DEAR MISS MANNERS: I had a conversation with friends that left me really upset, and I feel I need a second opinion as to whether or not I should be.
First of all, I am horrified at the injustices people of color have faced in this country. However, I am a white male and I spent a number of years in another country, where people are primarily of a different race. On numerous occasions there, I was shouted at with derogatory racial epithets, and one time was even hit lightly with a car while being shouted at. These instances were emotionally very hurtful.
I brought up these stories while discussing how evil racism is, and was told, “It is not possible for a white male to suffer racism.” Not only that, I was told that even though my friends know I am not racist, I should not repeat the stories, as I would be taken as a racist.
According to them, the definition of racism is “thinking you are better than someone because of your race.” They said it is unlikely that people in that foreign country said hurtful things to me because of racism, but rather out of resentment for white people’s history of cruelty and injustice towards others.
I feel racism is racism, and what really matters is how the victim feels. My partner is upset at me for my opinion. Should I be offended?
GENTLE READER: You are debating semantics. Miss Manners is quite certain that you are destined to lose this argument -- and alienate far more than your friends through its insistence.
Yes, there was a preconception made against you based on the color of your skin, but while admittedly horrid and unfair, it is different from the experience of most marginalized groups. As unpleasant as it was for you, it did not take away your rights, freedoms and basic equality.
The fact that it was likely a retaliatory bias, and not inherent, is key. Persisting in your argument and in taking offense will only make you look naive. Miss Manners suggests that you stop.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: I have long wondered when, if ever, it is acceptable to supplement -- or even substitute -- a verbal request with hand gestures to improve communication. For instance, I once had a bartender chide me for gesturing for the check across a noisy bar.
My question has renewed importance now that the wearing of masks is obscuring vocal projection, and moving closer to be heard is not advised.
GENTLE READER: It depends upon what the gesture is and how it is administered.
Impatience is still recognizable, even under a mask. Which leaves Miss Manners wondering if it was that with which the bartender was taking issue, and not the gesture itself.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: What is the most polite way to ask about the possibility of returning a gift? Signed, Four Sizes Too Small.
GENTLE READER: Most retailers will accept returns in the form of credit, often without a receipt. Miss Manners recommends that you try this first, in the hopes of exchanging it for the same item in the correct size. If this does not work, you may ask the giver for help by saying, “Although I am in love with the jersey, I am afraid that it is more of a crop top on me. Do you happen to have the receipt, or know how I could exchange it? I do so want to wear it, but also not violate any decency laws.”
(Please send your questions to Miss Manners at her website, www.missmanners.com; to her email, firstname.lastname@example.org; or through postal mail to Miss Manners, Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.)