“Is that racist?”

I was at happy hour with a bunch of colleagues this early evening, and we were talking about annoying things that we’ve encountered across New York and San Francisco. Since our company is headquartered in San Francisco, everyone in our group goes out west to San Francisco at least a few times a year, so we all have varying familiarity of the city. When it came to talk about annoying things in New York, I commented that I found it a bit frustrating when I moved here that people just expected me to know everything about being Jewish, from what a yamaka is to dates for Yom Kippur to Rosh Hashanah. It’s not that I ever expressed a lack of desire to know or understand; it’s that I was just expected to know all these things as someone who did not grow up in New York City. A colleague then responds, “you do realize that if you just replaced the word ‘Jewish’ with any other race, that comment could be perceived as racist, right?”

Well, no, I actually don’t, I said, and this is why: again, it’s not the lack of desire to want to understand, it’s the expectation that everyone needs to know exactly what you know that bothers me. I don’t expect everyone to know when Vietnamese new year is. I also don’t expect everyone to know what a red envelope symbolizes. If you know, great. And if you don’t know, I’m happy to share and educate you if you’d like. If you express that you do not want to know or try to justify your ignorance, then at that point, I might suspect you are racist. But with what I said… I think that’s taking the labeling of “racist” to a point where people on the left do; too much, too often, and trying to be way too PC at times when there is no need for that.

It was certainly an interesting happy hour. Who would have thought that race would be one of the fun topics of the evening?

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