How Do You Respond to Racist Talk?

I tend to waver between two extremes when it comes to responding to racist words. On one hand, there’s the fire and brimstone approach, a definite favorite when I was younger; on the other hand, there’s the calmer and more patient talk it out strategy, which can also be useful and probably the better strategy for dialogue with friends/family.

Of course, there’s also the grin and bear it method, but I don’t think that’s healthy or helpful. You end up feeling pretty emotionally crappy and the other person feels like it’s okay to continue to say, think, and believe such hateful and hurtful things.

So what do you do?

Recently, I’ve been thinking about this quite frequently especially as it pertains to loved ones (you may remember from this post that some of my family members are subscribers to the colorblind racist belief system.) This makes it somewhat more delicate to address these issues. John Metta’s “I, Racist” post summed up the relationship of racism and White family members and why it’s so difficult for White people to talk about racism. It was such a fab article that I shared it on my Facebook page and I wish my family would read it, but I have the sneaking suspicion that they’ve muted my Facebook feed.

I, however, have not muted theirs (and for the most part don’t agree with unfriending or muting people) and therefore get the pleasure of seeing all sorts of bigotry in meme form. As I’m trying to figure out the best way to address it, I found this post, which gives some good advice for how to respond to racist talk on Facebook. I also stumbled upon these notes, which give an in-depth review of research on race, privilege, Whiteness, and action, from a panel presentation at the University of Oregon and this article on how to respond to a racist joke. Another great resource is from the Southern Poverty Law Center and can be found here.

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And then this happened (NOLA edition)

Setting: live music spot in New Orleans, LA. My boyfriend (BF) and I are sitting at a high top table away from the stage when an intoxicated Asian (perhaps Indian?) guy (IAG) walks up.

IAG (to my boyfriend): She’s so beautiful. Is that your girlfriend?
BF: *nods
IAG: I didn’t know Chinese girls dated Black guys.
BF: I didn’t either. She’s Korean.
IAG (to me): You don’t like Korean guys? You like Black guys?
Me: I guess so.
IAG: I notice a lot of Korean girls don’t like to date Korean guys. Why is that?

OMG, really? And this was only a quarter of the foolishness that guy spewed. In my *older age, I have taken a much calmer approach to situations like this. My younger years would have seen me go clean off on this dude with zero mercy. Not to mention, the guy’s intense level of intoxication (immediately after talking to us, he sat down and passed out) would have made my comments a waste as I doubt he would have remembered anything I would have said.

Had he not been so incredibly drunk, I would have loved to learn more about his pan-ethnic approach to Asians and Asian intra- and inter-marriage. This reminded me of an article on Asian Nation that investigated the percentages of endogamous, other Asian, and other race marriages. While this data finds that Korean women are the most likely, among the Asians represented in this study, to out-marry with Whites, they are still more likely to marry endogamously.

I would also like to know in what world does he think it’s okay to say the majority of ignorant comments that came out of his mouth? But, if he has always been given a pass, like in this instance (actually, it was more like divine intervention), then he has all reason to believe his actions are permissible. I hate having to educate the genuinely ignorant and the fool alike in regards to my race, my ethnicity, my family structure, and Asians in America, but with almost two decades worth of experience in just that, who better else to do it.

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Winter Break Recap



1. Sleep.

2. Not think.

3. Find the DC version of Memphis’ Molly’s La Casita. My drinking partner in crime friend assures me this is not a good idea. But why? Sure, 10 times out of 10 drinks at Molly’s has turned into a night of very poor decision making great memories, but isn’t that what life is made of? Ah, memories.

4. Explore DC and hit up more museums.

5. Read a non-academic book.

6. Finish the next draft of my Second Year Paper and submit to ASAs.


1. Sleep. Sort of. It started off a little difficult but midway through the winter break I was sleeping in and taking naps! Success! Then, in the last week as my body and mind realized that the beginning of the semester was near, my sleep returned to its irregular pattern. Sad face.

2. Not think. Ha! Like that’s really possible. Of course, I was still thinking. That was a silly item to even include on the to-do list, BUT my thinking was calmer and, I’m sure, more rational.

3. Eat, yes! Drink. . .Hmm. . . . though I did not find a new favorite watering hole, I did get to take advantage of DC’s Restaurant Week and try some restaurants. I also got quite a few restaurant recommendations from more experienced DC diners. I’m so looking forward to trying out Acadiana, Black Salt, Look, and a few others.

4. Frequented museums. Let’s see, I revisited one of my favorite museums – The National Portrait Gallery. I saw a rather disturbing exhibit at the Hirshhorn, reviewed the history of food in America at the Museum of American History, and, I finally made it to the National Postal Museum.

5. Read lots of non-academic books! I talked about my winter break reads here , so I won’t go into great detail in this post, but suffice it to say, I truly enjoyed my leisure reads.

6. Completed another iteration of my Second Year Paper. Yay! And, I submitted it to present at ASAs (meaning the American Sociological Association’s Annual Conference). I’m looking forward to good news about being accepted to present (acceptances are announced by March, so I’ll let you know!). The conference is in August in San Francisco, and I am too excited about going!

7. Made tentative summer plans – ICPSR Summer Program, anyone? I won’t go as far as saying that I’ve become a quantitative-convert, however I undoubtedly see the benefit and importance of being methodologically well-rounded. I’m hoping to get some summer tuition remission or some sort of extra funding to attend.

