Am I bad for noticing people's race?


#1

I am the type of person who is extremely sensitive to people’s races and ethnicities. I will, for instance, try to determine what someone’s race or ethnicity is when I bump into them or see their last names, etc. I don’t see myself as racist but I am nonetheless very keen to it. I might say, for instance, “I think that black girl is cute” rather than “I think that girl is cute” and I see nothing wrong with this…I am simply noticing a trait of this person. Or I might take notice to the fact that a bus has 20 people on board, 3 of whom are white, 10 of whom are Hispanic, and 7 of whom are black…again, this is simply something I notice and nothing to do with racism.

So tonight I mentioned to my friends an observation I have made on numerous occasions regarding the show “Family Feud”. It always seems that whenever I see the show the producers always pit a white family against a minority family and I find this to be an interesting observation. I find it to be strange and a part of me wonders if it’s done on purpose or something.

And then, out of nowhere, my friend (who was obviously upset) asks me why I notice race so much, stating that it is wrong of me to do so. I said I didn’t know and that I didn’t see anything wrong with this trait of mine. But he said again that it’s wrong for me to notice race like this and that I should focus on the person for who they are, not for their inborn traits.

I’m curious if it is wrong for me to take notice to people’s race in this manner. I’m not racist, but my friend’s comment made me wonder if I am wrong for doing this.


#2

I don't think it is wrong to notice people's racial traits or to be aware of racial placements by the media. But I do think you've just learned that you need to be prudent about with whom you share your observations. It's usually not a wise idea to bring up race unless physical or ethnic traits are the point of the conversation.

For what it's worth, I agree with you about the media. The media goes to great lengths to use people of multiple racial and ethnic backgrounds while at the same time trying to avoid making it obvious what they are doing. This is not so much an observation about race as it is an observation about the media.


#3

I guess it depends on whether or not you are obsessing over it or reducing people to merely a stereotype and failing to see them as individuals.

If you are* just* being observant and not the above, then I think it’s okay, even normal to notice the diversity in God’s creation. I was reading a fascinating blog today written by a Caucasian couple who has adopted 4 African-American boys. This mom gave some awesome insights into how she cringes when people say they are “color blind.” She pointed out that she thinks the different skin colors are beautiful and good and God-ordained and that we should celebrate the different cultures, different appearances, and overall diversity in the world instead of pretend we’re all exactly the same. The important thing is to do that while seeing equal value in each group and also valuing the gifts and dignity of individuals regardless of any larger group they may identify with.


#4

I can see why someone might become offended at a comment like “that black girl is cute”. It seems to imply that black girls aren’t, on the whole, cute–that by default they’re ugly. I’m sure you don’t mean it that way, but that may be why people get upset.

Remember, St. Paul said that in Christ there was neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free–there’s no need to attach extra appellations to His children in most situations, I think.


#5

I am also of the opinion that your being very observant of other races doesn't make you a racist. I too am very observant of other nationalities but harbor no disdain for any in particular. Be thankful that you appreciated the beauty in diversity.


#6

[quote="Ferds_Guiang, post:5, topic:188223"]
I am also of the opinion that your being very observant of other races doesn't make you a racist. I too am very observant of other nationalities but harbor no disdain for any in particular. Be thankful that you appreciated the beauty in diversity.

[/quote]

Well I sometimes wonder if I say it out of some minor sense of disdain but I don't know for sure.

But since I quietly left the room after this argument because I was upset, should I perhaps try apologizing to my friend or ask for forgiveness? I can't see what I would apologize for and I'm inclined to say it's best to forget about it and move on. Anyone have ideas on what I should do?


#7

[quote="LotusCarsLtd, post:6, topic:188223"]
Well I sometimes wonder if I say it out of some minor sense of disdain but I don't know for sure.

But since I quietly left the room after this argument because I was upset, should I perhaps try apologizing to my friend or ask for forgiveness? I can't see what I would apologize for and I'm inclined to say it's best to forget about it and move on. Anyone have ideas on what I should do?

