You Know I'm Black, Right?
"Then they'll say some stupid shit like, 'Oh, Karen, I didn't notice you're black.' Don't say that to black people. We're really codependent and we're worried about your blind ass."
— Karen Williams
When a character says or does something racist, sexist or homophobic in front of the Token Minority
, Token Girl
, or Ambiguously Gay
person, either because they're an Innocent Bigot
or because they said something easily Mistaken for Racist
. Usually, the character will respond with a caustic one-liner like "I'm Standing Right Here
This has been played for laughs with a Token White
. Otherwise, it usually pops up in the Very Special Episode
, after which the characters go back to totally ignoring the issue.
Much more offensive than You Are a Credit to Your Race
The logical conclusion of You Know What They Say About X
. See also Insult Friendly Fire
for this sans racial components.
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Anime and Manga
- Possibly parodied in Wolf's Rain. When the wolves (disguised as humans from the viewers' perspective) are walking through a forest Toboe is puzzled by the lack of any animals. Hige replies, "You know you're a wolf, don't you? They probably ran away when they saw us coming."
- Parodied very, very heavily with Mechazawa in Cromartie High School, whom no one ever notices is actually a robot, and not the human-looking kind either; he looks like a trashcan. The it turns out to be more like the Elephant in the Room: everyone knows Mechazawa's a robot, but as made clear when his kid brother shows up, they consider this to be a personal issue and not for public discussion.
- Somewhat subverted in DC Comics' Steel: Natasha Irons says to her white friend, "Boris, in case you haven't noticed, I'm black", before realising that he's just such a ditz it honestly hasn't occurred to him there's an unfortunate association in giving her a watermelon as a gift.
- For those who are not Americans: This joke refers to the old American trope that the best way to portray a lazy Black slave or even freeman was to show a scrawny old slave, lounging on a porch, eating a watermelon. The "blacks love watermelon and fried chicken" idea is a well-worn staple of stereotypical humor.
- In New X-Men, Rockslide taunts Anole, who's gay, by calling him a "big sissy". Anole immediately opens up a can of whoopass on him, which is kind of impressive considering Rockslide is twice his size and made out of lava, and Anole isn't exactly the biggest badass on the team. As it happens, Rockslide didn't know and was just being his usual insensitive self, but Anole's not interested in excuses.
- Astro City has a humorously overblown example. A boisterous comic book publisher releases a comic Very Loosely Based on a True Story in which the supervillain Glowworm is ascribed a white supremacist motivation that was not substantiated by the actual events. Glowworm, a monstrous glowing green man with a tail in place of legs, attacks the publisher at a comic convention:
Glowworm: You know what color I am? You know what color I used to be?!?
Publisher: No, but I can make a guess...
Glowworm: Do you have any idea what my mother thought when she read this?!?
- In Quantum And Woody issue #4, Quantum is repeatedly called "noogie" (a substitute for the n-word) several times by a homeless street-dweller. Quantum, whose costume covers his entire face and body, asks the guy how he knows he's black. "You're black? S-Word!"
- He doesn't say anything actually racist, but early in A God Somewhere a white guy is helping his Black Best Friend move to a new place. He opens the box he's been carrying to see a multitude of Black History books inside. Puzzled, he asks his friend why the friend has so many of these books and why he reads them. The friend just looks at him and after a moment the white guy is going "Oh, right..." then tries to explain that he sometimes forgets his friend is black. That doesn't exactly fly either.
- Spider Man Family #9: Jean Grey of the X-Men gives a speech about how people treat mutants, people always assuming the worst and treating you like a freak and running scared at the slightest provocation...then realises she's talking to Spidey and Bruce Banner. "Oop" indeed.
