Thursday, January 04, 2007

Sticking by the courage of one's convictions is a bitch

Friend/Co-worker: Yeah, my friend managed to Jew-down the tire guy and I got them for 70 bucks a piece including labor.

Me: Oh! That's good. *Smile, smile, smile.*

Commence internal dialogue: Did she just say "Jew-down"? That's really not appropriate. I should say something. Should I say something? What do I say? How do I say it? What if someone besides me had heard her? What if I was standing next to a Jewish person? What if I was Jewish? That person shouldn't have to be the one to defend themselves. I should make sure she knows that that's probably not the best way to say what she was trying to say. It just came out of her mouth like any old phrase. I don't think she even really gets why that might be offensive. I'm sure if I pointed it out she'd get it. She's not dumb. Conditioned perhaps, but not dumb.

Meanwhile, Sassy visits the ladies room and continues internal dialogue.

I'm just going to have to say something. But now time has elapsed and it'll seem like I've been mulling this over and I don't want to make her feel bad. Of course, I have been mulling this over and she would have made someone else feel bad if they had heard. Damn. Has the moment passed when it makes sense to comment? Is it my place? Of course it is. If not your's, who's? Ok, all right. I'll do it. I'll walk out of the bathroom, into her office and tell her it's probably not the best turn of phrase. Ok? Ready? Go.

Sassy goes by co-workers desk and totally chickens out.


Sassy Pants writes blog post about situation. And continues internal dialogue/turmoil. Gets up out of chair to say something. Sits back down. Has heart palpitations. Realizes that if she ever wants to be a manager she's going to have to handle tough situations like this and could probably use the practice. Decides, who wants to be a manager anyway?

Sassy Pants screws her courage to the sticking place...

Sassy: Um...this is kind of awkward but um... you know the phrase "Jew-down?The tire story...

Co-worker, without letting me finish the sentence says,: Oh my god! Did I say that?

Sassy Pants: Uh, yeah.

Co-worker, looking horrified and embarrassed: I'm so glad you were the only one who heard it. I never say that! My friend used the term when he was getting me the deal. I try so hard not to say things like that but you hear it all the time.

Sassy Pants (infinitely relieved): : I figured you were unconsciously quoting. Like when I say "Close the light" instead of "turn off the light" after talking to my French Canadian relatives. I was so afraid to say anything, you know? And then time went by...

Co-worker: You should have just said "What!?" when I said it and called me on it right there. Thank you for telling me! I'm horrified.

That was surprisingly hard but all's well that ends well, right? I did my good deed for the day, got some karma points, and managed not to alienate or offend a co-worker/friend at the same time. Phew.


Josh Shear said...

Well, thanks for sticking to your guns, but here's the thing. It sounds like your co-worker is interested in the appearance of being the sort of person who would never use a term like "Jew-down," rather than actually being the sort of person who would never use such a term.

It evidently didn't shock her enough when she first heard the story that she consciously avoided it. And the fact that it's enough a part of her lexicon that she'd use it a time when she was in a comfortable exchange and then pass it off as an accident later shows that even if she is well-intentioned, she has some looking inward to do.

Oh, and Sassy, happy new year. :-)

Sassy Pants said...

I can report that she was honestly horrified and disappointed in herself. Especially disappointed. This is the first time I've heard her say anything like that and we work very closely with each other. Except when at work, her cohorts, peers and family tend to be a less educated, do I say this while not perpetuating the same kind of sterotyping I was trying to fight... salt of the earth, as well as older, crowd who tend not to think about the fact that words like "colored" and phrases like "Jew-down" are not ok. I've got a handful of relatives that need some educating themselves but that's another story.

The good thing is, she is 1) aware that it wasn't good, 2)honestly trying not to use such terminology because of #1, and 3) because I called her on it, she'll be that much less likely to say it again. Maybe she'll even ask this other person not to use the phrase around her. You never know.

A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.

pagalina said...

As long as I can remember, I've had friends who found humor in totally inappropriate phrases. I've used them too, to shock or amuse. But I tell myself that since I don't mean them, or because I would never use to harm that it's okay. And like curse words, the more you use them in your private life the more likely you are to spurt one out in an inappropriate situation.

I realize as I've gotten older, that using them at all is just wrong. I also realize that despite best efforts we all harbor some prejudices. It's the little voice judging books by covers. I remain ever vigilant against negativity.

Justin M said...

Wow!! This is totally a serious conversaion! I use un-PC like phrases too. I think the big thing is that as long as you are not offending anyone directly (and if you do, it is their responsibility to let you know!!), and as long as you are not using it in a malicious way, that it's okay to use them. Most of the time it is in a humorous way anyhow! lol

Sassy Pants said...

There is humor, there is ignorance, and there is bigotry.

Humor is a great way to call attention to an issue or to diffuse a situation. Humor has its place. However, if you wouldn't say the exact same thing in front of a person of whatever ilk is being targeted, that means it's not a good thing to say.

Ignorance is saying things without really thinking them through or realizing it's offensive. I'd it pair with laziness - like my friend whose comment just kind of rolled off the tongue. It wasn't meant to offend but it did just by it's existence. Ignorance is not an excuse, however, which is why I'm glad I took a step toward taking the ignorance away.

Bigotry is saying things (and believing them) specifically when you know good and well it's offensive and are trying to offend.

I too am prone to certain prejudices, especially those regarding religion and people of faith. It's something I try to work on.