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October 18, 2010 10:23 AM   Subscribe

I got invited to a "racial stereotype" Hallowe'en party. Umm, what? I don't like this idea but am not sure how to proceed.

A year ago I joined a soccer team that I really like- the players are fun party animals and hanging out with them socially has become a pretty large part of my weekends. Mostly we play pick-up games, drink, and talk about pop culture so I don't know a lot about their political views.

A few people on the team are throwing a Mexican-themed Hallowe'en party. When I first heard about this, it sounded like the theme extended to basically nachos and a pinata- ok, fine, I said I'd go. But now they're sending jokey emails telling all attendees to "dress as funny Mexican stereotypes".

They're all white. I'm Korean-American, so while I'm not personally hurt by Mexican stereotypes, maybe it's easier for me to extrapolate how hurt I'd feel about a "Asian stereotype party", so I just don't think it's cool. Suffice it to say that I'm against this party idea and mildly appalled that they all think it's okay. It's very likely that there won't be any actual Mexican people at this party (there aren't many in our area). I don't think my friends are malicious, and I don't think "these people are racist" but I don't like this idea at all.

I don't know what to do. I don't really want to say anything to them, because they obviously don't think it's problematic, so I'd be the lame ethnic person scolding them and it will pretty much make things awkward forever. They've all been friends for years, and I'm the new guy in the group and pretty low on the pecking order (my spot on the team would be the first to go due to senority anyway). I don't need to agree with them all on every point of social justice, I just want to play soccer, and specifically I want to play with them- they're a really fun team. I don't like them quite as much as I did before I heard about this party, but I guess I can get past that. But there's no effing way I'm putting on a "Mexican costume", and there's no way I can hang out with people who are, so I can't go to this party, either. Do I say nothing and just not attend, even though I said I would? I guess I could do that, but then I'd feel guilty for not saying something.

My question is twofold.

People who have been in my position in similar situations (made uncomfortable about a racially-problematic/homophobic/whatever thing that your friends are thoughtlessly doing), do you have any advice or real-life examples that might help me choose how I should, or should not, proceed?

People who have been my soccer team in this kind of situations (casually doing something that you hope is funny but that is actually offending your friend of a different race/sexual-orientation/whatever), what would you hope your friend would do? Would you want to know that your friend felt bad about your funny idea? If so, any tips on how the friend could broach the subject without making you feel attacked or defensive?
posted by anonymous to Society & Culture (53 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
I would just say that something family or work related came up and you can't come after all. I agree with you that this is a bad kind of party, but considering you don't know them well and want to continue playing soccer with them, I think you are right to not say anything. You can't change the world, but you can not be a part of something you disagree with.
posted by your mom's a sock puppet at 10:30 AM on October 18, 2010 [5 favorites]


I don't think "these people are racist"

sorry, but these people are racist. perhaps more out of ignorance than malice. but still racist.

if i were you, i'd make up an excuse to miss the party. keep playing soccer and start looking for some new friends.
posted by gnutron at 10:31 AM on October 18, 2010 [18 favorites]


Do I say nothing and just not attend, even though I said I would? I guess I could do that, but then I'd feel guilty for not saying something.

Just explain that as the nature of the party has become more clear, you're no longer comfortable with it. Don't lecture them, and only tell the party organizer. You can couch it in terms like "It just doesn't sound like my kind of thing."
posted by jedicus at 10:32 AM on October 18, 2010 [7 favorites]


I once went to a martial arts school for 2-3 months before realizing that one of the instructor's best friends was incredibly racist. Nobody said boo to him about it, and I was super uncomfortable with it. I was very low on the totem pole there, so I didn't feel like I could say anything about it. So, I just....left. Found a different school and trained there.

In the context of this incident, I think you should make a polite excuse and skip the party.
posted by HighTechUnderpants at 10:34 AM on October 18, 2010 [2 favorites]


keep playing soccer and start looking for some new friends.

If everyone were to immediately jettison all of their friends who were racist, sexist, homophobic, politically bigoted, and every other kind of -ist, there wouldn't be a lot of people on earth eligible for friendship.

