Tuesday, 10 August 2010

How To Defuse Racism


My son and daughter-in-law came for a visit. My d-i-l is a black woman, big and beautiful, with a larger-than-life personality to match. She is striking looking, always dresses well, often in dramatic black and white, somebody you notice.

No shrinking violet is my Dee.

The four of us went to the village pub for dinner. We lined up behind the row of barflies on their stools, trying to catch the barmaid’s eye so that we could order drinks and she could direct us to our pre-booked table in the restaurant.

The first I knew that something unusual was going on was when I saw Dee being encircled by the arm of a rather fat man sitting at the bar and heard gales of laughter coming from his companions and the man himself. Dee too was grinning all over her face.

Could she have come across an old friend here at Valley’s End? Surely not.

What happened was as follows:

Dee walked in on, and quite by accident came to stand behind, the fat man, who had his back to the room, as he was telling his companions a story about a big black woman. The others had noticed Dee come in and were grimacing at him to stop.

As she heard what he was saying, Dee put both hands on the man’s shoulders from behind, leaning in close, and said, loudly, with the full force of her personality, “like me, you mean?”, smiling disarmingly.

The chap turned sharply, saw what he had done, grinned back and paid her an extravagant compliment, asking what was a beautiful black lady like her doing in Valley’s End and offering his services, on the spot, to show her the sights.

Later, as we were sitting in the window of the restaurant, he walked by outside, knocked on the window and waved. Dee waved back.

Her quick-thinking action had turned what could have been an ugly and embarrassing incident into an amusing one. I am sure she has had occasion to do so before; perhaps the fat man will not be quite so free with his opinions in future.


  1. A perfect way to handle such a situation. Politely, directly address and diffuse. Approach such situations with friendly curiousity. "Fat Man" was gently nudged back to his senses and all who witnessed your DIL's skillful handling of the situation received a great life lesson.

    Thanks so much for sharing this, Friko!

  2. Bravo! Now there's a woman with an abundance of grace and self-esteem! What I admire the mos about her reaction is that she could say what she did without anger, by the sound of it.
    As for FM, I guess you have to hand it to him too, for being able to swallow whatever embarrassment he felt and acknowledge her correction. He must have been on the receiving end of a few taunts himself, although I'm not comparing fat-ism to racism.

    And your son's reaction afterwards was....?

  3. friko such a good story. thanks for sharing it here. i grew up not knowing about racism because my parents encouraged my brother and i to know people as people. it still amazes me when i look back at that time, when i really open my eyes and ears and look around myself now, that it is still very much a feature of the daily landscape. why? how could this be? i love how your d-i-l managed this though. so cool. steven

  4. I have a similar story to tell but I did not handle it with any kind of grace. Your DIL sounds like an amazing woman.

  5. Oh, how well Dee handled that! Excellent all the way around...instead of righteous insult and defensive embarrassment...new friendly relationships.
    Would that we all could be so wise.

  6. What a lovely solution. I am sure that man had much to think about on the way home.

  7. A story with a good ending. Your DIL handled that nicely. My DIL is also black but thank goodness we have had no incidents. If we ever do, I will remember that humour is the best way to handle things.

  8. Lovely story and nicely handled. Your D-in-L sounds well grounded.

  9. I like Dee, for sure. It would be great is all of us could respond without anger and with confidence to such things. That goes for both sides of the equation. I got so mad one day when I heard one of the young school children call me "An old hag." I walked up to him and told him I was gonna tell his Mom on him. He apologized, but I wish I had not gotten angry.

  10. Wonderfully done! Your Dee is a treasure indeed!

  11. What a great story! Good for Dee and good for FM!

  12. Bonnie - thank you, Bonnie . I am sure she'd be glad of your professional approval. Btw, I did mean de-fuse as in take the explosive aspect out of the situation and not diffuse, as in spread thinly.

    Deborah - he was not sure how to react; he is a very peaceful soul himself, not given to outbursts; however, I could see that he was a touch jealous about the result Dee achieved, i.e, a very short, but nevertheless
    'arm-round-the-middle' cuddle from FM.

    steven - I can't afford to be racist, I am a bit of a mongrel myself, as is everybody in our family; no two nationalities, religions, or backgrounds are identical amongst this motley crowd.

    ellen abbott - I am looking forward to reading about it.

    June - I suppose she has come across racism so many times that she has developed her technique over the years. But she is amazing, I agree.

    Tabor - I doubt actually, that he gave it another thought. He seemed to be the kind that is not really nasty but also not really thoughtful. Stupid, more like.