- In the film, The Jerk, Navin (played by Steve Martin), after striking it rich, was talking to several financial advisers and people who wanted him to invest his newfound wealth. One guy was suggesting a housing/apartment complex and detailed that they would of course keep the "niggers" away. Navin, who was raised by a black family (oblivious to his own whiteness for decades), snapped at him, saying "Sir, you are talking to a nigger!" and proceeded to kick his ass with martial arts skills not shown before or after in the movie.
- At the beginning of Stand by Me, Chris, Teddy, and Gordie are sitting in their tree-house, playing cards, when Chris decides to tell a joke.
Chris: How do you know if a Frenchman has been in your back yard?
Teddy: Hey, I'm French, okay?
Chris: Your garbage cans are empty and your dog's pregnant.
*Chris and Gordie laugh*
Teddy: Didn't I just say I was French?
- There's a literal example of this in If You Could See What I Hear, a biopic about blind musician Tom Sullivan. In bed, his new girlfriend asks him if it "feels different" making love to her because she's black, and he's surprised by the question because he hadn't even realized she was.
Live Action TV
- On one of Judge Miliani's cases in Court TV, the plaintiff informed the judge that the defendents were - ugh - lawyers! ...It turns out, so are all judges.
- 30 Rock: Taken Up to Eleven, to the point of parody. Jack proudly announces to a room full of old, white, rich, conservative business executives that he has a liberal girlfriend, so the other men come out with all sorts of other "confessions"—their children went to public school, they listen to NPR, and ...
Black guy: I'm black!
- Subverted in the Chappelle's Show skit Black White Supremacist. A blind black man grows up under the impression he is white. He becomes a prominent white supremacist writer until he finds out he is black.
- Note that he stays a white supremacist. He even leaves his wife for marrying a black man, even though this black man is himself
- In a Very Special Episode of Smart Guy, Yvette and her friend Nina get jobs at a small store in the mall, where Nina is given the following job:
Nina: It is my happy task to follow black people around the store to make sure they don't steal.
Yvette: You know this is going to affect our friendship.
- And in the Black History Month episode of Smart Guy, Marcus, Mo, and Mackey (another Token White) each write a report on Jackie Robinson and have to read it in front of their class. Mackey has to go last, and when nobody claps after he's finished he says, "It's 'cause I'm white, isn't it?" Their white teacher nods.
- Degrassi The Next Generation, "Pride, part 1": When Paige asks Spinner to carry her beach bag, which happens to be floral patterned, he tells her that he can't, because it make people will mistake him for a "homo". Spinner then realizes it was a mistake to say that in front of Paige's brother, Dylan, who is gay:
Spinner: I didn't mean 'homo' as in 'gay', I mean 'homo' as in...
- In Angel, Cordelia calls Willow, who has broken up with her boyfriend and acquired a girlfriend in Cordy's absence, to ask her about her old friend Harmony's irritating behavior.
(on the phone
) Oh! Harmony's a vampire
! ...All this time I thought she'd become a great big lesbo! (beat
) Oh. Really? ...well, that's great! Good for you! Willow:
Thanks for the validation.
- A funny moment in Studio 60, when the black junior writer asks his co-writer whether calling senior writers 'sir' is a 'white thing?' gets the response; 'I'm not white, I'm British.'
- This is Truth in Television, in that many Americans don't realize that racism works different outside of the US. In America, racists tend to just go by how a person looks, where as in most of the rest of the planet, the racists actually try to figure out something about your background to hate.
- On an episode of The Daily Show, Brit John Oliver explains that Americans don't know bigotry, Brits know real bigotry. "We're prejudiced against other, white Europeans. Michael Caine passed me in the hallway, heard my accent, headbutted me in the nose, and threw his laundry at me, and I have to do it, according to the rules of England! There is a little old lady in [some small British town], who feels hollandaise sauce is "Too ethnic". She won't let her daughter date a Normans, because she hasn't forgiven William the Conqueror for the invasion of 1066 yet!"