Just say you've got something else going on. Not everything is a teachable moment.
posted by downing street memo at 10:34 AM on October 18, 2010 [24 favorites]


Email to: The Team
Email from: The New Guy
Subject: Mexican-themed Party

Hey guys, I'm looking forward to the Mexican-themed Halloween party, because I loves me some nachos, Coronas and beating pinatas with a stick. But I heard someone say we should dress as Mexican stereotypes? Was I correct in hearing that? That didn't seem cool. What's going on?

Looking forward making fun of you the day after while you all suffer from Montezuma's revenge...

The New Guy
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 10:36 AM on October 18, 2010 [23 favorites]


This is extremely appalling (says an extremely white person).

Ideally, you would just say what hopefully others are thinking. I would probably say something like "I'm all about a good time, but is this really turning into a 'Make fun of Mexicans" party? Because that's not what I signed up for." I tend to be really blunt about things like this though. I don't really want to be friends or hang out with people who think this is ok, but I also know that sometimes these ideas pop up and people aren't really thinking about what they're doing. So I give them an opportunity to think about it and re-evaluate what they're saying or doing. If people get mad at me for saying it, I know that these aren't the right people to be spending time with.

It's totally a priority thing though and I can understand why you don't feel you're in a position to say something. If you aren't comfortable confronting the group it's completely reasonable to bow out (and you wouldn't be grouped in with the people who participated in this highly questionable activity). You should definitely make up an excuse (family issues, other more urgent plans, etc.) rather than just not showing up though.
posted by Kimberly at 10:36 AM on October 18, 2010 [4 favorites]


Casual racism such as this doesn't stop at one race. In your shoes, I would decline the invitation and clearly state precisely why I was appalled by the theme (I'm also Asian, btw).

Also, is this soccer team affiliated with a school? A few years ago, student athletes at an university near me made the national news (and not in a good way) for holding the same kind of party, right down to the same obnoxious theme.

Finally, in the age of Facebook, the last thing you want following you around is a picture of you drunk and in brownface.
posted by jamaro at 10:40 AM on October 18, 2010 [13 favorites]


I'd be the lame ethnic person scolding them and it will pretty much make things awkward forever.

Honestly where would we be now if everyone rationalized away their objections like this?

They deserve to know that their party is objectionable, and honestly, if no one says anything this year, who's to say that next year won't be "Asian stereotype party"?

The world is too small now for people to think they can get away with garbage like this without being called out for it. You're not doing them any favors by shielding them from the effects of their ignorance and prejudice.
posted by hermitosis at 10:41 AM on October 18, 2010 [5 favorites]


sorry, but these people are racist. perhaps more out of ignorance than malice. but still racist.

posted by gnutron at 2:31 AM on October 19 [+] [!]

No. Well, maybe, but no way to tell that from the description of the party. It's in poor taste, objectionable and probably offensive. But that doesn't constitute racism. Racism entails the belief that some ethnic groups are inferior to others. You can engage in stupid behavior like the OP describes without being racist at all, and to immediately tag this kind of behavior as racist just adds fuel to the fire.
posted by bluejayk at 10:42 AM on October 18, 2010 [5 favorites]


Honestly? I'd announce that I'd go as a funny white stereotype, just to make it interesting.
posted by nomadicink at 10:43 AM on October 18, 2010 [9 favorites]


(edit: ^associating with people seen drunk and in brownface. I'm sorry, I missed the part where you firmly stated you would not be dressing up on my first read).
posted by jamaro at 10:43 AM on October 18, 2010


But now they're sending jokey emails telling all attendees to "dress as funny Mexican stereotypes".

All of them are sending emails like this or some? If anyone is dramatically not participating, you could ask them if this is a joke. It sounds like it might be "ironic bigotry." Meaning, maybe it's bad, but not as bad as actually going through with it.

So maybe you could ask a non-participant "if they're serious" and go from there. Or maybe you could ask a regular participant, "are you guys serious?" which might give them pause to see, hey, this isn't actually funny.

