Today I had to say something.
I know it’s different in the South, but really? How long are we going to let this be an excuse?
At work today (which just blows me away, coming from a work environment where nothing off-color would ever escape my lips, not only because that’s really not me, but also because it would never fly with anyone else), a co-worker used a not uncommon Southern phrase which also happens to be derogatory to an ethnic group. And then the person she was speaking to repeated it in his response.
I bit my lip, sighed uncomfortably, and tried to focus on my work.
It was said again. And again, in response. This happened three or four more times – it almost made me feel like I was getting “punked”, they couldn’t really be saying this same phrase over and over again so many times without it being a parody, right? Nope. They were for real, and I was fed up.
“Could we use a different word for that?” I asked.
I was not confrontational, but it was also clear I wasn’t joking.
The first woman immediately said, in a sing-song voice, “Uh-oh! We’ve offended somebody! Oh no. Someone’s offended!” And I don’t think she meant further offense with this — more of a Southern way of backhandedly telling you you’re overreacting while trying to smooth ruffled feathers, kind of like “Bless your heart!”
The man approached me and asked if I was a member of the slighted ethnic group. Shocked, I asked, “Do I have to be to be offended?”
“I’m just asking a question!” he responded. “And I’m just asking a question,” I said.
He went on to say he didn’t think it was offensive, and thankfully left soon after.
I wasn’t intending to be confrontational, just speaking up. Because it bothered me, and I don’t care if it’s a “Southern” thing. Truthfully I was more bothered by their responses to being called out for being offensive. It made me feel as if I was somehow in the wrong. And maybe I am, geographically.
But we can’t accept this anymore. “It was the way I was brought up,” is no longer an excuse, because you were probably also brought up to not hurt others. “It’s just a saying down here,” is not OK anymore.
And when you offend someone, you need to say you are sorry, and leave it at that, whether or not you agree with the person who felt offended. Why don’t people get this? It’s not up for debate! Every single person is different, and has had different experiences and backgrounds. If you hurt someone enough for them to speak up and tell you to your face, you just end up looking like an ass if you insist you didn’t hurt them. You may not have intended to, but you did. Own it, apologize, and change the subject.