solidarity: what hurts you hurts me

Posted in Oh hell no by Nancy on September 21, 2010

So I haven’t posted in a while – working as a sub-editor can make it difficult to enjoy after-hours writing and reading. But an offensive remark made by a coworker today left me in such a funk that I needed to return to this blog, if just to figure out why his remarks affected me so deeply.

Said coworker is known for making ‘provocative’ jokes (read: he has a crass and  self-congratulatory sense of humour). On this occasion, my boss was talking about his experience teaching in Korea. Coworker pipes up with something along the lines of: “YUCK. Asian chicks. Ew I’d never go there. Maybe if I was in Vietnam during the war or something *guffaw guffaw*.”

A few days ago I’d heard him talk about how ‘repulsive’ he found the (Chinese? Korean?) language, followed by my boss chiming in with ‘Ching chong ching!’

I don’t  need to explain what’s offensive about these remarks (if you need an explanation leave a comment).  But I do need to discuss, at least for myself, the rage I felt. I’ve learned (after years of interacting with meatheads and their HILARIOUS senses of humour) that I can’t let everything I hear affect me personally. But sometimes it’s an almost superhuman feat to shrug things off.

Firstly, a disclaimer: I am Indian Sikh Punjabi, born in Malaysia. So it could seem puzzling that I’m so enraged by comments that degrade ethnicities I don’t identify with.  But really, as a PoC, it’s only logical to feel solidarity with other minorities. Unfortunately, many people of colour don’t feel this way.

I know many Indians who cuss ‘Pakis’, Chinese people who look down on brown people (particularly Africans), and black people who make fun of Chinese or Indian people. I once went to an Iranian hairdresser who told me my hairstyle made me look like a “nigger”.

But denigrating others to feel a bit higher up the racial pecking order is deluded. You may feel more part of the ‘winning team’ to put down other minorities but for every other person of colour you make fun of, someone else is also mocking and ridiculing you.

It seems only my presence in the room would stop said coworker from saying something like, “Ew, Indian chicks! Gross. Maybe if I was pillaging Punjab and didn’t have another options.” What would stop him from saying, “I find the Indian accent repulsive. BUDD BUDD [or whatever noise such people make to demonstrate their ignorance].”

I know that the kind of people who make fun of Asians will not hesitate to make fun of me. Participating in derogatory humour about CHINKS or GOOKS does not mean said ‘comedian’ won’t call me a RAGHEAD or CURRYMUNCHER when I leave the room.

I feel solidarity with people of all colours. As a person of colour, what hurts other PoCs hurts me. Funnily, racists don’t discriminate in their choice of target: chinks, gooks, sandniggers, ragheads, currymunchers, boongas, darkies, slanties, spics, kikes, niggers – we are all the same to them.