Are Your Kids Saying, "That's Racist?"

Updated on July 04, 2011
A.J. asks from Norristown, PA
23 answers

I heard a sort of hilarious report on NPR yesterday while driving that the hot new thing to say (sorry if it's old -I'm out of the loop :) for kids is "that's racist". Like a teacher was saying that when she assigns extra homework, she hears several kids snickering "that's so racist", or if someone asks for a hall pass it's racist, or if your mom grounds you she's being racist, some college guys were in a bar saying "this bartender is racist" because they were waiting a long time for drinks. It's like the new translation of "lame" being used by all races of kids for any situation. They played clips from Glee and 30 Rock with similar uses of the allegation "racist". My kids are little, but do you guys hear your kids saying this? We had friends for dinner, so I told them about the report and by the end of the night, when we were recalling really bad 80's songs, we were calling cheesy songs "racist" (don't worry, I know it's better left to the kids, we were just trying it out and giggling because it was so dumb to say if it has nothing to do with racial discrimination). What are your thoughts? I think it's a cool way for younger generations to take away the power of the word, or to imply being racist is stupid and negative. Is anyone offended? Your thoughts? What other terms do "the kids" use these days :)

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So What Happened?

@Laura U. It makes sense to me that people could take it this way, that's why I was asking, and in our house, we ABSOLUTELY teach it is NOT OK to discriminate against ANYONE, and we don't, but we don't get mad when people say things are gay and retarded (even though I hate it), etc, because it's just being immature and life is too short to get riled about everything, even though we don't let our kids say those things. But this to me is different, because it's poking fun at the racist, not their targets. The N word is is offending a race. The "racist" word is offending a racist in this case, and making it seem passe to be one.

@cupcake: The kids KNOW what it really means, that's why they're using it wrongly on purpose. When a group of teens comprised of every race within it are joking about it, it's like they're dismissing it, which to me is taking it's power. Not that any of them would think it was OK to come across a real racist.

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answers from Dover on

I haven't heard it used like that but I have heard it used inappropriately (such as to claim racism when a situation involves at least one person of color and one that is not). When I say it used inappropriately what I mean is someone is claiming racism when the situation has nothing to do with the race of anyone involved...just because there are two or more people involved of differing race does not make the situation about their race....sorry, that is actually a pet peeve of mine!

I don't think it is a good alternative to "lame" or something similiar and it doesn't take away the "power of the word" because the word still means what it means and it just reinforces the excessive misuse of the word...just like "discrimination" is also often misused.

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answers from Albany on

Hmmm, I think EVERY generation leaves it's mark on the meaning of words or phrases.

For example my guy is 55, he came of age in the late 60s early 70s, he still says 'SOLID!' (yeah, he really does!), and FAR OUT!

But I would agree that THIS PARTICULAR NEW generation, my three teenagers included are REALLY running with the meaning changes, sigh.

Or maybe it's because I'M the grown up now?

IE, That's SICK! A really really GOOD thing!

Plus they say I Love You to anyone for no reason, like saying see ya later.


tehehe, and Kristina-STOOPID is a GOOD thing!!

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answers from Philadelphia on

I have two teenagers and i have heard the phrase. It didnt bother me... kids go through silly phases....

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answers from Seattle on

Wow. I don't think it's funny. Maybe because I have been on the other side and actually had to face racism. (my husband is Mexican and my children are mixed. I have been accused of "dirtying up the white race" and told to stop speaking spanish).
You know, there are a lot of words that hold "power". The "N" word being a big one. If you saw a bunch of white kids throwing that word around we certainly wouldn't be thinking that they are trying to take the "power out of a word". Or how about when we keep seeing kids say "oh my god, that's so gay.". That doesn't make it any better. I correct people when I hear that!
I don't think it's okay. Racism happens TO THIS DAY...unless those kids are really facing it then they shouldn't be saying it.
(I am also pretty surprised that you and your friends thought it was funny)

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answers from Cincinnati on

I think its pretty stupid, but I guess there are worse things they could be saying.

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answers from San Francisco on

I think it is about shock value. I was a kid in the 80's and remember the word Gay being used in that context.
Personally I would discourage my child from saying that. The word still carries weight and you never know when they might tick off the wrong person.

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answers from Kansas City on

Actually, the people who are using 'racist' in the wrong context are the stupid ones. What's so "cool" about not knowing the proper definition, appropriate context and usage of a word? And perhaps I have missed something, so please explain this power that the word "racist" has had that needs to be taken away? We'll see how "cool" you find it when your kids start using the term "B*t*h mom" regarding anything that doesn't go their way.

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answers from Cincinnati on

Well, my kiddos are they arent saying it. But, I dont see how this could be viewed as offensive. I think that saying "That's gay" is offensive (which is still used A LOT), not "That's racist". At least when they say "that's racist" it doesnt single out a specific group of people. And racism is ignorant, and stupid, so if you think of it that way, it kind of makes sense lol. I think kids should start using words like this instead of saying "that's gay" or "that's retarded", which I find very offensive.

Just my 2 cents :)

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answers from Houston on

Ive never heard it but i think its kind of funny. it takes the edge off of hate, and makes being racist so stupid that its a joke. Like taking power away from those who shouldnt have it.

Racism is such a catch all term for everything these days im not surprised this happened.

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answers from Columbus on

The term is so misused. It really bothers me, because it trivializes the actual racism that is still present in our society. It also bothers me that some kids think they are using correctly and they are completely not.