8. Worked on some groundwork aspects of a project with Matthew Hughey.

9. Followed advice from The Professor Is In blog and made a 5 Year Plan.

10. Persisted in my half marathon training! My self-diagnosed turf toe is doing much better thanks to Rest-Ice-Compression-Elevation and a pair of new Brooks.

11. Began doing some early prep for comps. I’ll take comprehensive exams in the fall in Social Psychology and Stratification.

12. Went to NYC (Omg so much yummy food! Did the touristy stuff, of course, and visited the MoMA); went to a couple concerts here in DC (Wale was the best!); club/bar hopping; and attended some fantastic seminars at Bridgeway Community Church.



You probably thought I was going to say I hadn’t done anything on my Winter Break To Do list, huh? Lol. I’m a notorious list maker and over-planner. Typically, I put more items on my list than are humanly possible to complete, but this time I went easy on myself. Overall, it’s been a very relaxing and entertaining break. I’m feeling rejuvenated and, of course, excited about the spring semester!

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Far from the Tree: Parents, Children, and the Search for Identity


During the summer, I happened upon Andrew Solomon’s TEDTalk about his most recent book Far from the Tree: Parents, Children, and the Search for Identity and immediately had to go get a copy. At nearly 1,000 pages, it was a bit daunting, but it was well worth it. In his book, Solomon explores vertical and horizontal identities – vertical identities are the highly salient identities that parents and children share, while horizontal identities are those that they do not share and that prompt children to seek, outside of their parents and family, a community of similar others – and how parents react to, adapt to, and accept their children who are seemingly so different from them.

Actually, I was searching for Andrew Solomon’s email address so as to tell him how inspiring his book was, when I saw that he would be coming to DC to give two talks – one at the National Book Festival and another at Gallaudet University. Unfortunately, I would not be able to attend the Book Festival, which saddened, and still saddens, me immensely but I was able to attend the talk at Gallaudet this past Tuesday. Now, after reading the book, you would think that Gallaudet stood out to me, but it didn’t. For those of you who aren’t familiar with the University, or for those who, like me, forgot, Gallaudet was the first school established for the advanced education of the deaf and hard of hearing.

So, hearing Andrew Solomon talk at this pivotal and historic institution about his book that was spurred by an article he wrote about the deaf community was quite an experience. Given that he was at Gallaudet, the focus of his talk was on the chapter on the deaf horizontal identity. I must admit, though, since I don’t sign, I was a little bit nervous being on Gallaudet’s campus.

I found my way to the Kellogg Conference Center, where the talk was being held, with no problem. The auditorium quickly reached capacity. As the room full of students, professors, and administrators waited for the talk to begin, conversation filled the room. A flurry of signs abounded, and though I was in the midst of all this chatter, I was not privy to the conversations. I was able to pick up on a few pieces of conversation here and there, but for the most part I felt slightly out of place. It was exhilarating! Though we may come in contact with people different from us, we (unfortunately) typically stay within our own communities of similar others. So, to be in a setting where I was the outsider was a reminder that my perspective and my community is only one of many.

During the Q&A session, Andrew Solomon said, “One of the goals of the book was to make these cultures more accessible.” Through his exploration of almost a dozen horizontal identities, I became so much more aware of and informed about these different identities and cultures. A chapter is dedicated to each identity, and in each chapter, Solomon gives the historical and social background of the ‘condition,’ including policy and laws that were enacted in response, technological or medical advances, if applicable, and the mainstream social or cultural perspectives.  Also included are excerpts from parent interviews and Solomon’s own observations of the different identity communities.

Interviews with over 300 families and years of writing and research culminated with this book that has undoubtedly generated constructive conversation about parent and child relationships, identity, and these communities, in particular. Solomon’s work is inspiring and motivating, showing me what is possible as an academic.

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Thank You for the Opportunity, However. . .

Earlier this year I secured a summer internship at a marketing and growth consultancy in Memphis, TN. I was super psyched to expand my research skills and challenge myself by engaging in a new field. As a matter of fact, anticipating the internship was a big portion of my motivation during this spring’s statistics class. However, four weeks into the ten week internship I knew that it was not a good fit. I was torn. Should I stay for the remaining six weeks and fulfill my commitment to the company? Or should I resign and use the time to work more intently on my Second Year Paper (aka Master’s Thesis)? This was a very difficult decision not only because I had made a commitment to the internship but also because the President of the company is married to a friend of mine. In fact, it was my friend who told me about the company and the internship. So quitting would potentially impact not just business but friendship.

Normally, I am all for finishing what you started, but I am also learning that there’s nothing wrong with quitting for the right reasons. Learning to say no is just as important as persisting through a yes.

What are the ‘right’ reasons to quit? This article from 99u points out some situations where quitting may be the best option. For me, the daily feeling that I was not where I should be let me know that I needed to reevaluate what I was doing. When I dug deeper for the source of my discontent I realized it was because my efforts weren’t yielding any returns. In the end, I made the hard decision to end my internship early and claim the rest of my summer break for working on various school projects.

I am now coming to what would have been the end of my ten week internship, and I am quite satisfied with how I utilized my time. The eight hours a day that I would have been giving to someone else I used to finish cleaning up and coding my song analysis data, revise the front end of the paper, and read a fabulous book by Andrew Solomon, Far from the Tree: Parents, Children, and the Search for Identity, among other tasks. While I would not have imagined I would quit what I was so excited to start, I am happy to have followed my intuition and made productive use of my time.

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