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I have been accused of Being Racist?

 
 
Reply Thu 14 Jul, 2016 11:12 am
To clarify I made a compliment to a lady with an unusual green eye colour. I didn't/don't know or question her ethnic origin, at a guess she was probably mixed race but it didn't really enter my mind her roots at the time.

i happened to point out this was an especially unusual combination with her colouring. I didn't mean to infer she belonged to any particular "group" as I refer to my own white skin as my "colouring".

She then accused me of being racist towards her as she didn t fit into a "black stereotype". I was trying to point out that genetically she won the lottery, I would have said the same with any unusual Caucasian features/eye combinations.

I am raising this topic because I would like to discuss whether in fact I HAVE committed racism, albeit unintentional. It horrifies me to think that a comment I intended as a compliment to an individual has backfired in such an unpleasant way. Far from wishing to generalise her, I wished only to celebrate the person standing in front of me. I don t want to cause offence in future and would be interested to know whether this sort of compliment would be deemed a racial slur. Any answers would be much welcomed from all ethnicities. Please don't hold back, I seek to be fully informed so my choice of vocabulary in future celebrates all people and doesn't make them (of any racial background) feel marginalised.
 
engineer
 
  4  
Reply Thu 14 Jul, 2016 11:56 am
@nattertoad,
My guess is that people with unusual skin/hair/eye color get lots of comments and given that they did not choose said attributes find them annoying. I can see that strangers thinking they can approach you out of the blue to comment on your body might not be seen as a positive thing. Was it "racist"? Hard to say. From your presentation, I don't see it but she might have a different perspective.
nattertoad
 
  1  
Reply Thu 14 Jul, 2016 12:08 pm
@engineer,
Hi, that is a valid point. I myself have green eyes and very pale skin which others have complimented me on as it is in itself quite unusual, and I know some women in particular (of all descent) see complimenting on appearance as quite annoying. I however usually take a compliment as intended and more often than not as a conversation opener as appearance is the first thing we know of a person.
I suppose if after a while the conversation continued to revolve solely around appearance it may start to grate on me but a passing remark of appreciation I have no problem with it.
I suppose what took me aback so much was the "racism" label. Even if she didn't enjoy me making any kind of compliment toward her at all I was very disturbed by the thought of offending on a racial level.
Thank You for your reply and for adding to the discussion.
0 Replies
 
ehBeth
 
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Reply Thu 14 Jul, 2016 12:24 pm
@nattertoad,
nattertoad wrote:

To clarify I made a compliment to a lady with an unusual green eye colour.


i happened to point out this was an especially unusual combination with her colouring.



there's a difference between saying someone is beautiful / stunning / attractive and commenting on an unusual combination of eye colour and colouring

I don't think commenting on colouring ever goes over well (it wouldn't in my world at least) . It would get a stink eye at the very least in my circle.

nattertoad
 
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Reply Thu 14 Jul, 2016 12:31 pm
@ehBeth,
Hi, thank you for your reply.

My phrasing was probably poorly judged, I do think she was very beautiful but I suppose I wanted to be more specific than using a generic word like "beautiful" to describe her beauty. I wish I had had the chance to apologise for any offence I caused her.
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contrex
 
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Reply Thu 14 Jul, 2016 01:11 pm
@ehBeth,
Quote:
I don't think commenting on colouring ever goes over well (it wouldn't in my world at least) . It would get a stink eye at the very least in my circle.

I get sick and tired of other English people asking me if I am Italian or Spanish or telling me I am 'olive skinned'. They wouldn't like it if I compared them to cadavers.

nattertoad
 
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Reply Thu 14 Jul, 2016 01:26 pm
@contrex,
Hi contrex. Thank you very much for your input. This is interesting. I never actually mentioned any racial heritage whatsoever when referring to this lady, so is it enough in your view to mention complexion at all in relation to a person for it to be offensive?
I have had my pale complexion marked out as something that is unique about me, I don't feel offended by it particularly...some do go "oh you look like a goth" or "Morticia" which I don't personally get upset about, but I can see how this bringing up of complexion and assumptions associated with it can be hurtful especially when linked to racism. Any further remarks you have to add would be gratefully received.
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maxdancona
 
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Reply Thu 14 Jul, 2016 01:39 pm
@nattertoad,
I think you are taking it too personally. You started a conversation with someone, they reacted badly. So what? If you are outgoing and reach out to people, you are going to annoy some of them.

