Bet we’ve all, at some point in time, thought, “How I wish I had not said that”. We’ve all had that “oops moment” after saying something hurtful. We’ve found ourselves telling stories which we originally thought were innocuous just to realize later they had different implications. Sometimes we say things with the best of intentions, but because we don’t give it enough thought, those words often come out the wrong way and hurt our relationships with others. Regrettably, even the sincerest apologies are often not enough to take those words back.

Some of the things we say can be racist, and the sad thing is that we might not even realize it. But if we made it a habit to think before speaking, then we would be able to speak in a more effective way. Before looking at how thinking can improve our general communications, let’s focus on some common racist statements people make which might seem harmless on the surface.

1. “I don’t mean to sound racist, but…”

This is probably one of the most popular “unintentional” racist phrases out there. If you find yourself starting any statement like this, then chances are you are about to say something racist. This does not really need further expansion. That said, think before you speak!

2. “Where are you actually from?”

On the surface, this question might sound inoffensive. It could just be you trying to know the person you are interacting with better. However, this might be interpreted differently by people belonging to minority groups. Keep in mind that visible minorities hear these types of questions, again and again, implying that they don’t truly belong because of their appearance. The better thing to do might be to allow people to talk about their origin whenever they feel comfortable doing so.

3. “You are so articulate”

You have probably said this to a friend or colleague belonging to a minority group thinking, “It is just a positive remark”. But when you take more time to think about it, that remark suggests that you felt the person would be less articulate and you are surprised the person speaks so well. What should I say then? Nothing! A better way to make a positive remark would be to applaud the person’s ideas not the person’s way of speaking.

4. “Is that your real hair?”

This is a familiar question to women of African descent in workplaces, because their hair is often perceived as “less professional” compared to the more familiar smooth hair. This often pushes such women to straighten their hair in a bid to look more socially acceptable. THINK again when next you feel like asking that question.

Making it your goal to avoid the above mentioned racially oriented microaggressions is a great start. Additionally, you can take it a step further by avoiding other forms of microaggressions such as sexist comments and other offensive remarks which might seem harmless, at first blush. This is where the T-H-I-N-K acronym comes in handy. This tool can help you avoid saying things you might regret.

T- TRUE: Before saying anything to anyone, you might want to ask yourself if what you are about to say is true. Telling stories or making comments which are not true can hurt you (shows you are not trustworthy) and other people.

H- HELPFUL: Is what you are about to say helpful in that specific situation? Sometimes it is more helpful to remain silent.

I- INSPIRING: Telling stories or making remarks which are inspiring, or uplifting is the better thing to do.

N- NECESSARY: As a rule of thumb, it is good to avoid saying things that are unnecessary or irrelevant.

K- KIND: “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” This quote says it all!

As mentioned above, most of us have been guilty of saying hurtful things to other people, after all, “to err is human”. And if you have read this article to the end, it means you are willing to enrich your communications, and for that, we say, “Mazel tov”.

Categories: Storytelling

22 Comments

Adaego M. Azi · December 19, 2019 at 3:51 am

Thanks duppydomTEAM. This article is very close to home. When people see me, they are never sure of my nationality (particularly when I travel). I am so tired of having to tell people where I am from – sometimes when I hear the question, I just pretend that I did not hear it. I know some people are just curious, but I wish people would just stop and think how annoying it would be if people kept asking them the same question day in and day out, for years. I should make the T-H-I-N-K acronym into a pamphlet that I could hand out to people when they ask ridiculous or insulting questions about my race 😤 😠

    duppydomTEAM · December 20, 2019 at 6:52 am

    Thank you Adaego – I think the problem is people do not stop and think before they ask questions. In the moment, people simply ask a question, or say something without thinking about how it might affect the person they are speaking to. Obviously, some people are racist, and their goal is to “put the minority in their place”—but for most people, they are simply unaware of how their words can be perceived. For example, if someone asked you, “is that your real hair?”, simply saying, “you do know that comment is somewhat racist, don’t you?” – they will probably be surprised at your response and then you can politely explain 😮

      Adaego M. Azi · December 24, 2019 at 7:00 pm

      🤗

    S. Jakes · December 21, 2019 at 6:07 am

    😊

Lisa Steffler · December 19, 2019 at 7:32 am

I don’t think I look Asian in any way, but apparently some people think I do – based on the questions I get asked. One time someone actually said to me, “you can stop pretending you are white, I can tell you are not.” I did not know how to respond to that. People can sometimes really test your Christian faith. I try to be kind at all times, but sometimes I can tell that someone is not just curious, he/she is simply rude (perhaps racist) and he/she simply wants you to know how they feel about you being different. Those are the kinds of people I pray for. duppydomTEAM thank you.

    duppydomTEAM · December 20, 2019 at 6:52 am

    It can certainly be surprising to hear what some people say. If I were in your shoes, at first, I would probably be just as dumfounded and wouldn’t know what to say. These are the kinds of people you simply must ignore. There is really no point engaging in a conversation with people who are this degrading. They are simply looking for an argument – and why bother to vex your spirit!! Lisa – I like your approach – just try to be kind to people 💜🌼🌻

      Adaego M. Azi · December 24, 2019 at 7:01 pm

      🤗

    S. Jakes · December 21, 2019 at 6:08 am

    👌

    Nadine Wu · December 27, 2019 at 6:10 am

    Lisa – I feel your pain.

