Wedding Woes

"Why are you using that word?"

Dear Prudence,

I’m a 75-year-old woman who lives in Australia. For the last decade, I’ve been running a book club with other senior women, all of whom are interesting, intelligent, and relatively open-minded. The civil rights movement in our country was focused on Indigenous Australians, and the N-word has never been used here in relation to Indigenous Australians. (Mind you, we had plenty of other offensive names.) Last week one of the book club members was talking about tennis players, and she used the more formal version of the N-word to describe a famous male American tennis player. I was so shocked that I could find no words, and to my shame I let it pass. The Australian context is very different from the American context, and I’m sure it was not intended as a racial slur, but nevertheless it was a racial slur. Can you help me with a script to use in case this ever happens again?

—Nice Book Club Ladies Using the N-Word

Re: "Why are you using that word?"

  • "Why are you using that?"  

    Start the dialogue.
  • “Why are you saying that” o “do you know how offensive that word is?”
  • "I'm sure it wasn't intended as a racial slur." Uhhhhh, yes it was.

    I get that Australia is different, but the N word is still recognized as a slur. I think this is a case of old white lady who thinks she's "safe" around a bunch of other old white ladies. Call her out, LW. 
    charlotte989875missJeanLouiseOliveOilsMomei34
  • What is a more formal version of the n-word? Does she mean this lady used Negro? I can see that- if you’re not in the US, have no reason to usually talk about African Americans, and primarily have read old books. “Black” in Australia is used for the indigenous population and wouldn’t be an obvious choice to use for black Americans. I don’t think you need to make a whole production of it “hey Yvonne, n-blank is actually a really offensive term, just use African-American.”
    short+sassyOliveOilsMomei34
  • I too was confused about what she meant as the more formal version. So is Negro as offensive as the other? I'm genuinely wanting to know.
  • Older gens are learning the terms they use/used aren't what they thought.

    Honestly, calling someone Black here isn't offensive {as I've learned} but it's how it's used.

    LW's other book club ladies may not be up to speed. LW needs to say something "why are you using that term" would be my first question
  • I've noticed that African-American isn't used so much anymore. Black is used more. I think because it covers countries other than America. Black was what was used when I was younger, and Negro was used when my parents were young.
    MissKittyDangershort+sassy
  • What is a more formal version of the n-word? Does she mean this lady used Negro? I can see that- if you’re not in the US, have no reason to usually talk about African Americans, and primarily have read old books. “Black” in Australia is used for the indigenous population and wouldn’t be an obvious choice to use for black Americans. I don’t think you need to make a whole production of it “hey Yvonne, n-blank is actually a really offensive term, just use African-American.”
    Thanks!  I was really confused as to what a "more formal version" of the n-word was, because I only know the one.  But I could see Negro being a good explanation for which word she is talking about.

    Unfortunately, I had this conversation with a coworker at another job.  It was stunning and surprising, so I can understand a little bit she was left without words.  But forewarned is forearmed and I hope she is better prepared if it happens again.  It would have been more powerful in the moment, but she should still speak to the woman privately that she is offended by that term and why it is an offensive term.

    That is essentially what I said with my coworker (a white woman, in her 30s) and told her not to use it in my presence again.  Perhaps a minor point, but I always carefully word my response to call out that I AM offended.  Not just that the term is offensive.  People like that don't understand, just because a derogatory word may not apply to their audience, doesn't mean it can't still be personally offensive to someone.  
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    banana468OliveOilsMomcharlotte989875
  • levioosa said:
    When I hear people in America use negro, it’s a deliberate choice and it definitely is racist. And when corrected/called out it’s usually followed with “can they just decide what they want to be called already?” If my 87 year old grandmother can re-adjust her vocabulary, so can you. 
    Agreed.   It's one thing if you're referring to an acronym or organization that uses a term that we no longer use (I'm thinking NAACP and United Negro College Fund) but we can all learn to tweak our language! 


  • banana468 said:
    levioosa said:
    When I hear people in America use negro, it’s a deliberate choice and it definitely is racist. And when corrected/called out it’s usually followed with “can they just decide what they want to be called already?” If my 87 year old grandmother can re-adjust her vocabulary, so can you. 
    Agreed.   It's one thing if you're referring to an acronym or organization that uses a term that we no longer use (I'm thinking NAACP and United Negro College Fund) but we can all learn to tweak our language! 