[/quote]

Well, I think part of the issue is others' sensitivities. No matter how pure your motivation may be, racism has been a problem in our country and some will be sensitive to your tendency to point race out. Effective communication is key... sometimes it's not what you say, but what you don't say. For example, when I think someone is cute, it's usually not JUST because of their skin color. I've dated men of several different races... I've been attracted to their smile, their athletic build, their eyes, etc along WITH their skin color. So when you make a statement, "That black girl is cute" it is a little odd that you are sort of highlighting her ethnicity in that way... as another person pointed out, it could come off in several different ways when said like that.

Reverse the situation. When I think a caucasion man is cute, I don't say "That white man is cute!" That's really reducing the man to a certain race category in an odd way. Instead, I say, "That man is cute! Look at his smile!" or "Check out his tan!" Or whatever.

If you want to comment on her skin, you could say, "That girl is cute! Her skin is really pretty." Or if it's her smile or figure or cute outfit or whatever, you can highlight that instead.

If you want to work things out with your friend, I would simply apologize for not being clearer in how you express yourself. Explain your motivations were right, but that your words may not have made that evident.


#8

Please be aware, though, never to speak your "racial" noticings outloud.

You never actually know what race someone identifys with.

AND

"Hispanics" cover a large territory. Some look almost italian with dark, wavy hair, lighter skin, etc. Some are completely "black" (like the Haitians). Dark-skinned Italians, for that matter often look like they're a black/white mix. Be in mind that many "white" people hate that they're grouped together as "white"....I know people who are "Irish-English" and "Irish-French" who would chomp you if you indicated they were anything but Irish. I also know 7 foot tall, gangly dark skinned "black" basketball player who's 3/8 irish and proud of it. Say he's africian american and you got anothor something comming to you. And now, more than ever, innterracial marriage is considered OL so there are many chilren that are not really either. Most of our black actors, for instance. And with the Asian population. Are you aware of how many completely different cultures there are over there? Philipinos, Chinese, Japaneese, all with VASTLY different cultures. Also, someone may inherit "asian" eyes due to genetic abnormalities with no asian in them.
The last thing that brings me to is native landers....they often get mixed in with Latinas, or Itialians or blacks.

So be very careful.


#9

[quote="purplesunshine, post:8, topic:188223"]
Please be aware, though, never to speak your "racial" noticings outloud.

You never actually know what race someone identifys with.

AND

"Hispanics" cover a large territory. Some look almost italian with dark, wavy hair, lighter skin, etc. Some are completely "black" (like the Haitians). Dark-skinned Italians, for that matter often look like they're a black/white mix. Be in mind that many "white" people hate that they're grouped together as "white"....I know people who are "Irish-English" and "Irish-French" who would chomp you if you indicated they were anything but Irish. I also know 7 foot tall, gangly dark skinned "black" basketball player who's 3/8 irish and proud of it. Say he's africian american and you got anothor something comming to you. And now, more than ever, innterracial marriage is considered OL so there are many chilren that are not really either. Most of our black actors, for instance. And with the Asian population. Are you aware of how many completely different cultures there are over there? Philipinos, Chinese, Japaneese, all with VASTLY different cultures. Also, someone may inherit "asian" eyes due to genetic abnormalities with no asian in them.
The last thing that brings me to is native landers....they often get mixed in with Latinas, or Itialians or blacks.

So be very careful.

[/quote]

Purplesunshine is totally right. Race is such a sensetive issue.

(I mean, duh-everyone knows the British are superior anyway...so I don't know what the problem is....:shrug: )

In all seriousness, some people might take it the wrong way. So be careful.