You can learn something from this... maybe not compliment strangers on physical attributes? Although I suspect that many people wouldn't have had a problem with this... everyone is different and you were just unlucky to say something that this woman found offensive.

Some people might get upset, other people might take it as a compliment and other people might not react one way or the other... you never know with people, and any time you initiate a conversation with someone you run a risk of annoying them. That doesn't mean you shouldn't interact with people.

I don't think you should consider this a big deal. Hopefully you apologized and then dropped it.
nattertoad
 
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Reply Thu 14 Jul, 2016 01:53 pm
@maxdancona,
Hi Maxdancona, thanks for adding your answer to my topic and taking the time to write at length.

I'd like to add a little bit more background to this if I may. I volunteer in a second hand clothes shop and this is where the incident took place. I make it my duty to comment on what looks well on individuals and to respond truthfully so as they feel good about what they buy. I mention this only to highlight that I haven't singled out an individual in the street at random. That is perhaps I feel so strongly that I have let this lady down. She was my customer and I feel in some respects I failed her.

I accept no-one gets on with everyone all the time. I would be grossly egotistical and self-important to think I could please everyone and they should like me just because I try to be nice to them. I suppose it is just a shock to me as I feel myself to be a respectful person on the whole and that this is the first (and hopefully only) time I have been called out as being racist.

Unfortunately the lady left before I was able to respond and I had other customers in the shop so I couldn't follow her to set the record straight.

Thank You again for taking the time to reply and for giving me extra food for thought.
maxdancona
 
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Reply Thu 14 Jul, 2016 02:14 pm
@nattertoad,
As you have have gathered, it is not a good idea to "set the straight" in these situations. You can't set things straight when someone gets upset. Best to listen, apologize and move on. Anything else will likely just escalate.

I wouldn't worry about though.
0 Replies
 
ehBeth
 
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Reply Thu 14 Jul, 2016 02:22 pm
@nattertoad,
nattertoad wrote:
so I couldn't follow her to set the record straight.


a simple apology would have been enough

commenting on colouring/complexion/skin tone can be problematic if you don't know people well

__

there are famous stories of people thinking others are children's caregivers, not parents, based on skin colour. My mother used to worry that people would think my father and/or uncle had kidnapped me when I was a baby because of the difference in our colouring.
nattertoad
 
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Reply Thu 14 Jul, 2016 02:25 pm
@ehBeth,
Thanks for your additional comments ehBeth. Yes indeed I would give anything for an opportunity to apologise to her, but she left (understandably) in a hurry.
Blickers
 
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Reply Thu 14 Jul, 2016 09:33 pm
@nattertoad,
There is a racial dimension because only Europeans have any eye color other than brown, (usually), or any hair color other than black. So your remark could have been interpreted by her as being the equivalent of, "Hey, what are you doing with my group's eye color? Only we are supposed to have that". With an implication that her looks were somehow straying over some kind of line.
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AugustineBrother
 
  -1  
Reply Mon 18 Jul, 2016 11:23 am
@nattertoad,
When you tick off a tick-offable person they will blame you for racism, sexism, political leaning, etc. as they are moved to. Now if you are racist then you will show it. As you think so you act.
I wasn't there so I can't say. I would like to know why she didn't accept your statement that you are not racist. To be racist and a liar about it is a quite exceptional thing.
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Finn dAbuzz
 
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Reply Mon 18 Jul, 2016 06:13 pm
@nattertoad,
No your comment wasn't racist.

Look up the definition of the word.

Your comment didn't, at all, imply that her race was inferior to any other.

There was nothing offensive about your comment.

Typically, people of color do not have green eyes. It's not a "stereotype" that blacks have brown eyes, it's a hugely predominate characteristic.

The woman is an idiot.
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