    Oh yeah to be clear I don’t think it’s okay! But I can see how an older slightly out of touch Australian would (I’m Australian). And hopefully the response is a simple “oh gosh sorry thanks for letting me know.”  And if not, well then you know that friend is racist and can move on accordingly. 
    ILoveBeachMusiccharlotte989875levioosaOliveOilsMom
  • I've noticed that African-American isn't used so much anymore. Black is used more. I think because it covers countries other than America. Black was what was used when I was younger, and Negro was used when my parents were young.
    Yeh my coworker is Jamaican-Canadian so it's more valid for her. Also - I read this somewhere - many of the black community never liked "African American" as a term because many aren't from Africa.
    ILoveBeachMusic

  • Oh yeah to be clear I don’t think it’s okay! But I can see how an older slightly out of touch Australian would (I’m Australian). And hopefully the response is a simple “oh gosh sorry thanks for letting me know.”  And if not, well then you know that friend is racist and can move on accordingly. 

    SIB

    Off topic, but I didn't know you were Australian!  I know you live in the United States, because you've mentioned commutes to NYC.  I also had the impression you were originally from a different country.  But had always assumed that was Canada.
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    charlotte989875kvrunsSTARMOON44MissKittyDanger
  •  short+sassy said:

    Oh yeah to be clear I don’t think it’s okay! But I can see how an older slightly out of touch Australian would (I’m Australian). And hopefully the response is a simple “oh gosh sorry thanks for letting me know.”  And if not, well then you know that friend is racist and can move on accordingly. 

    SIB

    Off topic, but I didn't know you were Australian!  I know you live in the United States, because you've mentioned commutes to NYC.  I also had the impression you were originally from a different country.  But had always assumed that was Canada.
    Lol yes- we moved here when I was 4 so I’m mostly assimilated but every now and then it comes up!
    short+sassymrsconn23OliveOilsMomcharlotte989875
  • I've noticed that African-American isn't used so much anymore. Black is used more. I think because it covers countries other than America. Black was what was used when I was younger, and Negro was used when my parents were young.
    I was listening to a podcast recently that is hosted by a Black woman (it's a pop culture/Bravo leaning podcast, but she also discusses a lot of social issues with her guests) and she's pointed out several times how the term AA is ridiculous because not every Black person can trace themselves back to Africa. A lot of people are Islanders or heck, there's a ton of Black people who have Native American ancestry. She also talked about how we don't call white people who's lineage goes back to Africa (think Charlize Theron, I mean she was born there...but clearly she lives here as a citizen) African American.  It was definitely a "oh huh...yeah...duh" moment listening to her talk about it. 

    I mean the husband of SIL's BFF is an over 6ft light-skinned Black man and his family is from Puerto Rico.  He calls himself "Blackerican".  

    OliveOilsMomcharlotte989875ILoveBeachMusic
  • edited October 2020
    mrsconn23 said:
    I've noticed that African-American isn't used so much anymore. Black is used more. I think because it covers countries other than America. Black was what was used when I was younger, and Negro was used when my parents were young.
    I was listening to a podcast recently that is hosted by a Black woman (it's a pop culture/Bravo leaning podcast, but she also discusses a lot of social issues with her guests) and she's pointed out several times how the term AA is ridiculous because not every Black person can trace themselves back to Africa. A lot of people are Islanders or heck, there's a ton of Black people who have Native American ancestry. She also talked about how we don't call white people who's lineage goes back to Africa (think Charlize Theron, I mean she was born there...but clearly she lives here as a citizen) African American.  It was definitely a "oh huh...yeah...duh" moment listening to her talk about it. 

    I mean the husband of SIL's BFF is an over 6ft light-skinned Black man and his family is from Puerto Rico.  He calls himself "Blackerican".  

    Makes me think about a person who applied for a job at H's former company. She was black but from France (born, raised and educated). There was no choice for her at the time for identifying herself. She was told to check African American. Her reply was but I'm not, I'm french.
    short+sassyMissKittyDanger
  • mrsconn23 said:
    I've noticed that African-American isn't used so much anymore. Black is used more. I think because it covers countries other than America. Black was what was used when I was younger, and Negro was used when my parents were young.
    I was listening to a podcast recently that is hosted by a Black woman (it's a pop culture/Bravo leaning podcast, but she also discusses a lot of social issues with her guests) and she's pointed out several times how the term AA is ridiculous because not every Black person can trace themselves back to Africa. A lot of people are Islanders or heck, there's a ton of Black people who have Native American ancestry. She also talked about how we don't call white people who's lineage goes back to Africa (think Charlize Theron, I mean she was born there...but clearly she lives here as a citizen) African American.  It was definitely a "oh huh...yeah...duh" moment listening to her talk about it. 

    I mean the husband of SIL's BFF is an over 6ft light-skinned Black man and his family is from Puerto Rico.  He calls himself "Blackerican".  

    Makes me think about a person who applied for a job at H's former company. She was black but from France (born, raised and educated). There was no choice for her at the time for identifying herself. She was told to check African American. Her reply was but I'm not, I'm french.
    It's interesting that factor, apparently some African places are French and many people immigrated to France because of that {I learned that years ago from a girl and her family was from a part of Africa - they're French but she isn't}
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