DEAR HARRIETTE: There has been some talk in the media lately about "hipster racism" -- where someone is "ironically" racist to show that they are, in fact, not racist at all. Lots of my friends have said things that fall under "hipster racism," but I think some of what they say is just straight-out racist. Even if they are just trying to be funny, that doesn't make it any less offensive, in my opinion.
What is the best way to let them know that I don't think their jokes are funny? -- Indie Idealist, Westchester, N.Y.
DEAR INDIE IDEALIST: I firmly believe that people should stop using racist terms, period. I don't believe that using irony, satire or any other tongue-in-cheek form of race talk is smart, cute or funny. Does that make me or anyone sharing my view "too sensitive"? I don't think so. Racially charged talk so easily can pull a delicate scab off the old wound of racial inequality in this country.
A national discussion is occurring now regarding the term "hipster racism." Apparently this term was coined in 2006 by a writer at Racialicious.com, and it was explored in detail recently on the blog Jezebel.com. It refers to people saying racially charged things straight out, as if that neutralizes the words' power. I don't buy it.
To answer your question, I would directly and immediately tell your friends when you find their words offensive. You could turn it back on them with a question: "Do you really think that's funny?" or, "I don't know why you think it's cool to say that, but it's not. Please stop."
You can also decide not to hang with them if they won't cut it out. Just be sure to tell them your reason for stepping away, if that's your decision. Don't assume they can read your tea leaves.
DEAR HARRIETTE: My 10-year-old daughter constantly asks me to buy things for her. I have always been generous, but she's getting out of control. She wants to go shopping every weekend. She sees something she wants and frets if I won't buy it. I don't want her to become greedy. How can I curb this behavior? -- Guarding the Pocketbook, Shreveport, La.
DEAR GUARDING THE POCKETBOOK: This is what is called a teachable moment. While you may get attitude from your daughter for a while, the solution is actually quite simple: Stop buying her stuff every week or every time she asks. If she whines, so what?
Explain that you love her and are happy to purchase things for her sometimes but that she should scale back her shopping expectations. Establish times when you will shop for her: for a special event, for holiday and birthday gifts, for occasional treats.
Give her a small weekly allowance. Have her save part of it, and give her permission to spend part of it on herself. This will teach her how quickly money goes if you don't hold onto it.