    Porch Days - I wonder if you d-i-l tells you about the slights she has received? Mine has never mentioned any either and this experience the other day was the first time I actually had my nose rubbed in it.

    madamebutterfly - She certainly is.

    daylily - Sorry you were a rude name; if it ever happens again, have a quiet word with the offender, but do threaten him with death at the same time. Always works!

    Lorrie - She is indeed.

  13. Someone else has already written it but I like Dee too, good on her.

  14. Das ist ein wunderbare Geschichte über fehlenden Takt (oder gar Feingefühl!) Courage, Selbstbewusstsein, Spontanität und was mir besonders wichtig ist im Leben - Humor!

    Du schreibst wundervoll liebe Friko!

    liebe Sommergrüße

  15. What a great story about what a great heart and good self esteem can do. Not to mention a fantastic sense of humor.

  16. I'm full of admiration for Dee's quick-wittedness and generosity of spirit. I've never been able to muster that kind of grace - I seethe and spoils my day. I'll try and remember Dee next time anything like that happens to me.

  17. Marilynn - thank you, all the same. Support is always good.

    Vicki Lane - I agree, both of them came out ok, the FM did well too, in the end.

    veredit - Danke schoen, alles was du sagst stimmt in diesem Fall. Und mit Humor geht alles besser.

    marciamayo - I agree on all counts.

    Argent - I hope nothing like that will happen to you, but if it does, sock it to them! I'm not really in Dee's league either. Seething is more my style, too.

  18. I agree with Bonnie: a perfect way to handle the situation. It takes courage and sensitivity.

  19. Good story. You son's one lucky man to see a little bit of that humor every day. In my list of what I had looked for in a marriage, humor was number 1. It's so easy to smile.

  20. Loved the way your DIL handled that but I also kind of like how the man recovered. He could have gotten all belligerent. I'm sure he is a more thoughtful man today.
    Great story and lesson.

  21. Hats off to your Dee, quite the approach in handling such a situation with such wit and wisdom.

  22. Nothing quite like a laugh and a smile to dissarm your enemies!!!

  23. Good for Dee. The only way to diffuse racism is head on. Humor helps, but isn't always possible.

  24. Paul C = Both of which Dee has.

    Manzanita - It is certainly much more pleasant than frowning, but not always easy.

    Arkansas Patti = For his sake I hope he learned the lesson.At least he appeared to have a sense of humour.

    Reflections - thank you, I'll tell her.

    her at home - No taking them very seriously helped here too.

    Pondside - As you say, it isn't always possible.

  25. Excellent! We need more strong and confident people like your DIL - hoping the other person learned something and will be more aware of the wonderful people around him -

  26. BRILLIANT!!!!!!

    She is clearly a member of your extraordinary Ohana (clan, family)

    Aloha from Waikiki :)

    Comfort Spiral

  27. Hopefully his lesson learned will stick with him and permit him to teach others.

  28. I'd like to spend a happy hour with thee and Dee in pub one day. Sounds like a good time! ~Cile

  29. A very graceful and clever reaction . What a charming wife your son has .

  30. ein besonderes Ereignis wahrlich, aber, was all das immer so aussergewöhnlich macht, was Du schreibst, ist vor allem Deine wunderbare Schrift, eine so schöne Sprache, die ich wirklich geniesse!
    Gute Nacht, liebe Friko!

  31. What an amazing, strong person is your Dee. Good for her; it's always so wonderful to possess the right words at the right time.

    And I do like that colorful doggie picture.

  32. taylorsoutback - don't we just, she is also very kind with it.

    Cloudia - thanks girl, nice compliment. Aloha!

    christopher - you'd hope so, wouldn't you.

    Molly - thanks, I'll tell her you said so.

    Cile - don't I know you under another name? Whatever name you use, do come and join us; we'll have fun.

    Smitonius & Sonata - thank you, I think he appreciates her.

    Renee - Das ist lieb von dir, ich freue mich, wenn dir meine posts gefallen.
    Gute Nacht dir auch.

    Kerry - thanks, kerry, I'm sure you are no slouch yourself.
    As for the doggies, they often meet together and they all get on, no matter what colour they are.

  33. Three cheers for Dee! So often we take offense where none was really meant. So often we escalate a disagreement instead of facing it with love and grace. I'm reminded of the Bible verse, "Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good." (Romans 12:21)

    Incidentally, my relatives and their various relatives and ex-relatives and ancestors are German, Chinese, Hawaiian, African-American, South American, British, Dutch and Austrian.


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