Question of the Day

Shaker Joe here with the Question of the Day: How do you handle work-a-day or every day racist, misogynistic, or otherwise offensive quips or comments? Do you ignore them? Attempt to politely educate the offender? Put the offender in their place with snippy one liner comebacks? What do you do when you want to strangle them, but realize that your social or economic (or how about social and economic well being) relies on the good will of the offender? What do you do when it's directed at you?

Here's my setup:

I attended a conference this week on behalf of some of my clients. I work in a small industry where the "Six Degrees of Separation" rule is actually about one degree of separation. As such, I've had a long, personal relationship with many of the players in my business. So I should know them well.

But for some reason, for the first time, I was very aware of racist and misogynistic comments coming from people whose professional and personal relationships I have long valued. On reflection, maybe for the first time, I didn't think I could just shake them off.

For the record: I am a lifelong Democrat, and I consider myself an unashamed liberal and feminist.

In the space of 24 hours, I had several conversations with people who managed to slip in comments that I just felt were rather offensive. I'd be overstating it if I said that the comments staggered me, but in the end, the cumulative effect of all of them have left me angry and disturbed.

Here's example one:

One of the account executives I work with is a very attractive and personable twentysomething. She's also, not surprisingly, well educated, well spoken and very competent. I like her a great deal as a professional. In the middle of a conversation at a cocktail reception it's mentioned to me that she is, "Well, you know, a c---."

Imagine that, I reply, and we have dicks. Probably very small ones, too.

And then I left.

Example #2: While waiting to do a presentation a client sits with me, slurps his coffee, looks out over the hall and mentions, Well, I guess this company doesn't have a problem with the NAACP.

Huh, I ask?

Look at all the black people here. Who knew?

Well, it is the 21st century, you know, I respond. I think they outlawed that slavery thing back in the 19th century.

Yeah, he says, still looking at "Them." But who knew they could read, he adds.

Huh, I respond, maybe that bussing thing they did in the 20th century helped.

And then I left.

I don't know why I suddenly picked up on this; maybe it's the large concentration of people I do business with (we don't actually get together in these types of environments anymore—the internet and consolidation into larger companies killed that). I just don't know. Maybe the times have made people more angry and prone to saying stupid things.

But I am hurt, angry, and frankly disappointed; people really should be better than this by now. And I want to be better prepared the next time it happens. So: What do you do in these situations?

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