As far as how to dodge -- 'Can't make it, sorry, other plans' is always okay.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 10:44 AM on October 18, 2010


If they really are dressing up as racial stereotypes that is NOT the sort of party one would want to risk being photographed (then uploaded to Facebook and tagged, perhaps even years later) at.

You might point out that practical consideration to them, even send them jamaro's link.
posted by Jacqueline at 10:44 AM on October 18, 2010


You can engage in stupid behavior like the OP describes without being racist at all

Really? How?
posted by bluedaisy at 10:46 AM on October 18, 2010 [17 favorites]


Don't go to the party (but you've already decided that).

But also, I think you should say something. I wouldn't necessarily make a huge group deal about it but chances are that if you aren't comfortable with the theme, there are probably others who aren't comfortable as well. I think jedicus gives you a great suggestion on how to word it. Not too confrontational, but enough to let the party organizer know that you aren't keen on the idea. If you don't feel comfortable talking to the one who organized the party (and it sounds like a couple of them had a dumb idea and ran with it instead of everyone necessarily agreeing upon it) then tell someone that you do feel comfortable with on the team. In either case, make it a private conversation...not an email to the entire team listserv (or whatever).

Then, if you want to continue your friendship and participation with this team, continue on after the party as though nothing has happened unless they bring it up and want further discussion. I know that sounds counter-intuitive to the "teachable moment" approach but sometimes the most effective approach is sharing your opinion then leaving it to sit in their minds for later. Some people have the kind of lightbulbs in their heads that take a while to warm up. If they continue dreaming up inappropriate party themes then you need to have a deeper discussion with them or find a team that more closely aligns with your belief on how human beings should be treated and represented.
posted by MultiFaceted at 10:49 AM on October 18, 2010


Just say you've got something else going on. Not everything is a teachable moment.
posted by downing street memo


Yeah. If you're the new guy -- even leaving aside any concerns that you might be ostracized for it -- an attempt to teach or enlighten them would simply be unlikely to work. It's easy to blow off new people as prissy or fussy or uptight; "teachable moments" have to come from people we already trust and feel close with. Just skip the party and maybe say something next year.
posted by foursentences at 10:52 AM on October 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


"sorry, plans that night. But please take a bunch of pictures to put online to show your co-workers, boss, family, friends, other teams, and the entire Latin world, forever." They are digging themselves a hole you need to stay far away from.
posted by eccnineten at 10:54 AM on October 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


This kind of bothers me a bit. "We're having a Mexican-themed party, everyone come dressed in sombreros and ponchos, we're serving tacos and burritos and have plenty of tequila and Coronas!" vs "We're having a Mexican-themed party, everyone come dressed as lawn crews, we're serving cocaine and cartel violence." What about "everyone come to our party dressed as funny black stereotypes!"?

Where do you draw the line? How far will you go to make excuses for racists just so you can kick a ball around with them?

Don't attend. Make sure they understand that you are not attending because their casual attitude towards offensive racism bothers you.
posted by knowles at 11:02 AM on October 18, 2010


I don't know, but that seems … kind of fucked up. You can either tell them, "I don't know, on second thought, that seems a little fucked up," or you can back out of it however without saying anything and giving some other excuse. It depends on what kind of relationship you have with these people, how important it is to you personally, and what you think the consequences will be. Since I don't know the answer to any of those, I can't say specifically.

Depending on how old these people are, it might be that they just don't know any better, but yes, I'm with you in finding this party to be pretty inappropriate. They might figure, it's not supposed to be serious, it's just a joke, what's the big deal, etc., but well, it kind of reminds me when certain people were in the news some time ago for taking pictures with the "slant eyes" gesture. (link link link; somehow this seemed to happen within months of each other) My thinking is, okay, I'm going to give you guys the benefit of the doubt and assume you don't have a malicious intent, but … everyone needs to quit doing that, regardless, on grounds of basic decency if nothing else. So, it's kind of up to you what you do, but I understand the dilemma.
posted by Busoni at 11:02 AM on October 18, 2010


"Guys, I really don't feel comfortable going to this party. I'm afraid that because of this, I will not be able to attend."