#10

This is something that I struggle with, because I notice ethnic traits, such as eye shape, skin color, body build, or even last name, but I know that people would assume that I am racist for noticing something and making any sort of comment about it. I don't attach any value judgement, any more than when I notice a person's height, but it is much more acceptable to comment on a person's height (conversationally, just as small talk) than on any feature that is connected to race/ethnicity. Which is weird to me, because I have gotten a lot of comments over the years about it being rare for people to see someone such as me with dark brown hair and light blue eyes, and I know it is due to my ancestry and I don't take offense, I just laugh. I think because of the history of slavery/oppression of several of the races, that people today are still very sensitive, even when a person means no harm and is most certainly not a racist.
On the flip side, when people 'forget' the race of a public figure, meaning that their race does not play a significant role in the specifics that a person thinks about when their mind recollects what they know about them, those people get blasted as well. For example, I tend to notice race only initially at first meeting, but then later remember only those things having to do with the person's behavior or character. Recently, a political analyst accidentally made a horrible faux pas when he said he forgot Obama was half black. The clincher was when he said something about his recognition or admiration that Obama was a well-spoken gentleman. I'm sorry that I can't remember the exact wording here. When I heard the report, I thought to myself "Oh yeah, he is half-black, I had forgotten, too. And yes, he is a good public speaker (obviously, because he was elected president, largely on the basis of his effective speeches during his campaign)." It was only later that I realized that many people were angry about the remarks of the analyst, because they assumed he was making racist statements. It disturbed me, until I realized that people assumed that because of what the analyst said, he was inferring that black people cannot speak well, which is preposterous of course! Also, the outraged people who spoke out about this also said we should never 'forget' Obama is black, because that is an important part of who he is. So we are in a situation in America where we are not allowed to notice a person's race, but if we don't we are judged anyway. I don't get it, because while heritage and race, nation of origin, skin color, ethnic markers are all interesting aspects of our appearance and our identity, they are not the only things that matter, but rather just pieces of the puzzle we fit together as we get to know a new friend or public figure. Am I wrong about this, too?


#11

Hmmm…Haitians aren’t Latino at all. They speak a French language.

And why not speak your racial noticings outloud.? As long as you are not acting sterotypical or racist, it’s absolutely fine to notice that we are all have different appearences. A nice Greek waiter once asked my sicilan-american husband if he were Greek. I am also Sicilian american, and I was asked if I were French Canadian.

Why would any of those questions be offensive at all? My daughter had a physical therapist who was from the Phillipines, but was ethnically Chinese. Why would that be wrong to discuss?
I found her family history very interesting.


#12

Why do people assume this is implied? What about if a guy noticed a pretty girl with a handicap that required her to be in a wheelchair and said “that girl in the wheelchair is pretty”, does that imply that most wheelchair-reliant people are ugly. Of course it doesn’t imply that!
What about if a tall girl is pretty, but is surrounded by equally pretty but much shorter girls? Can a male not say “Wow, that tall girl is so cute!” without implying that her companions are ugly?

I really don’t understand this at all. I mean, really, we are all so ready to be offended these days that any compliment automatically implies its opposite!
(stepping down off soapbox. rant over)


#13

[quote="Randi, post:12, topic:188223"]
Why do people assume this is implied? What about if a guy noticed a pretty girl with a handicap that required her to be in a wheelchair and said "that girl in the wheelchair is pretty", does that imply that most wheelchair-reliant people are ugly. Of course it doesn't imply that!

What about if a tall girl is pretty, but is surrounded by equally pretty but much shorter girls? Can a male not say "Wow, that tall girl is so cute!" without implying that her companions are ugly?

I really don't understand this at all. I mean, really, we are all so ready to be offended these days that any compliment automatically implies its opposite!
(stepping down off soapbox. rant over)

[/quote]

Disability...and height...have nothing to do with racial sensitivity. I don't think anyone here thinks that because he mentioned that a girl was black he felt all the other girls were ugly. While people in wheel chairs, or tall people can be sensitive, its a feature they cannot change, and cannot be seen "in another light" a "black" girl may be 1/2 italian and think of herself as Italian. She may be from the Dominician Republic and not think of herself as "black" at all. Recently we had some students at our school who were very offended becuase their teachers tried to single them out for writing black history month pieces about what it was like to be black in America today. Quite a few were from Haiti or the Dominican Republic and went balistic. They do not consider themselves "black" and resented being lumped in with Africian Americans.


