Photo Illustration by Elena Scotti/Splinter/GMG, photos via Wikimedia Commons, Shutterstock

Hello and welcome to Dear Dodai, in which I answer questions about navigating problematic situations, in an attempt to assist the needy and school fools. Let’s jump right into it, shall we?

Sapphire writes:

Dear Dodai,

So where I work has a lot of Hispanic people working in the Janitorial staff and I also have coworkers (I work in manufacturing) that are also Hispanic or come from a predominantly Spanish speaking families. I want show that everyone’s hard work is at least recognized or acknowledged so I make an effort to say “Hello” or “Good morning” to everyone when I pass them in the halls but my question is this: Is it more or less raciest to try and do these “fly-by” greetings in their first language or should I not make assumptions and stick to English?

Good question. Seems like your heart is in the right place—it’s great that you’re trying to reach out and not treat your co-workers as invisible. That said, I suggest you err on the side of caution and just speak English. There’s a quote attributed to Albert Einstein that goes, “I speak to everyone in the same way, whether he is the garbage man or the president of the university.” The key here is whether you speak to both of those people with disdain or with respect. And it’s disrespectful to assume they need or want to be greeted in “their first language.” Who’s to say they don’t speak English at home? What if, by greeting them in Spanish, you force them to assume that you’re fluent when you’re not? As one reader points out:

Advertisement

“Unless you’re fluent in Spanish I’d stick to English to avoid anyone thinking you speak their language when you do not. I work in construction and have made this mistake. What follows is rapid fire unintelligible Spanish from a person delighted to have someone they can communicate with. When you stare uncomprehendingly at them they stop being delighted.”

And really, if the point is to recognize them as people and not as “Hispanic people,” then you should greet them the way you do everyone else. If that’s in English, with a smile, that’s what they should get.


AKA Hermione asks:

Seriously, is it ok to buy Aunt Jemima syrup? The butter flavored syrup is so good on my mini waffles. I am very white, but I grew up either using Aunt Jemima syrup or Karo Dark Corn Syrup (what was my mom thinking?!) on my mini waffles and pancakes.

Short answer: No.

Long answer: As Riché Richardson, associate professor of African American literature in the Africana Studies and Research Center at Cornell University, put it a couple of years ago, the logo is “an outgrowth of Old South plantation nostalgia and romance grounded in an idea about the ‘mammy,’ a devoted and submissive servant who eagerly nurtured the children of her white master and mistress while neglecting her own. Visually, the plantation myth portrayed her as an asexual, plump black woman wearing a headscarf.”

Advertisement

Both the syrup and the pancake mix are excellent products, and this is a tough one—I grew up eating them and still, as a black lady, amongst all the logos and brands, often feel myself reaching for the box with the black lady on it. (In addition, I often ask myself, is Log Cabin actually Uncle Tom’s Log Cabin?) But part of this country’s work when it comes to making progress in race relations is acknowledging and dismantling structural flaws. The original inspiration for the Aunt Jemima character was most likely a white man and/or white woman in blackface playing a mammy, and even though she looks like this now…

…She used to look like this:

Never forget. It was offensive to begin with, and the modernized clean up to keep sales alive is also offensive. Buying it is buying into it, and as my activist-y parents used to say, if you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem.


From boredalways:

Considering the constant evolution of all things internet, what would you consider the best ways to deal with stupid people on a daily basis?

Lockhart Steele says Choire Sicha, formerly of Gawker and The Awl, “had the greatest phrase in Internet history, which was: Never complain, never explain. And that is all you need to know about how to do everything on the Internet.” It’s actually from Disraeli, but I agree! And would add: Ignore, ignore, ignore. You don’t owe anyone an explanation, and if you are truly smart—smart enough to identify stupid people—then you should also be smart enough to resist the stupid. Your intelligence should be a shield, deflecting the dumb, causing it to bead up and slide off like rain drops on a drop top. If you’re smart, you know that your time is incredibly valuable and very limited, and should not be wasted on that kind of caca del toro. If you must spend time on stupid, keep it to seven seconds or less. And if you do have time, why not log off and take a walk? You’ll find there are rays of sunshine, french fries, interesting works of graffiti, strangely shaped clouds, and an entire world out there, and stupid people online actually matter very little.


Experiencing sexist microaggressions at work? Coerced into spending holidays with Trump-voter in-laws? Beset upon by racists? Let me help you help yourself. Email me at deardodai@splinternews.com, or leave a comment below.