Casual racism, how it can catch us all off guard

Thursday, 26 August 2021

BRFCS.com is clear in the terms and conditions you sign when you become members to post in the forum that racism is not acceptable, but every now and again we come across an instance and have to deal with it. Recently we had to delete several posts because of the casual racism in them. There were good replies from some members, calling out the racism and explaining why something that might seem innocuous is actually racist. Because of the way the forum moderation works, when posts are removed so are any replies to make sure the original isn't quoted etc, so we decided to ask one of our forum members to write up their posts into an article to explain casual racism and we present it below - BRFCS.com

“PC gone mad”, “only having a laugh”, “not aimed at you/any particular person” and “no intent”. Common responses when you call out casual racism by those who don’t recognise it, so what is casual racism?

In short, it appears to be racism which is accepted; usually due to being used for comedic purposes. Yet surely most of us agree that any amount of racism is not acceptable, so does this mean we don’t always recognise racism when it takes place?

Racism doesn’t have to be an explicit attack based on one’s heritage. It can be more subtle prejudice, usually negative, based on the stereotypes we have for a particular ethnicity. For example, you may have seen posts on social media offering a translation, such as English to Chinese. It’ll say “there’s a problem”, with the corresponding phrase as “Sum Ting Wong.” It’s clearly a joke, no harm done right? Well actually no, it’s mocking the stereotype of how Chinese people speak English and feeds into discrimination. If you don’t agree and think this is harmless fun – see how your company’s HR team would react if you were to say something like the above in the middle of everyone in the office.

There doesn’t need to be intent for racism to occur. I was born in England and have lived in the North for my whole near 40 years, and it tells in how I speak. When I was introduced to my now wife’s wider family for the first time, when I first spoke one person remarked on how strong my Yorkshire accent is. Similarly when I worked in a call centre, after speaking to a customer, they wanted to note my full name for their records. They remarked at my surname, which I explained is Chinese, and again they were surprised by how I spoke. Neither of these incidents caused particular offence, but they made it clear that judgements had been made based on my heritage.

Even though you may not think a comment is racist because it wasn’t intended to cause offence or was made as a joke, if it’s based on where someone is from or stereotypes of an ethnicity, then it is racist. 

I’ll end by quoting the rapper Dave, from his performance at the Brit Awards a little while back: “It is racist, whether or not it feels racist… I say the least racist is still racist”.


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