Why I Won’t Be Invited To That Party Again: The Day I Called Someone Out for a Racist Joke

I’m at a party when, suddenly, the affluent host makes a horrendous racist joke.

Sitting just outside the group, I watch the men laugh uproariously while their women exchange pained looks and then look down at their hands.

I’m excruciatingly aware of how no one is willing to confront our host about his behavior, how silence provides the perfect climate and culture for toxic behavior to thrive.

I think to myself:

This is one of those moments. They don’t want to upset the wagon cart, make a fuss, be dramatic. They don’t want to find themselves on the outside of the social group. 

(You know, like me.)

So here I am at this party, realizing that I don’t really like any of these people. 

So I just say it out loud.

“I’m super uncomfortable by that joke you just made,” I say, trying to look at the host squarely in the eye, but doing a rotten job of it. “It’s racist,” I say to the ground.

I look up at him, hoping he’ll apologize.

Instead, he laughs, pats me on the head, and walks away.

It takes a moment for me to realize that I don’t have to stay, and all I have to figure out is how to make my departure. 

Had I been at this party in my former life — as half of a couple — my ex-husband would have told me to ‘calm down’ or tried to convince me that our host is intoxicated, that he didn’t mean what he said. He would have told me to forget the man’s words and ‘just enjoy the party.’

In other words, ignore the slight. 

Guess what? 

I’m done with that.

Ignoring racism exemplifies everything that’s wrong in this world, and I’ve decided to challenge people when they’re cruel, insensitive or disrespectful. 

But dealing with racist humor is weird.

People seem to be enjoying themselves; they’re laughing.

But we all know making fun of people is not the right thing to do, either.

It’s not how we should act as humans on this planet.

It’s not how people with thinking brains and working hearts behave.

If you’re someone who truly values the diversity that we claim to hold dear in this society, put your money where your mouth is.

Practice having these difficult conversations with other adults.

Question people about their thinking.

Get curious about why they think the way they do.

Challenge them on their misinformation.

Encourage them to get outside their cultural bubbles and interact with new people.

And, for goodness sake, until you see some personal growth on their part, show some integrity and stop attending their parties.

What do you do when someone you know makes an inappropriate comment about race/class/gender/sex?

tweet me @rasjacobson

18 thoughts on “Why I Won’t Be Invited To That Party Again: The Day I Called Someone Out for a Racist Joke

  1. Renee, your bravery is wonderful! I have asked people not to make racial comments. This has always been privately during activities for work. I hope to be braver enough to address it if the comment is made is a large group setting. I agree with you, silence is approval.

    1. Sue:

      I know it seems wonderful – but the reality is that whenever I make these comments, I feel like an outsider. Because people don’t like being called out for their bad behavior. I wish I could just shut up and ignore it, but I am constitutionally unable to do so. Thank you for sharing your words.

    1. Well, I don’t know how “good” it is for me. There are always consequences to these kinds of actions. I know that people don’t like me because I speak my mind. It leads to a lonely existence. I mean, I know I won’t be invited to any of those parties again, which is painful, y’know?

  2. I usta think “male locker room” and “ethnic” jokes were funny. Now I have 2 grandchildren by blood that are mixed race and 3 grandchildren connected by love that are if a Caribbean heritage. For some reason I don’t think those kind of jokes are funny anymore.

    1. Hi Carl! THAT is called karma at work, right there. The Universe gave you a big ole correction and made you choose to grow…because your children fell in love with exactly the people you warned them about! I’m going thru a similar experience right now. I’m so glad that you have learned to open your heart to everyone. Can you imagine if your grandchildren weren’t in your life?

  3. I love how you addressed the issue and didn’t let it slide. As a former multicultural club director, I often had these confrontational moments with faculty and staff. It is amazing how many times people avoid the discomfort of addressing the inappropriate actions or words of others. Good for you

    1. It is uncomfortable, no doubt about it, but I look at where our country is these days, and I realize we simply have to address these things, these feelings that we have. Other people simply aren’t getting it; our “deadpan looks,” our silence is simply not effective. I feel it is my obligation to speak out against these prejudices. If I don’t do it, who will?

  4. It takes guts to speak out. As long as you really feel this way I see it perfectly okay to speak up. Just remember you may have consequences. That is why so many people are afraid to speak out. Be true to oneself. Amen.

    1. Yeah, the consequences are that I have a dramatically less busy social calendar. You now what? I’m okay with it.

  5. I speak out on all injustices. I’m the one who who sees the elephant in the living room. I’m the big mouth. Don’t rock the boat they say. To many I’m the bitch because the truth hurts but sometimes it hurts so much it kills. I won’t shut my mouth because I’ve been bullied enough. Good for you Renee, we need more like you.

    1. I think you and I would be besties. I need to hang out with someone who has a bigger mouth that I do. Seriously.

  6. I don’t know what I’d do in person – hopefully call them out like you did. I did have the opportunity to do so by email years ago. A co-worker sent me a “funny” meme, to which I replied, “Please don’t send me any more racist humor; I don’t find it funny at all.”

    1. Hi Stefani!

      Thank you for responding. I apologize for the delayed response.

      It’s difficult to figure out how to deal with these kinds of things, especially when they happen at work. These days, I’m opting for honesty and directness. It isn’t easy, but it feels important to me to let people know when I am offended. People can’t read minds and I’m afraid that unless we stop being “nice” and ignoring these seemingly small offenses, we aren’t going to be heard.

  7. Thank you for speaking up. I had an employee who must have thought that crude jokes and comments were the way to fit in. Rather than calling him out, I simply didn’t make any response. After a few deadpan looks from me, he figured it out and I didn’t hear any further garbage come out of his mouth.

    1. I am not a big fan of “deadpan looks.” Over the years, I’ve learned that people don’t always know what we’re thinking. These days, I opt for directness in all things.

  8. BRAVO Renee!!! Keep doing it too! I have several LGBT friends, various ethnic friends, and of course female friends (regarding Sexism) and because of them I am much more in tune with those pointless, dehumanizing remarks. I stand WITH YOU Madame!!! <3

  9. You got it done. That’s what counts. Maybe one of the other women will feel more able to speak up next time. And OOHHH! the condescending pat on the head. I hate that one.

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