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I Didn't Handle Something Well-What Should I Have Done?


Gar1eth
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I'm mildly apprehensive about relating this story in case by some chance the person in question reads this Forum. I don't think he does, but I could be wrong.

 

The first thing I need to say is that my acquaintance is one of the nicest, sweetest men you would ever meet. He would probably give you the shirt off his back if he knew you were in need.

 

I think the problem is/was that he grew up in rural Kentucky. You'll see why I say that after I tell the story.

 

I was visiting some out of state relatives. My acquaintance lives near my relatives. We had met each other years ago through a mutual friend.

 

So my acquaintance bought a really expensive classic car from a woman who's husband had died. The car had very little mileage and had basically been sitting in a garage for years.

 

I'm not much of a car buff. But my friend had put some pictures of the car on Facebook. I congratulated him on the purchase, and we decided he would pick me up in the car and go to lunch. As I don't visit these relatives often, I only see my friend once every couple of years. In fact this might have been the first time in two years or so although we occasionally message each other on Facebook. The gay community is not large where he and my relatives live as the area is rural.

 

While we were at lunch, he was telling me the story of how he had found the car. He also talked about how he and the widow had come to agreement on the selling price of the car. While he was telling me this, he used the phrase that he had 'jewed down' the price.

 

Now I'm Jewish. At first I thought he might not have known/not remembered that I was. But later on we started talking about our holiday plans, and he had remembered that I was Jewish.

 

I know he didn't mean to offend me. The guy lives in a small Ky town near the Ohio border and has always lived there. He also doesn't have a lot of formal education. We became friendly acquaintances years ago through a mutual friend. I'm sure that phrase was taught to him as a child, and I may be the only Jewish person he's ever known.

 

I let the remark slide. I didnt feel good about letting it slide. But I'm not around the him on a routine basis. He really is a kind and caring soul. And I don't think he knows how offensive that phrase is.

 

Maybe if I saw him more often- I would have felt more comfortable talking with him about it. I just don't know.

 

:confused:

 

Gman

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I'm not sure what there is to fret about. If I were Jew--I mean you--I might have said "You know, I'm Jewish, and I would prefer you wouldn't use that phrase." But you didn't. He remembers you're Jewish now. Probably feels a little embarrassed at this point. I don't see the point in bringing it up again. Let it drop.

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There are several expressions of a similar ilk. I started a thread a few minutes ago about phrases which refer to things from the past which are either obsolete or obscure and this is a very similar thread. I think that most people who use the expression to jew someone down, do not even realize that this refers to the stereotype of Jews driving a hard bargain.

 

 

I had two friends, Irish twins, and though they were Chinese and not Italian, they wore Guinea T's, wifebeaters. They are Green Bay Packer fans, i call them Cheeseheads, though they are not Dutch. I accused them of being Indian givers when they reneged on their promise to sell me their playoff tickets. Ultimately, I did not go to the game and I felt gypped, though I am not a gypsy. I thought they were my friends, but they welched on the deal, yet never went to Wales. I should have paid retail instead of try to get a bargain, I should not have tried to chew them down.

 

I really think you need to take the expression and put it into its proper context. If you feel strongly that this person had no ill will towards those of the Jewish faith, I would probably drop it. If you think he realized the reference and used the expression anyway, or did so with the intent to demean or belittle, I would mention your displeasure to him.

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My own personal rule of thumb is if someone says something that bothers me and can have a negative impact on our relationship as friends, it is best to clear the air in order to make sure they know how I feel about it and also to spare them possible embarrassment in the future with others. For acquaintances I may not feel it is my place to say something so it becomes a judgement call. In your description, you call the person both an acquaintance and also a friend so I am not sure how I would proceed in that particular case other than to say let it slide if merely an acquaintance and say something if you consider them a friend.

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I mentioned someone 'jewed me down' to my Jewish room mate and best friend back in the '60s. Took us a couple of weeks to fully repair our relationship. To this day I've never used that phrase again.

 

The problem is that around here & at that time it was just part of the language. For me at least it had no particular meaning other than the metaphorical one of driving a hard bargain.

 

FWIW, around here at least (NE Mississippi), 'jewing down' is no longer much heard. I can't recall the last time I heard someone say it. Just speculating but I suspect that since the evangelicals adopted Israel as a harbinger of the Second Coming of Christ in the '70s and '80s, overt anti-semitism has become less and less unacceptable. People don't even rant about 'NY Jews" any more, NY liberals yes but not Jews.