If asked why, be honest.
posted by inturnaround at 11:07 AM on October 18, 2010 [2 favorites]


"Sorry, but I have a rule about not doing things that some day will render me totally unelectable to public office."
posted by Etrigan at 11:09 AM on October 18, 2010 [4 favorites]


How about this as a theory:

1. Someone decided there should be a "Mexican-themed party." Nachos and shit.

2. Someone else felt this was borderline racist, and wanted to call attention to the problem. Not knowing how best to do so, they decided to try and use Colbert-ian style humor.

3. This person sends out an email saying "Yeah, let's all dress like Speedy Gonzales, HAR HAR HAR EES FUNNEEEE." But the tone and nuance is lost in email, as so often happens.

In other words, this could all be a "racist behavior" call-out gone horribly wrong.

BONUS: If you behave as though this may be the case, you give everyone else an out. "Oh yeah, I was totally kidding... because I thought it was racist... and I was trying to make it stop... sure."

SO. Here is what I would do: Send an email to the whole team:
"I can't tell if you guys are kidding or not. Is this really a "make fun of Mexican racial stereotypes" party? If so, I think I'll pass. But give me a call if you decide to have a "make fun of Asian stereotypes" party, because I will WIN that costume contest."
posted by ErikaB at 11:11 AM on October 18, 2010 [23 favorites]


I think you have to speak up as much as you feel comfortable. Whether that's "sorry guys, can't make it," or "not cool, dudes. not cool," or sending them examples of other groups that have done this same kind of party and been rightly vilified, is up to you.
posted by MsMolly at 11:18 AM on October 18, 2010


You can engage in stupid behavior like the OP describes without being racist at all

Really? How?
posted by bluedaisy


By doing it without malice, or implying that Mexicans/Mexican culture are inferior. Dressing up like a mariachi and yelling "arriba" doesn't make you a racist, it makes you a buffoon. Just because it's compatible with racism doesn't make it racist. I knew lots of kids like those on the OP's soccer team in college; they were dumb and privileged and insensitive. But not all or even most of them were racist in any significant way. They're being hurtful, that's a good reason not to support the activity or not go to the party at all. Maybe even say something to them about how obnoxious their behavior is. Labeling them as racist is not necessarily accurate and worse, liable to be counterproductive to the OP.
posted by bluejayk at 11:20 AM on October 18, 2010


I think Cool Papa Bell has it. Say the initial idea sounded great, but the "stereotypes" part ruined the idea for you.

I was in a similar role, but instead of being the new guy, I was and older member of a college group. While I had history with the group, I wasn't exactly a peer of most members. The theme was even worse, and initially proposed in a jokey way at a group meeting. Some people laughed, some people looked awkward. I thought it was a terrible idea, but figured it would die. It didn't - an email was sent out, elaborating on the idea and making it worse, like this Mexican-themed party. I sent a long reply, playing the grumpy old man card, saying "the club used to be about hanging out and doing some dumb things, but this is offensive."

There were mixed reactions. First, the theme was nixed. Second, the person who sent out the detailed email got pissed, because I emailed everyone. I didn't call out the one guy, I just said "shit like this is why the club sucks now." No names were named, but the one guy felt like it was all about him. So I emailed him back and clarified that it wasn't against him, but against the theme. Third, I got a number of replies saying "thanks, I thought it was awful, but didn't want to make a scene," which made me happy.

The times that joking about ethnic or religious stereotypes can be OK is when members of that group instigate it, or are completely OK with that. For example, in college we had "racial slur wars," where a few friends of mixed backgrounds would try to offend each-other by escalating the derogatory stereotypes. Some of those are now jokes amongst the friends, but would offend anyone who happened to wander by. But when it's a united group making fun of an outside group, it's never a good thing. Sure, it could be "among friends," but the world is larger than just those friends, and nothing ever stays between friends when it comes to parties. Would your co-workers be offended and think the party was insensitive to a certain group? Then it's a bad idea.
posted by filthy light thief at 11:34 AM on October 18, 2010


I think it's fine if you say nothing and don't go to the party. But you might be surprised what happens if you speak up -- probably some of your teammates would be angry, but others might support you.
posted by yarly at 11:47 AM on October 18, 2010


Pointing fingers and calling people racists is not going to change their behavior or endear you to anyone (though, by reading above, you might think it would).

