While individualism and self-expression are becoming more popular and accepted practices, there are unfortunately still people in the world who feel they have a right to judge someone based on how they live.
That also includes judging them for their family histories and cultural expression, cringed the “Am I the A**hole?” (AITA) subReddit.
While Redditor OkTransition2475’s wife was Hispanic, she was raised in the United States and did not speak Spanish, which apparently “disqualified” her as Hispanic for some people.
But when their coworkers spoke up about it at work, the Original Poster (OP) set a new boundary.
They asked the sub:
“AITA for calling out my coworker’s racist remarks about my wife?”
The OP had a strong relationship with their wife.
“My wife and I are 27 with 3 kids. She stays home, I go to work. She’s the only girlfriend I ever had, and I’m the only boyfriend she’s ever had. In the last 12 years, I don’t think we’ve fought once.”
“Anyway, my wife is Mexican. I’m as white as they come. She has no accent and doesn’t even know Spanish, so sometimes people are a little surprised to hear her talk, which I understand.”
“There was a function for work and she was my plus-one, and she met a lot of my coworkers. They all seemed to really like her. Also, most of my coworkers are women.”
The OP got to talking with a coworker about their wife.
“Well, yesterday, I was at my desk finishing things up and packing up my backpack to go home, and a coworker complimented it.”
“She said she’s been looking for a purse that looks like my backpack, and I said, ‘Ah, thank you, my wife got this for me a couple of years ago.'”
“She said, ‘You have a wife?'”
“I said yes, and she was asking me questions about her. Not in a weird way, she just wanted to know about her.”
“Once I mentioned she is of Mexican decent, she said, ‘Wow, does she know Spanish?'”
“And I was going to say no, but this one lady I don’t even like that much said, ‘No, she’s white-washed.'”
The OP spoke up about this comment.
“I might have taken it a little too far, but I stood up and told her that’s racist, and if she talks about my wife like that again, there’s going to be a problem.”
“Everyone got p**sed at me and said it was just a joke.”
“I don’t know, AITA?”
Fellow Redditors weighed in:
- NTA: Not the A**hole
- YTA: You’re the A**hole
- ESH: Everybody Sucks Here
- NAH: No A**holes Here
Some thought the coworker’s comments were racist and completely unnecessary.
“NTA! I reacted the same way when someone made a derogatory comment about my wife’s Indian (as in India) ancestry. They also claimed it was a joke.”
“Painting a thin veneer of ‘humor’ over racism doesn’t change the ugliness behind it.” – myturn4funDan
“NTA. I would have done the same thing in your shoes. It wouldn’t matter to me if it was a joke, if I find a remark to be rude, then I find it to be rude, and I will act accordingly.”
“In my opinion, you did the right thing, OP.” – babsieofsuburbia
“As someone of Mexican descent, not only is it racist, but ignorant and insulting. Especially given that I doubt your coworker knows your wife well at all.”
“Plus, for those of us that don’t speak Spanish or are more white-passing, it can be a sensitive topic about being mixed and being rejected from both sides because you’re not ‘enough’ of either one.”
“Way to go to stick up for your wife and POC in general. NTA.” – childofthe_stars
“NTA. That was an unnecessary, racist and weird thing to say. I’m in the US, born here, heritage is Italian and Middle Eastern. I am not bilingual. It happens.” – ServelanDarrow
“I am Mexican, I speak fluent Spanish, read and write as well, I am truly blessed for this. When I was younger I used to think just like this, ‘Oh they are whitewashed or just too lazy to learn,’ but life has taught me differently.”
“In many cases, parents didn’t want to teach Spanish to their children for fear that they will be ridiculed and bullied in school for speaking Spanish. Many parents were beaten in school for speaking it, so they would never teach their children, why would they? Some parents just didn’t teach it for their own reasons.”
“Knowing this now as an adult, I would never say such a thing. Most of the time these people already feel awful for not knowing their native tongue and have already suffered so much ridicule from people like me who know the language well.”
“It is racist even for another Mexican to say this to her. I mess around with my close friends who don’t speak it but that is only because they already know how I truly feel about it. They know I will defend them if someone tries to be serious about the subject and I also try to help them learn as much as I can.”
