talk about their race, just from personal experience.

JLeslie's avatar

@blueberry_kid Puerto Rican is not a race. They were just joking. The joke wouldn’t work where I am from, but it would work in other places I have lived.

josie's avatar

Go ahead and be offended. Everybody else is, why deprive yourself?

Dutchess_III's avatar

But I didn’t feel offended! Should I pretend that I was @josie, so I can feel all righteous and stuff?

josie's avatar

@Dutchess_III
My bad. I thought that was the question.

Dutchess_III's avatar

I was just playin’ Josie. :D Although your answer makes me wonder sometimes if people act like they’re offended because it’s The Thing To Do nowadays. That might make a good question.

blueberry_kid's avatar

maybe I misunderstood the question.

@JLeslie I know it’s not a race considering I’m puerto rican, but it’s treated like one where I’m from. That also doesn’t mean someone can’t be racist towards me. Sometimes when people make Mexican jokes towards me, I tend to get offended because some of them are pretty awful. Some of my family is from Mexico so soetimes I do take offense to it, but 90% of the time it’s just joking around.

JLeslie's avatar

@blueberry_kid I guess the way I think of it is there is no reason to be offended that someone thinks you might be Mexican, unless everyone thinks there is something wrong with being Mexican. I guess where you live people use the term “Mexican” in a negative way. Like I said, I have experienced that in some parts of the country, and in others that isn’t the case. I don’t care if someone thinks I am from Latin America when they hear me speaking Spanish. It’s happened more than once. Recently, someone thought I was Polish, I’m not. So what?

Someone says you are Mexican, just correct them. Why get upset about it? They are the idiots if they are using Mexican as some sort of catch all. They might not being doing that, they might just simply, innocently, be guessing wrong.

I agree people can be racist against any group. There really isn’t a better word to describe it.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Hm. Just had a job interview. Lady asked me where I was from. I said, “Here.”
She asked where I grew up. I said, “In Derby,” which is about 30 miles from here.
She said, “You have an accent.”
I said, “I do?”
She said, “Yeah, like from Back East.”
I just laughed.
Oh, wait. I should have gotten offended. I should have said, “What does that have to do with anything?? Are you going to refuse to hire me because I sound like I’m from Back East??? What does it matter?!!” And then punched her in the face.

livelaughlove21's avatar

@Dutchess_III Okay, we get it. What does it matter what we think, anyway? It clearly does matter to you, or you wouldn’t keep going on and on about it.

JLeslie's avatar

@Dutchess_III She should not have asked you in an interview.

Seek's avatar

If she was asking about “Back East” I’m not surprised she did. People are always looking for connections from home. My accent is almost nonexistant most of the time, but if another New Yorker hears me talk, it’s an instant conversation starter. “Hey! Tottenville! My kid went to high school there!”

JLeslie's avatar

In interviews you have to be careful. I guess since it is an American accent it isn’t risky from a legal standpoint, although in the south if they try to peg you as a Yankee and then you don’t get the job you might wonder if it was discrimination! :)

If someone asked about my husband’s accent; well, he is, shhhhh….Mexican.

livelaughlove21's avatar

@JLeslie You mean he’s Indian? :) Ok, ok, I’ll stop now…

JLeslie's avatar

@livelaughlove21 No, he is Israeli, Spanish, and French not Indian, not even an ounce. Before Israel parts of the family probably lived in other parts of the middle east. I know you are just kidding, but seriously that is my husband’s national background. He is second generation Mexican.

KNOWITALL's avatar

@JLeslie You should put up a pick sometimes, he sounds gorgeous. :)

JLeslie's avatar

Is that offensive to assume someone Israeli, Spanish and French is gorgeous?

KNOWITALL's avatar

@JLeslie It’s your husband, are you offended? mmmm, I wish my hubs spoke Spanish and French both.

JLeslie's avatar

He doesn’t speak French. His mother’s mother was French (I don’t remember if she was born in Mexico or France) but they did not use the language in the house when she (the grandmother) was growing up, so I don’t think even she was fluent. My husband’s mother speaks only Spanish. His father’s first language was Hebrew and Arabic was spoken a lot in the house also, but he never uses it with his wife nor his children, so my husband never learned either.

KNOWITALL's avatar

I love languages, I got a little obsessed in the past, what a wonderful mix of cultures. :)

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