Either:

-Skip the party (and provide a reasonable excuse that has nothing to do with the "racist" nature of the party). Perhaps you have something with other friends. You are going to the white stereotype party (as a joke). You know that tequila makes you vomit black death from the 5th circle of hell.

-Or go and dress in funny way that makes them look like jackasses. They are trying to be buffoons (like bluejayk says above). If you dress in something that amplifies their buffoonery and manages to not cross the line in to something you are uncomfortable with. You can dress up as an asian stereotype ("I couldn't find a poncho, but my house was full of rice hats and chopsticks" or "I didn't have time to grow out a mustache so this will have to do" or "you mean mexicans don't dress like this?").


Really, the question is this: does going to this ill-formed party make you a bad person?
-The green (read above) answer is largely "yes"
-My answer is "hanging out with jackasses does not necessarily make you a jackass, as long as you don't do anything that makes you feel uncomfortable"

You'll have to get your own feel on it. If I thought they were being malicious, that might change my opinion, but I suspect that they are just being ignorant. Ignorant isn't good, but you don't have the influence to change anything and they are going to be just as ignorant of your righteous stand for sensationalized equality.
posted by milqman at 11:52 AM on October 18, 2010



"sorry, plans that night. But please take a bunch of pictures to put online to show your co-workers, boss, family, friends, other teams, and the entire Latin world, forever." They are digging themselves a hole you need to stay far away from.


Photos and phone videos that will end up online or in email are the best reason to stay away.

On the other hand, I myself might go as an anthropologist, and tell them I was studying stereotypes and the people who believe in them.
posted by jgirl at 11:52 AM on October 18, 2010


If you gently mention the reason you're not comfortable attending, you plant the seed for other people to think about why it's not OK. You don't need to convince them not to hold this party or not to go, but saying something will make them think twice the next time. Don't make a big scene or anything like that, because it makes it easy to dismiss your ideas as the overexcited minority, as you worry. Just saying something small to the organizer and anyone who asks you why you weren't there. Some people above have given great suggestions for the wording.
posted by stoneweaver at 12:09 PM on October 18, 2010 [2 favorites]


I'm going to go with the majority -- don't go, and say as much about why as you feel comfortable with.

I would say that the stereotype thing makes me uncomfortable and I don't want to be a part of it. If they don't know why this is inappropriate, this gives them an opportunity to find out, and their reaction may tell you whether these are people you want to know better.
posted by freshwater at 12:39 PM on October 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


No. Well, maybe, but no way to tell that from the description of the party. It's in poor taste, objectionable and probably offensive. But that doesn't constitute racism. Racism entails the belief that some ethnic groups are inferior to others. You can engage in stupid behavior like the OP describes without being racist at all, and to immediately tag this kind of behavior as racist just adds fuel to the fire.

They are purposely engaging in the perpetuation of stereotypes of a people other than themselves in order to derive pleasure for themselves. These stereotypes are damaging, and since these people are adults, they should be assumed to know as much. Sorry, but these insensitive buffoons are racist.

Often, racism entails the belief that another ethnic group is inferior, but not always. I recall shortly after 9/11 that "my kind" (Muslims) had its own places to live and that - by this person, at least - I wasn't welcome in America. Not because I was inferior, mind you, but simply because I differed too greatly from the "allowable" American standards which existed in that one moron's head. Still, it was a racist comment / belief.

Remember "separate but equal"? The same argument bluejayk makes was employed by its supporters - this isn't racism, no one's saying one group is inferior! (Hence the "equal" bullshit.) But I think we all now know that this was fundamentally a racist idea.

These morons have singled out an ethnic group to mock for their own pleasure. It's hard for me to believe that this doesn't imply a mentality highly centred around ideas of their own superiority (and by extension, the inferiority of others.). Perhaps they are not consciously racist, nonetheless . . . they are.
posted by Dee Xtrovert at 12:52 PM on October 18, 2010 [21 favorites]


Stereotype does not equal racism. Your math is bad.