#14

As a student nurse, sensitivity to genetic heritage is a good thing! (I’m not a fan of the word ‘race’, but that’s semantics that I won’t get into here) There are different problems that people of African descent are more prone to than those of European (‘white’) descent, and vice versa. There are skin problems that have to be assessed differently depending on skin color; a good one is called a Mongolian Spot, which is a dark patch on a baby’s bottom that is totally normal if the baby is from parents with darker skin, but if that isn’t known, it could be mistaken for bruising and abuse. Culture is EXTREMELY important when assessing health issues! The whole way you ask questions can differ from culture to culture, and the types of questions you ask will differ, too. It’s a bad thing, a VERY bad thing, if you assume all your patients are like a ‘typical’ white middle-class family. You HAVE to be sensitive to possible differences, and you have to know that you can’t know everything about different cultures and backgrounds, it’s impossible. :stuck_out_tongue:

Lotuscars, I would be careful with your wording when you do talk about people’s genetic differences. That hypothetical girl that you made a comment about might just be as much genetically ‘white’ as she is ‘black’. I think it would more accurate, and also hilarious, if you said ‘that girl who appears to have some African heritage, is cute.’ :stuck_out_tongue: Noticing people’s differences is a-ok. Labeling them into subsections of ‘race’, unless they have asked you to, is not so cool, IMHO.


#15

[quote="Mary_Gail_36, post:11, topic:188223"]
Hmmm...Haitians aren't Latino at all. They speak a French language.

And why not speak your racial noticings outloud.? As long as you are not acting sterotypical or racist, it's absolutely fine to notice that we are all have different appearences. A nice Greek waiter once asked my sicilan-american husband if he were Greek. I am also Sicilian american, and I was asked if I were French Canadian.

Why would any of those questions be offensive at all? My daughter had a physical therapist who was from the Phillipines, but was ethnically Chinese. Why would that be wrong to discuss?
I found her family history very interesting.

[/quote]

I think the issue is historical baggage. It's not wrong to notice a person's appearance and ask where they're from in it of itself. But our nation's history has created a "sore spot" for many in regards to certain issues. I do think we need to be sensitive to that reality, to think about how we say things and in what context (but also don't think it's wrong at all to celebrate our differences).

Btw, the analyst who was slammed for the Obama comment... well, it's his job to make sure he communicates clearly. He failed to do that. He may have meant well, but he does have to recognize that what he said could be misinterpreted and deserves criticism.


#16

Here’s the difference. Which sounds better to you?

“That girl in the wheelchair is pretty.”

“That handicapped girl is pretty.”

In one you acknowledge her individuality first, then a descriptive feature. In the other, you define her by her wheelchair or by a category of people.

Also, whenever you are a minority (of any kind), there is the potential to feel more defensive or misunderstood. It’s easier to be in the majority most of the time. That’s just a reality. Even as a member of “the majority” (although not really… I am half Polish but my skin doesn’t tell that story), I don’t want to be referred to as “that white girl.” Sorry, I find that very tacky.


#17

[quote="zaramarie81, post:16, topic:188223"]
Why do people assume this is implied? What about if a guy noticed a pretty girl with a handicap that required her to be in a wheelchair and said "that girl in the wheelchair is pretty", does that imply that most wheelchair-reliant people are ugly. Of course it doesn't imply that!
What about if a tall girl is pretty, but is surrounded by equally pretty but much shorter girls? Can a male not say "Wow, that tall girl is so cute!" without implying that her companions are ugly?

I really don't understand this at all. I mean, really, we are all so ready to be offended these days that any compliment automatically implies its opposite!
(stepping down off soapbox. rant over)


Here's the difference. Which sounds better to you?

"That girl in the wheelchair is pretty."

"That handicapped girl is pretty."

In one you acknowledge her individuality first, then a descriptive feature. In the other, you define her by her wheelchair or by a category of people.

Also, whenever you are a minority (of any kind), there is the potential to feel more defensive or misunderstood. It's easier to be in the majority most of the time. That's just a reality. Even as a member of "the majority" (although not really... I am half Polish but my skin doesn't tell that story), I don't want to be referred to as "that white girl." Sorry, I find that very tacky.

[/quote]

Exactly. I've overheard people say about me: "that white girl is poor" (even though I'm half-Italian, I didn't get my dad's olive skin) in certain situations. People felt like they needed to attach the "white" because, on the whole, in their experience, white people aren't poor. Hopefully that makes sense.