“This is racist and it’s not funny.” – CatrinaMuerta80
“NTA. Please continue to stick up for your wife.”
“I am Black, Mexican, and Puerto Rican, and it’s extremely frustrating when I’m told because I’m ‘mixed’ or light-skinned that I don’t have a place to speak on black topics. Or when I’m looked at negatively or talked about because I don’t speak Spanish (grandparents never taught their kids because they didn’t ‘want them in their business).”
“It makes me feel like I don’t belong to any community of people sometimes.”
“I know it’s not the same thing, but sometimes we do need someone to go to bat for us, and this being your wife and her not being present to defend herself (behind an ignorant comment at that), it’s great that you said what you did.” – madmaxxx5
Others thought the OP should start a record with Human Resources (HR) now.
“Clearly, it was not a joke. Maybe it was meant in a lighthearted way (kind of like how two guy friends would banter with each other), but that is way out of line for work/office talk unless it’s from a good friend.”
“If she/someone else brings it up again, say, ‘Well, we could take it to HR and discuss the racist remark with them and see how they feel about it.’ My guess is they shut down, backup, and shut up really quickly.”
“I’m glad you stood your ground, even if a few people in the office think you’re an AH for it. At least they know your wife is off-limits.” – No_Engineering6617
“I’d go now. The coworker might say OP is creating a hostile environment since ‘everyone’ is p**sed. Just lay out your side before you’re chasing it. Especially if any of those people have friends in HR.” – Big_Tap1859
“OP should still go to HR about this situation so it is documented that this coworker was being racist about his wife. Extremely unacceptable.”
“Send this in an email and blind CC yourself. This email will serve as a record and as receipts, and as I am always saying RECEIPTS ARE LIFE AND CAN HELP SAVE YOURS!!”
“OP is NTA and kudos for not letting the coworker get away with that racist nonsense.” – bustakita
“Definitely go to HR immediately and make a record of the interaction. Not doing so risks HR getting a report with a twisted version of this where you went off on a coworker for no reason instead of this being a case of the coworker making racist statements.”
“Note that workplace discrimination and hostile workplace laws do come into play here and OP was targeted.” – Owain-X
“This is a work environment and it needs to be welcoming and friendly for all. Go to HR next time, or heck, even this time if you want.” – Thediciplematt
“Storytime, it’s lengthy but related to this situation. I worked as a bank teller last year at a large Bank you have definitely heard of. I had a teller lead that was hired when I was hired, and all of us that worked on the teller line were white women.”
“Well, my teller lead had decided that because we were all white women, it was acceptable to make racist comments. (It started off with things like telling me I’m not allowed to shop at the Walmart in this part of town because it’s ghetto and for Black people, and how there was a Hispanic woman in front of her at the white Walmart paying with food stamps, and how Mexicans all come to steal our resources).”
“I want it to be clear my coworker and I never entertained her comments or agreed in any way, we basically just ignored her and hoped she would get the hint without making it a big deal.”
“One day, she was talking about how she had thick and kinky hair, and I said I have the opposite issue of having fine hair. She replied, ‘You’re lucky you have white girl hair, I call this my [n-word] hair’ in a hushed tone.”
“I reported her to my boss, who didn’t report it to HR, unbeknownst to me. After that, the teller lead tried to retaliate by trying to get me in trouble, telling me I wasn’t allowed to use my accent and have to change it (I’m from Maine), etc.”
“I ended that job because of her and went to Hawaii for a couple of months vacation before looking for new work.”
“While I was in Hawaii, I was called for an exit interview. I basically said, ‘I loved the job, the company, and the branch manager. The only issue I had was with the teller lead and the racist remarks.'”
“This was the first HR heard of it. They seized my work emails, calls, and verified with the assistant branch manager that I made the racism report.”
“My coworker told me last month that the teller lead and the assistant manager were fired. HR doesn’t play with this type of thing.” – niceadvicehomeslice
The subReddit was grateful that the OP was willing to speak up on behalf of their wife, and they hoped that they would also share what happened with Human Resources, even just for the sake of record-keeping.
This may have been meant as a joke, but if it wasn’t, it’s better to note it sooner rather than later.