If a bunch of white people have a white trash party and wear fake mullets and drink Miller Light, are they racist against whites? No. They're lampooning stereotypes. It's harmless, really.
posted by tacodave at 1:16 PM on October 18, 2010


Do not cosign the racial chauvinism of these buffoons. Be honest about why you are not going.When these types of issues go unchallenged they gain legitimacy. whether they are doing this because of ignorance, racism, whatever, they need to have it pointed out to them that it is inappropriate.

Just because it is not specifically about your ethnicity does not make it less odious or offensive. When people make homophobic comments around me I correct them. Not because I'm gay but because that behavior is not acceptable to me. This goes for all racial, sexual, and gendered chauvinism. If we who believe in respecting differences in others do not speak up when these ideals are challenged, then we lack the courage of our convictions.
posted by anansi at 1:18 PM on October 18, 2010


tacodave: "Stereotype does not equal racism. Your math is bad.

If a bunch of white people have a white trash party and wear fake mullets and drink Miller Light, are they racist against whites? No. They're lampooning stereotypes. It's harmless, really
"

Seriously??
The privilege here is staggering. It is not harmless. It is classist and it is mean-spirited. People who participate in these types of parties are not making ironic statements about the role of stereotypes in American culture. They are engaging in an act of privilege that demeans and belittles those who have less opportunities and agency.
posted by anansi at 1:22 PM on October 18, 2010 [18 favorites]


By doing it without malice, or implying that Mexicans/Mexican culture are inferior.

I fear we're getting close to a derail here, but it's only one definition of "racism" that relies on explicitly saying a given race is inferior. The mere act of defining ethnicity as the most salient thing about a group of people, as the thing that defines their identities and behavior, is frequently racist, especially if you then mock their appearance and behavior. For that matter, anti-semitic stereotypes (to pick one example) frequently articulate racism by saying that Jews are actually superior at all sorts of things.

posted by game warden to the events rhino at 1:39 PM on October 18, 2010


This sounds like a question for Ask A Mexican.
posted by jenfullmoon at 1:43 PM on October 18, 2010 [2 favorites]


I deal with things like this frequently.

I am an American whose heritage is Irish and Mexican. I am pale white and unless I tell someone, no one can really tell that I am part Mexican.

Recently, over the last few years, my fellow Americans (and some foreigners) have been increasingly making racist comments about Mexicans (also other Spanish ethnicities which these people ignorantly assume are Mexican) to the point where it seems to be normal.
I can't count the number of times where someone has made a racist remark about Mexican people.
Personally, this upsets me, and I feel compelled to become confrontational despite being a shy person. That usually shuts them up.

Now, as for this party...
I know exactly the type of people you're talking about. I'm guessing they probably wouldn't treat a Mexican person any different than an American in real life.
If you've seen shows like Family Guy, it's basically like that. I usually don't find these people actual racists. People would argue with me and talk semantics, but I feel like it's not actual scary racism.

If it were me, I would say something casual at first either via email or in person. Something like, "This seems pretty racist, doesn't it?" and see where it goes from there.
I probably wouldn't attend the party.

I will admit I have some strange fascination with stereotypes in general. It's something I have a hard time explaining without sounding ridiculous. It's more of a psychology to me rather than thinking that stereotypes are "funny".

I would never hold a party with a racial theme, though.
posted by KogeLiz at 1:45 PM on October 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


, andPeople who are never called on their bullshit do not change.

You can go to this party, and I think yoj should. But don't dress 'mexican'. And don't hesitate to tell everyone in a good-natured way that they look like silly assholes dressed up as racist stereotypes. Chances are, they themselves don't see much of a problem, that they are not hurting anyone, that they are not being malicious. And nobody likes the humorless, uptight overly PC guy, so don't pout or chastise or your message will be lost. But please make a point of making fun of the sombrero'd white guys at their racist part. have beers, have a good time, and let them know in a sensitive way that what they are doing is childish, racist, and potentially hurtful and were you not such a chill person your feelings could have been seriously hurt.