There was a quote in the story from a professor who has studied race issues and this use of "that's racist." I'm not quoting her correctly (the real quote is better, and it's worth it to listen to the NPR story), but she said something to the effect of, 'People are using it to bring up the sensitive topic, but also to dismiss or trivialize it on purpose, because it's a difficult subject to talk about.'

Racism is a subject worth talking about and it bothers me when serious topics get trivialized. Sometimes, the most uncomfortable topics are the most important to talk honestly about.

That being said, some of the comedians who have used it have done so brilliantly and very funnily!

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answers from York on

All I can say is that it's really awful to be on the other side of this as a teacher. My middle school students are totally joking, but it's not always completely color blind. For example, it's racist if I assign the whole class homework. But if I'm denying hall passes because we're doing presentations, the white kids will say it's racist on behalf of the black kids who ask and don't get a pass. No one makes a joke when white kids ask and don't get a pass. There's only one or two black kids in each class as it is, so I'm pretty sure my 7th graders aren't thinking about taking back the word when they joke like this. They're just copying a trend, not making attempts at sophisticated humor. Maybe I'm overly-sensative, but I think it's a bad idea for white kids to sort of mindlessly joke about discrimination like that.
Not to mention that it puts me on the spot. As a teacher I feel I have a responsibility to respond every time because there are actual examples of racism in our community. There are a handful of kids in our school as well with racist parents who are being raised that way. I feel like I need to spell out what is and isn't discriminating behavior every time. Moreover, what if my principal, a school board member, or a parent is passing in the hallway and hears what they believe is a real accusation? Then I'm in hot water. I'll just be glad when this whole trend blows over!

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answers from Philadelphia on

No my children do not say that. But I don't find it "cool" or taking back the meaning of the word or something. That's like black people saying it's ok for them to use the N word cuz they've taken it back and use it a "different" way. The word is the word and it means the same thing. I would correct my children because it takes away from the real meaning when it really needs to be used. Not cool. Inappropriate. It's being spread taught now not to use the phrase "That's retarded" and "That's so gay". It's not ok to slaughter the English language.

K. B
mom to 5 including triplets

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answers from Dallas on

I think it's stupid. That phrase is already overused to refer to anyone who didn't vote for Obama or disagrees with him. (Eye roll !!!)

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answers from San Francisco on

I hear that on NPR as well, and I hadn't heard it (but my kids are young). Actually I thought the commentary on NPR was quite astute (as usual), in that this is kids' way of bringing these issues to the forefront - putting a taboo word out there and taking away its power.

At the grade school level, the buzzword lately seems to be "awkward." My 4th grader calls everything and everyone "awkward" whether they are or not. It kind of drives me nuts, and makes me wonder what I did when I was 9 that drove my parents crazy!

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answers from Joplin on

Ugh, 15 year old has told me that when I tell him to turn his anime off or only one more episode...I don't get it at all. He also says "that's outrageous" all the time...I use the Princess Bride line on him "I don't think it means what you think it means" on him and then we both end up laughing.
Kids come up with stuff and it will pass, as long as it is not too offensive I usually let it pass. In my house saying something is "gay" or "retarded" is not allowed...he has younger siblings and there are just some things that are not ok to say around them.

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answers from Washington DC on

I've heard my son say it often when he was 13 but I havn't heard him say it in about a year. I think it's just a phase

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answers from Lynchburg on

Funny this topic would come up...early the other of my 14yo's was watching the original (B&W...non musical french version...sub titles) of "Gigi"...The beginning had character descriptions...and one description was of gaston I think...and translated it as a 'gay wealthy man'...she a little confused until I reminded her 'gay' used to mean 'strictly' happy! we both laughed.

Then, the other day, I almost took home a give away little black kitten...when I was describing the kitten, my 18 yo jokingly said 'why do you have to bring race in'...

I guess I would rather have my kids 'sensitive' and aware...hopefully the fact that some jokingly use the word racist..means they have an awareness??

I do not know...have hope tho!

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answers from Washington DC on

Mine are 11 and 9 and NO - they won't say's an excuse for poor behavior...

They are saying "that's gay" or "lame" still - thank God!!

I'm not offended but I think it mis-uses the word....however, it's been SO OVERUSED in the last 4 years that it's beyond funny!!!

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answers from Redding on

I havent heard it used in that context yet, but I totally agree with you on it taking away the power of that word, and that is pretty awesome. I like the word being used that way. Wish I wasnt old I'd use it :)... maybe I will anyway. I do use the word "lame" quite often. I will see how it works to stuff "racist" in it's place next time I want to say "LAME".

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answers from St. Louis on

Kids these days are using many words to express something else and become a fade sometimes..just that. When I don't like any of these, I just make my kids to stop (however I haven't heard this you mentioned from them but some of their friends). Kids repeat what they hear (teens, older brothers, friends, etc) When I hear something like that I just ask: "what do you say so?" and most of the time the kid has no idea what it actually means....


answers from Providence on

"that's absurd" is more like it..



answers from Charleston on

I haven't heard that here yet. Personally, I would wonder if it really "taking away the power of the word" or not....maybe it does. Hopefully.


answers from Allentown on

Hi, A.:
I am always offended by anyone, young, old, or in between,
that is disrespectful to another whether verbally, physically, or
non verbally.
Where is ciivility being taught today?
My thoughts on your question.

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