Bruce Peters · December 19, 2019 at 4:03 pm

duppydomTEAM – nowadays, thinking before speaking is not just a result of the #metoomovement, it is part of being a good human. At my office, we must be exceptionally careful about the things we say to employees. Workplace discrimination is on my mind all day at work – during hiring, performance reviews and even when firing someone. Sometimes I hear employees speaking to each other in a discriminatory fashion and I have to remind them that even making racist jokes (and sexist jokes) can get them fired. Back to being a good human – trying to make people of all color feel comfortable in their space will always be a good thing.

    duppydomTEAM · December 20, 2019 at 6:50 am

    Bruce, your comments are greatly appreciated. I know in Canada, employers are mandated by Human Right Legislation and Employment Standards in terms of how employees are to be treated in the workplace. However, this still does not prevent racism and unfair discrimination in the workplace. The good news is that the #Me Too Movement has shed a spotlight on all discriminatory behaviors in the workplace and everyone is now forewarned 📣📣

      Adaego M. Azi · December 24, 2019 at 7:01 pm

      🤗

D'Gauntlett · December 19, 2019 at 9:48 pm

I am definitely a guilty person of at least two of the above noted. Being introduced to someone recently who’ve lived in London and have acquired a deep British accent I did asked where they were originally from. However, it never dawned on me as anything other than wanting to know. My comment was “I never could have guessed”. They were from my homeland.

Is that your real hair? That’s a frequent occurrence for some women. Back in the day when I was young, hip and with it. My answer would have been “yes and I have the receipt to prove it” but the atmosphere was completely different then. People were caring, sincere and fun to be around.
In today’s society racism seems to be in the air we breathe and it’s slowly choking us to death.
Thanks team duppydom.

    duppydomTEAM · December 20, 2019 at 7:42 am

    D’Gauntlett – I think your response is alluding to the root of the article – intent. Even in our modern era, most people do not have a malicious intent when they ask racist or chauvinistic questions. They simply aren’t being introspective and putting themselves in the shoes of the minority group they are communicating with 🤐. The “other side” of intent refers to those who do have malice in their hearts. Their intent is to shame, embarrass, humiliate, etc. 👿. And when you interact with these individuals it is very easy to spot the difference. Thank you D’Gauntlett.

      Adaego M. Azi · December 24, 2019 at 7:03 pm

      🤗

    S. Jakes · December 21, 2019 at 6:08 am

    👌

S. Jakes · December 21, 2019 at 6:15 am

I am not a visible minority (so no one says things to me that could be considered racist) – but people say things to me all the time, where they should think before they speak. For example, my girlfriend (who is a hair stylist) had just colored my hair and gave me a bob cut. While walking to my car, a guy came up to me and said, “before I ask you out, I just want to know if you are a lesbian”. The first thing that popped into my mind was to slap him. I am not a lesbian, but I have girlfriends who are, and they often complain about the same thing. Whether or not I am a lesbian, how is that any of his business. I am a very shy person, so I was surprised at how angry I got at him – I don’t usually tell people off. But sometimes people (particularly men) can say things that are so insensitive. STOP AND THINK BEFORE YOUR SPEAK PEOPLE!! Thank you duppydom 👏

    duppydomTEAM · December 22, 2019 at 6:14 pm

    S. Jakes – thank you for sharing your experience with us. And I agree, both men and women can be very insensitive at times. In your specific situation, the “I” of the T-H-I-N-K acronym would have been more appropriate. And perhaps we need it more in general:
    I- INSPIRING: Telling stories or making remarks which are inspiring, or uplifting is the better thing to do.
    💐🌞

      Adaego M. Azi · December 24, 2019 at 6:59 pm

      👏

    Adaego M. Azi · December 24, 2019 at 7:04 pm

    🧡

Nadine Wu · December 27, 2019 at 6:16 am

Being an Asian American, I get my fair share of racism on a daily basis. But it particularly offends me when I see racism directed at my parents – sometimes because of the slang people use, I don’t think my parents even understand the insult being thrown at them – and this is usually when I jump in with a barrage of my own insults. I appreciate the T-H-I-N-K acronym you mentioned in the article (I really do) – but the problem is many people are simply bigots. The don’t need to think before they speak, they need to change their attitudes about people who don’t look like them.

    duppydomTEAM · December 28, 2019 at 1:55 am

    Nadine – you are correct. Across the world, there are those who still stereotype, have prejudices and act on these negative attitudes – and their deliberate words and behaviors are in fact intended to cause harm. The good news is that each year, the rest of the world gets less tolerant of these types of people (although it might not seem this way when you are the target). And continue to defend your parents – you are a good daughter. Thank you for expressing your thoughts ☮❤

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