I see no problem in attending the party, but don't feel obligated to participate in the cultural mockery and don't hesitate to point out why.
posted by custard heart at 1:52 PM on October 18, 2010


Figure out their intentions, if it's a misunderstanding great bring on the tequila and pinatas. Otherwise don't go, say why, phrase it however you feel is best This thread has a great list of ideas on how to do so in varoius forms.

This is an issue in my 'neck of the woods' due to idiotic, racist things like this. You don't want to be at that party or you wouldn't have been posting here.

It sucks to live in an area where you can't safely go to a party dressed up with your girlfriend as a beekeeper (me) and a sexy honeybee (her) because everyone *insert curse word here* assumes you're a KKK member and she's a negative take on black females and is either A) totally cool with it and honks in support, B) wants to kick you down the street one way and back up it the other, or C) squeamish and too scared to ask what the heck is going on. Should I have had to think about that before I left the house heading for the party? Of course not, but it's the world we live in and I've learned that, around here at least, assuming people are racist/bigoted/etc is often more true than not.
posted by RolandOfEld at 2:02 PM on October 18, 2010


"Seriously??
The privilege here is staggering. It is not harmless. It is classist and it is mean-spirited. People who participate in these types of parties are not making ironic statements about the role of stereotypes in American culture. They are engaging in an act of privilege that demeans and belittles those who have less opportunities and agency."


Yes, seriously. This has nothing to do with privilege or classism or being mean-spirited.

Just because something is a stereotype, that doesn't mean it is mean-spirited. In the case given here, I can totally see myself attending the party and having a good time. Why? Because I have fond memories of visiting Mexico and southern Texas where a mariachi band, a sombrero and, yes, a poncho made the trips special. The citizens of the places we visited reveled in the parts of their culture that made them unique, and I - a white American male - reveled in those same parts with them. I also took Spanish for nine years in school and learned a lot about Latino culture.

So if I attended a "Mexican" party and shouted "Ole!" after drinking a couple of Pacificos and a margarita, it wouldn't be because I think anything negative about Mexicans and other Latinos. And if I came to the party dressed in a stereotypical Mexican outfit, it wouldn't be to make fun of anyone. Rather, it would be a festive way to have fun with my friends. Lighten up.

I repeat: not every stereotype is racist OR mean-spirited.
posted by tacodave at 2:22 PM on October 18, 2010


Yes, but read this part of his question:

...But now they're sending jokey emails telling all attendees to "dress as funny Mexican stereotypes".

I don't think that at your party, tacodave, people are asking you to dress as "funny" stereotypes. See the difference?

I understand your reluctance, OP. It sounds like mockery to me, too. Good luck with this; it sounds like an opportunity to learn a lot about your social group. Keep your tone pleasant, and don't compromise your convictions -- if you're really in it for the sport, play the sport. It sounds like you're not so much into the way they fraternize, so maybe put certain limits that part of your involvement with them: starting with skipping the class-mockery events.
posted by heyho at 2:40 PM on October 18, 2010


I just wanted to jump in and say that calling people out isn't necessarily about changing their beliefs, it can be about changing their behavior. When I tell a coworker that fat jokes aren't funny, she may hate me and continue to hate fat people, but she's going to get the message that fat jokes aren't okay around me (and she'll hopefully quit assuming they're okay everywhere).

I like the idea to assume benign intentions ("is this a joke?") and then explain that you find it offensive and that you won't attend the party. The racism is probably making other people uncomfortable too.

Or you could announce you're going as say, Diego Rivera, with a note about how impressive/moving/etc. you find his work, and hope that shifts the tone of the costumes. But they might not get it, and then you'd be complicit in the whole effed-up mess.
posted by momus_window at 2:44 PM on October 18, 2010


tacodave - having what one thinks of as traditional Mexican food and drink, and party games at a themed event isn't the same as what we're talking about here. Those aren't stereotypes. Those are things borrowed from one culture and enjoyed in another. Even encouraging people to come dressed in traditional Mexican garb (what would that be though, really?) isn't re-enforcing a stereotype.