 

I slightly disagree with Unicorn. If it bothers you enough to disrupt your friendship, then the next time you see him, say something. Otherwise accept that it probably has no anti-semitic meaning for him, it's just part of the language as he learned it. If he uses it again, correct him on it (& you'll find out then if it's more than a metaphor for him).

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The problem is that around here & at that time it was just part of the language. For me at least it had no particular meaning other than the metaphorical one of driving a hard bargain.

 

FWIW, around here at least (NE Mississippi), 'jewing down' is no longer much heard. I can't recall the last time I heard someone say it. Just speculating but I suspect that since the evangelicals adopted Israel as a harbinger of the Second Coming of Christ in the '70s and '80s, overt anti-semitism has become less and less unacceptable. People don't even rant about 'NY Jews" any more, NY liberals yes but not Jews.

 

I slightly disagree with Unicorn. If it bothers you enough to disrupt your friendship, then the next time you see him, say something. Otherwise accept that it probably has no anti-semitic meaning for him, it's just part of the language as he learned it. If he uses it again, correct him on it (& you'll find out then if it's more than a metaphor for him).

 

Good response, MsGuy. Your advice is what I used to do when "That's so gay" was in vogue.

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I'd just chalk it up to ignorance and forget about it. I am reminded of two situations different from yours, and not totally accurate, but both resulting from ignorance. I attended a Jewish charity dinner and the son of the honoree used the term in describing his father's sense of charity and good will "Dad naver tried to Jew anyone down." The crowd was horrified and still talks about it. The speaker still doesn't see the big deal. Once I had a business meeting with a man I was meeting for the first time. He had a long Italian name and was from New Jersey. I thought I was kidding around with him at dinner and asked him if he had any mafia relations. He looked startled and our relations were not quite the same after that. It was an ignorant thing for me to say. I feel sorry for people who ethnically insult others out of ignorance and it is painful to realize I have been in the same boat.

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Just for clarification- I don't think he was trying to demean me. As a fellow southerner RB4U, I must tell you I feel nothing but horror at the phrase. It perpetuates a horrible stereotype. My first real recollection of hearing it was when I was about 12 years old and in 6 th grade. A father of one of my classmates collected Native American jewelry. And he came to class for Show 'n' Tell. He used the phrase in describing his acquisition of something. ( As an aside, I wasn't that fond of NA jewelry before that - and that incident certainly didn't increase my liking). I'm fairly positive I told my Mom- but we didn't do anything. If that had happened nowadays I'm sure we would have sent a letter to the principal and made more of a ruckus.

 

The next incident I remember of an adult 'almost' using the phrase was I high school. My English teacher was an older spinster- her mother lived with her. The rumor was the teacher's fiancée had died in WW2. She had taught long enough that she had taught the parents of one or two people in my class. So we were about to read 'Oedipus' and 'Antigone'. Miss W. was giving us a lecture on the ancient Greeks. Suddenly she said, " And the ancient Greeks were as thrifty as the proverbial Jew." Then she looked over her lectern where she had been reading off her notes ( she was at the far end of the room from where I was sitting- not that this incident that occurred when I was 17 (46 years ago) made much of an impression on me) looked directly at me, and said 'Isn't that right, Gman?'

 

Well I couldn't believe she said that. And I refuted that contention of hers where I didn't with my friend. I said something like, ' No, Miss W., that's a stereotype because we weren't allowed to own land in the Middle Ages and so went into business.'

 

She actually said 'That's right. That's right. And we'll learn more about that when we study ... (but that's where my memory fails). She never treated me any different from any other student. In fact I think she liked me. But she had these unpleasant beliefs percolating . She was old school Catholic. The president of our senior class was Catholic too and probably had a worse time than I didn He had the (slight) knowledge of his religion that you might expect of an 17- 18 year old not overly religious jock. She frequently asked him questions about Catholicism that he was never going to be able to answer.

 

Gman

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if he's a decent guy, honest, trustworthy, fun to hang out with, etc., I guess I'd let it slide.....when you later talked to him about holiday plans, did he backpedal?....I'll bet he didn't even remember saying it earlier and may not even know the backstory behind the phrase.....but the phrase does perpetuate a stereotype and he learned it somewhere!

 

BUT WHAT KIND OF CAR IS IT????!!!!

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I think I'd let it go at this stage, but be ready for a response if it ever comes up again.

 

One of my tactics: Ask people to repeat themselves. If they do repeat the offensive phrase, say you never heard it and ask them what it means. Keep asking questions. The more they talk, the more uncomfortable they get. Is that a little duplicitous and passive-aggressive? Perhaps. But it gets results.