And I do agree the desire to be sensitive can get ridiculous sometimes. A friend of mine just happened to be the only African-American on a trip one time, and she got separated from the group. "Which one's Carrie?" asked the professor, when we went to look for her. "Oh, you know, she's short, with curly hair . . ." No one wanted to say "black"! :rolleyes: 'Carrie' got a kick out of it when I told her later.


#18

[quote="pumpkinbeast, post:14, topic:188223"]
Lotuscars, I would be careful with your wording when you do talk about people's genetic differences. That hypothetical girl that you made a comment about might just be as much genetically 'white' as she is 'black'. I think it would more accurate, and also hilarious, if you said 'that girl who appears to have some African heritage, is cute.' :p Noticing people's differences is a-ok. Labeling them into subsections of 'race', unless they have asked you to, is not so cool, IMHO.

[/quote]

There is a good key point here which has been raised several times in this thread. Consider four black people: a Haitian, a Kenyan, an African-American, and a Cuban. Despite being black, you will find that they have little in common (other than the common human traits that we all share). So, why is the fact that they're "black" relevant? The fact that they share the same skin color is a historical accident which tells you nothing about the individuals involved.

Noticing cultures and learning about them is useful. A person's appearance can often (but not always) tell you something about their cultural background. Noticing skin color alone is useless.


#19

I also like to look at people's faces to see if I can see other races in their face.

I just saw a new T.V. Show on channel PBS. It is called "FACES". There is this man who likes to check out ancestors of movie stars and entertainers.

Tonight he did a family tree of the actress Eva Longoria whose Spaniard family arrived in Mexico before it was part of Texas. Her ancestors arrived when part of Texas was under Spanish rule. Then there was the Mexican flag of the rulers, then the civil war flag, then the Texas Flag and then the American Flag.
The interesting part is that she also has Chinese in her from the Chinese name of "MA".
Since the Ma Chinese family arrived in America too they could have inherited new Chinese relatives. She also looks part Native American. She says she is Mexican-American for more than a on hundred years which is true.

WOW! That was a great show I saw tonight.

I would like to have my DNA tested to see what percentage I am of European, Native American and maybe Chinese. I come from the Mexican-American culture.

People always ask me, "where are you from"? Are you a recent arrival to America?
I always answer that my family has in the u.s.a. since the late 1800's which is true.
I act like an American and also Mexican because I love both culteral groups.
I am more American than Mexican.

The people asking me the questions are mostly immigrants who have just arrived from other countries like the middle-east and other Latinos.

I don't get offended at all because Los Angeles does have a lot of Latinos.

I really believe that DNA is the in subject presently. People love to say that they are Danish, etc. It is just fun for me.
I like to brag that I am part Indian. I never ask people what culture they are from. I ask what is their ancestry and a lot of people don't know or really care.

Someday I plan to have a DNA test done on me to find out my ancestry.


#20

I have read the posts and am a little amused - mainly because I am the opposite. I am white (100% Irish), living in Trinidad, married to a Trinidadian. He is a stew-pot of ethnicity - African, Irish, Portuguese, Spanish, French, and Indian. He appearance is brown-skinned African, basically.

I met him at a Christmas Night party in Ireland. The friend who brought me to the party later asked me who it was that took me home from the party, if it was the fat black fellow. I was immediately able to say that he was, indeed, fat, but I hadn't a clue if he was black! I had to look directly at him the next time I met him to confirm that he is, in fact, black. To me, people's skin color is purely a part of their description. Their culture is much more a factor in understanding and knowing them.

To date - 42 years after meeting him, 40 years of marriage later, I am still much the same. Many times I will be asked (common in Trinidad) "what sort of person is he/she" - meaning what is their ethnic background - and I will most likely answer "he is very intelligent but shy" or "she is hardworking and very pretty". Then I may be asked "No, is he Indian?" or "Is she Chinese?" Too often I have to think, mentally picture the person and then respond. Sometimes I may have to say that I don't know because I haven't really noticed!


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