Whereas inviting your friends to come as a stereotype is. And here's where I feel blessed to have grown up some and am nearly at a loss for what they could be considering a stereotype, but maybe I've just spent too much time in Mexico and know the people better. I mean, really, do we still have such obvious racial stereotypes?

And yes, I'm saying this as a lesbian who is planning on making fun of myself this Halloween and go as the butt of a classic lesbian joke: What does a lesbian take on a second date? Answer: a U-haul. Complete with a license plate that reads "2NDDATE".
posted by FlamingBore at 3:03 PM on October 18, 2010 [2 favorites]


The only way this kind of party can work is if each person dresses in the stereotypes of their own particular race/religion/gender. You're going to go to a party full of people who, whether they admit it or not, have a point of view that makes you uncomfortable. You should not be worrying about how they might feel if you don't attend.

There is one alternative, of course: dress up as a white american stereotype, as commonly perpetuated by other cultures. The ugly american, in other words. When asked, say "I've spoken with all my hispanic friends, and this is how they say Americans are stereotyped in Mexico. You did say Mexican stereotypes, right?" note: only do this if you enjoy confrontation
posted by davejay at 3:31 PM on October 18, 2010


Oh, one more thing: you may fear being the person who stands up to them, but I bet you'll feel like a much better person if you do it. Simply saying "[name], I like you, but I've thought about it and I think there's enough us vs them stuff going on in our country right now without us throwing a party that celebrates racial stereotypes. I'd love to have you and your family over for a cookout next week, though" should make the point on friendly terms.
posted by davejay at 3:36 PM on October 18, 2010


One more thing: "dress as funny Mexican stereotypes" -- the "funny" is how they pretend that their bigotry is harmless. After all, if you can laugh at it, it can't be doing any harm, right?
posted by davejay at 3:39 PM on October 18, 2010 [3 favorites]


yes I realize that was two more things but my dander is up
posted by davejay at 3:40 PM on October 18, 2010


There will be cell phones at this party. There will be a bunch of drunk fools at this party. You will get caught in a photo with said fools, and it will get posted to Facebook. Do you want this to happen? Will you and your soccer buds be okay with being tagged in these types of photos, and will their friends, family, and coworkers be okay with what will be on display? If not, don't go, and warn your teammates about what could happen if they go through with this theme party.

If I were you, I'd see who's leading this idea and talk to their best friend on the team. Figure out their intentions and try to divert the planning. Of course, I'm Mexican-American, and probably wouldn't associate with these types of people in the first place.*

If this were some sort of Hispanic group who was making a statement by lampooning the horrible stereotypes, then I wouldn't be so harsh. But somehow I don't think this group has the same intentions.
posted by lychee at 3:42 PM on October 18, 2010


[folks, this is getting far afield, please take this to email ormetatalk once you've said your piece ]
posted by jessamyn at 4:00 PM on October 18, 2010


nthing Cool Papa Bell's approach.

If it's not a party you'd bring a Mexican friend along to, then it's not a party you want to be at period. Whether or not they are truly racist doesn't matter, because what they're doing is offensive.

If it were me, I'd be looking for a new group of friends. If I asked if the Mexican stereotype thing was still going on, and they said yes, I would tell them that I don't feel comfortable around them anymore.
posted by hydrophonic at 4:26 PM on October 18, 2010


Honestly, all theoretical and principle-based approaches aside, if I were the lone POC (you) in a group of white people who thought this was acceptable behavior, I'd be having serious doubts about my developing role within this group. Look how you've already defined yourself:

I'd be the lame ethnic person scolding them and it will pretty much make things awkward forever.

"Lame ethnic person"? Obviously you're being flip here, but I'm sure you can see how this is damaging.
posted by threeants at 10:58 PM on October 18, 2010 [2 favorites]


I think the only possible way something like a "racial stereotype party" could work would be if it was stipulated that everyone had to come as a stereotype of their own race. That would allow the thing to be good-natured and self-deprecatory and silly. But this? Shudder.

If you can, I'd say duck out of it. If you think you can't, go as a really cool, strong Mexican character.
posted by Decani at 5:05 AM on October 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


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