Ask NCBI

'Self check'

Dear NCBI,

After going through your trainings, I often notice my own attitude needs shifting just as much as anyone else’s. For example, I was recently helping canvass a neighborhood for a social cause, and when I got there, I realized I was nervous because the neighborhood was comprised of trailer homes. I grew up in a middle class neighborhood, and had no experience in this type of neighborhood, and I was acutely aware of my own prejudice; looking back, I realize my nervousness was based entirely on stereotypes and misinformation. I feel like a hypocrite trying to teach others about racism, sexism, classism, and other forms of oppression, when I keep catching myself in moments like this. Am I even ready to shift attitudes in others, when I have prejudice of my own?

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'big adultism at the big box store'

Hi NCBI,

I work at a major box store chain and I am 17 years old.  My boss wouldn’t promote me because I am too young.  I put in extra effort and extra hours, because I was hoping to get promoted. I am so qualified that my boss asked me to train the new manager that was hired instead of me. My friends think I should just quit, but I don’t want to just leave after all that hard work. I want it to count for something.  But, now I feel a lot less motivated to do a good job, since it doesn’t seem to matter anyway. What can I say to my boss?

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'Dressing up racism'

Hi NCBI,

I have some white friends that are very thoughtful and kind community members. I doubt they consider themselves racist at all, and I never would either. But the other day, I was on Facebook and saw a picture of their son with what they called “war paint” on his face, and he was holding a bow and arrow he had proudly made as a craft. I was very surprised to see this image, especially coming from this family. Since it is nearing Halloween, I wonder if I will see more “Indian” costumes soon! I am white too, so I also feel uncomfortable trying to speak for Native Americans. What can I say when my friends allow their children to dress up this way?

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'controversial trial: controversial emotions - how do i deal?'

NCBI,

I've been having a lot of big feelings about the death of Trayvon Martin and the outcome of George Zimmerman's trial. I've been having intense conversations with my friends about issues such as race, racism, violence, safety, and the U.S. Justice System. I'm having a hard time expressing or even identifying my feelings about this incredibly complex and tragic situation, and its larger implications. Do you have any tools or suggestions to help me really think this through - on my own, and with my friends?

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'i feel like an indian'

Dear NCBI,

I recently took my daughter for a hair cut at a salon we had never been to before. When cutting my daughters long hair, the hairdresser commented, “I feel like an Indian!” When she was finished, she looked at all of my daughter’s hair on the floor and jokingly made the stereotypical “whooping” hand motion over her mouth to my daughter. My daughter was clearly uncomfortable with this offensive stereotype and looked at me to say something but I was so shocked that I froze and couldn’t think of what to say without embarrassing or shaming the hairdresser. In wanting to be both an ally to Native people and a good role model to my daughter, what could I have said or done?

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'Social Mean-ia'

NCBI,

While browsing Facebook and other social media websites, I often find remarks that come across as racist, sexist, homophobic, or otherwise offensive. I’ve tried engaging in dialogue many times, but to no avail. It seems like whenever I try to shift someone’s attitude or interrupt this language, people who I don’t know gang up on me.  It often turns into long, exhausting conversations that become seemingly impossible to maintain reason or respect. I’m tired of this constant struggle; do you have any pointers?

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'Parenting Predicament'

Hey NCBI,

I recently overheard my 6th grade daughter and a group of her friends making disparaging comments about another girl's body. I have worked so hard to raise girls who feel comfortable in their own skin and to think critically about societal messages about body size and beauty. I was shocked and horrified that they would be trash-talking another girl - and my response to them was pretty shaming. What's another approach?

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'an unwelcoming guest'

Hi NCBI!

Several weeks ago, one of my great friends turned 30 and we went out to celebrate.  Several of the girls in the group identify as lesbian.  We were at a restaurant and we noticed a man across the room staring at our table. We brushed it off at first but after one of the couples in our group shared a kiss, we realized that he was glaring at us and making gestures to others around him.  We could all tell that he clearly did not want us to be in his presence.

We decided to pack up our things and head next door to another local spot.  Soon after, the man came in and sat down.  He started talking with the waiter while he continued to glare at us.  As we began to feel more uncomfortable, the waiter approached us and warned that the man had voiced his discontent for our group.  The waiter assured us we were safe but urged us to steer clear of the glaring man.

My question is, what should have we done in this situation?  Should we have asked the waiter to talk with him?  Should we have left or tried to approach the man to start a dialogue? 

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'my asian friend'

As an Asian person in Missoula, I sometimes find myself in uncomfortable situations in which people make subtle racist or stereotypical comments to me. During a recent trip to the grocery store where I purchased some wine, the cashier began to make conversation with me by telling me about his “Asian friend” who would sometimes use his older brother’s ID. This comment made me feel really uncomfortable because not only did I feel like he was referencing the stereotype that all Asian people look alike, but I was also uncomfortable with the fact that he felt the need to clarify his friend was also Asian. How do I respond to this sort of situation without putting the other person on the defensive?

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'Racial Rouse'

I woke up last Monday morning at 3 am to some of my roommates coming home drunk, setting off the fire alarm, and blasting the TV. They were watching some baseball game, and I lay in bed listening them calling the coach a nigger. It’s a month-to-month rental…I’m ready to move.

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'An Oily situation'

I recently got my oil changed. When I was paying the bill, the woman behind the counter looked almost exclusively at my male partner while explaining the condition of my truck, even though it is my vehicle, I was paying the bill, and my partner was obviously not real invested in the conversation.  How do I get people to look at me?

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'road trips and reservations'

I was driving across Montana with my dad, and as we passed through reservations he kept pointing out yards with old cars in them and saying things like, “see, they don’t take care of their stuff…” I felt like the comments were racist, and that what we were seeing had more to do with class than race, but I couldn’t figure out exactly how to respond.

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'mama, look at HIM!'

We are eating dinner on the patio at a nice restaurant with family from out of town.  My five year old daughter is playing on the deck with her three cousins.  Suddenly she runs over to me laughing and pointing at a man with dwarfism who is also walking on the deck (he is a waiter) saying, "Mama, look at him!"  My daughter, who is pretty comfortable and familiar with differences such as people with wheelchairs, amputations, blindness, as well as all colors of skin, literally has her jaw hanging down.  I glance at her cousins, who are well versed in "politeness" and wouldn't dare to say such a thing and realize this is not necessarily what I want to teach here....

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'racial slur trips up the mountain'

I was recently hiking up a peak in the Bitterroots in my Chaco sandals, when a fellow hiker asked me, “How are you going to get to the top in those Jap Flaps?”  I was stunned.  He was carrying a firearm, so I was hesitant to respond to his blatantly racist comment.  What would you have done?

Signed,

Active Alison, Missoula

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'where are your parents?'

Last week my husband and daughter were walking down our neighborhood street.  We are the only Native American family in our small neighborhood and my husband is obviously Native American but our daughter is light skinned and has very light colored hair.  Our daughter was walking a few steps ahead of her dad when one of our neighbors stepped out her front door and asked our daughter where her parents were – she startled our daughter who did not respond and my husband quickly told the lady “I am her dad.”  Our neighbor did not believe my husband and quickly asked our daughter again, “where are your parents?” This time my husband said with a more forceful tone, “I said I am her dad!” Our neighbor quickly went inside her home.  

My question is, why do people assume that when they see a minority man with a young child, especially one with lighter skin, they automatically think something is not right about the situation?

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