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Being a Southerner by birth, and a Stubborn Baptist by raising, I always used the term, "Baptist them down." Because really the biggest difference between Baptists and Jews is whether Jesus was a Good Teacher, or God.

 

Please interpret this with the humor intended. All humor offends something or someone, it's the nature of sardonic humor.

 

And remember, I can't get your goat as long as you don't let me know where it's tiiieeeddd.

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I was in college the first time I heard "Jew" as a verb. My best friend was Jewish and we were taking a marketing class. One day, the professor put us into small groups for a negotiation exercise. A guy in my group thought it would be hilarious to claim that my friend had an "unfair advantage" because "he's been Jewing people down his whole life." Fortunately, nobody else found it amusing.

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It would have been a good idea to say something at the time. Now the moment may have passed. I'm not sure it's worth going out of your way to bring it up, but if it comes up again, be prepared to say something firmly but non-confrontationally. While he may be ignorant and not malicious, being from Kentucky is no excuse.

 

I say this as someone who was upset and enraged when classmates called me anti-Asian ethnic slurs -- specifically, a Chink, a Jap, and a Commie, none of which was actually true. At the time, the US was involved in a war against people who looked a lot like me and who our troops often called "gooks" -- something I never was, thankfully. But I was the only Asian or part-Asian kid in my school system until 8th grade; by the time I was in high school, there were two other Asian/part-Asian families with children in the school system and I didn't get called names anymore. At the same time, there was only one black family with children in the entire school district. There were only three Jewish kids in my graduating class as well, but as far as I know, they were never the subject of ethnic slurs or terms like the one that upset you.

 

In law school, a professor (who shall remain nameless, seeing as he was later Solicitor General of the United States) who as a Jewish refugee who escaped Europe before the Nazis took over should have known better used the term "Jap." He apologized the next day. It was reprehensible irrespective, but it was particularly reprehensible because one of the students in the class (and a friend of mine) was of Japanese descent and thus what he said was personally insulting to her. I don't know if he realized the need for an apology on his own initiative or if it was brought to his attention by a delegation of students, but I suspect the latter.

 

Epithets and slurs that stereotype and shame sting even if they're not meant to be hateful. Anyone not from the group an epithet is aimed at or describes shouldn't use them, ever.

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I don't think your friend deserves to be unfriended for his display of ignorance but I like the suggestion made to have a response ready if the error is repeated and maybe you'll save him from jeopardizing a relationship he has with someone else he is stupid in front of. I can think of one good friend who used the term ******ing (he lives in Texas) and after I talked with him (about one minute after I hear it) about it he's never said it again. He's Italian and I shared with him that there are people today that look down on Italians (yup, that's stupid too). I also know some rich people that are elitist and look down on others who are not as fortunate. So be careful what groups of people you make poor assumptions about or who you look down on because there is always someone who looks at you as less than them. Pay it forward and don't be an ass**ole. Judgment day precedes a very long period of time.

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I've found another way to handle this that would allow face-saving but not let it slide would be to package your response with some humor and mock outrage (even it's real outrage you're feeling). You could make a face and hit your forehead, or make a face with an exaggerated look of horror and say something like, "Ack! You can't say that!" Or a twist on Decatur Guy's suggestion, say something like, "Please tell me you didn't just say that." It allows you to call them on it but not totally humiliate them, and they'll get the point.

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if he's a decent guy, honest, trustworthy, fun to hang out with, etc., I guess I'd let it slide.....when you later talked to him about holiday plans, did he backpedal?....I'll bet he didn't even remember saying it earlier and may not even know the backstory behind the phrase.....but the phrase does perpetuate a stereotype and he learned it somewhere!

 

BUT WHAT KIND OF CAR IS IT????!!!!

 

Yes, please, What about the car??

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This happened at a family dinner years ago. My sister's son called something 'really gay', I objected, and my sister immediately jumped to his defense, saying "it doesn't mean that, all the kids say that these days". I'm not sure (to this day) if that sister's ever told her two kids that I'm gay - I know all my other nieces & nephews know.

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This happened at a family dinner years ago. My sister's son called something 'really gay', I objected, and my sister immediately jumped to his defense, saying "it doesn't mean that, all the kids say that these days". I'm not sure (to this day) if that sister's ever told her two kids that I'm gay - I know all my other nieces & nephews know.

 

And thus the abuse continues. I hope your sister is loving and supportive in other ways.

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