- Many nations could care less about race, and in fact may be so mixed that you couldn't even name a race, other than the melting pot that is "Jamaican" or "Cuban". But social class is an entirely different story. And then there's prejudice between different skin tones or hair colors within the same race. Firecrotch. Quadroon.
- The British TV biopic Hughie Green: Most Sincerely has a scene, possibly taken from real life, in which Green and his producer are holding an audition for Green's TV talent show. Green is enthusiastic about one candidate, but his producer says, "You know he's black, don't you?" Green rejects this racist attitude out of hand and passes the candidate over his producer's objections.
- In the original UK version of Queer As Folk, Nathan moans that his best friend wouldn't understand what he's going through because she's straight; she snaps "I'm black. And I'm a girl. Try that for a week."
- Similarly, Jake in Becker: "I'm a blind black man, we just sail through life."
- The episode of Yes Dear where Jimmy became a housemate on Big Brother might qualify here. Although nothing offensive was said, when Jimmy asks the resident black, gay housemate his opinion on the attractiveness of a female housemate, he responds with "You know I'm gay, right?". Jimmy attempts to correct himself and restart the conversation by making a remark about one of the men's abs instead.
Black, Gay Guy (in confessional): "That's what I like about Jimmy. He didn't even seem to care that I'm gay.....or notice.....Tomorrow I'm gonna tell him that I'm black!"
- On episode of The George Lopez Show featured a racist scout leader for Max. During a discussion of how one can tell how different marks on an animal show whether they're aggressive, he mentions "Just like people." George questions this, to which he responds which one is cop gonna question, a cute blonde or a Mexican. George responds with this trope.
- Scout: I mean, yah, but I mean, well, not you guys. I mean those "me no speake" Mexicans.
- In one episode of Scrubs, Dr. Cox calls Turk "bro." Turk replies that "Bros don't even use bro. You're not as hip as you think you are." When Cox asks if Turk is, Turk points out that he's black.
Dr. Cox: You're black? 'Cause last I checked you had a nerdy white best friend, you enjoy Neil Diamond, and you damn sure act like a black guy... and these, my friend, are all characteristics of white guys. Please understand, I'm a huge supporter of the NAACP. If you don't know what that stands for, it's the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. And quite frankly, I always thought they should change the "colored people" to "African-Americans," but then of course it wouldn't be the NAACP, it'd be the N-quad-A or NAAAA. And I know this probably sounds like a digression but actually brings me back to my original point... Do I think you're black? Naaaaaaah!
- Of course, this may not necessarily be any better on Cox's part, since he seems to be suggesting race is determined by behaviors, as if Turk is less "black" because he listens to Neil Diamond and is best friends with a white guy.
- Of course, some would argue being born into any particular group carries with it some obligation to participate in that group's culture, but that's a question that's waaaaay above our pay grade...
- Somewhat parodied in a deleted scene of Criminal Minds, in which the line was not actually meant to be racist, but is jokingly taken that way. When Reid (white) tricks Morgan (black) into losing at Gin on the plane, he gloats, "When are you people going to learn never to play cards with a magician?" Morgan replies, "What do you mean 'you people'?"
- For context, because it's interesting: the scene is an alternate ending to an episode which deals heavily with race relations .
- In an episode of 3rd Rock from the Sun, Dick has this happen to him multiple times in the same few minutes, so, in order to prevent it from happening to him again, he puts a sticky note on his secretary reading 'Nina is Black'. It was actually a running gag that the Solomons literally could not tell the difference, and eventually seemed to conclude the difference was entirely cultural.
- In the Puppy episode of Ellen Ellen discussing coming out to her therapist, who is played by Oprah Winfrey:
Ellen: You don't understand. Do you think I want to be discriminated against? Do you think I want people calling me names to my face?
Therapist: Have people commit hate crimes against you because you're not like them.
Ellen: Thank you.
Therapist: Have to use separate bathrooms and separate water fountains and sit on the back of the bus.
- A literal and funny version on Blind Justice, when Jim (white and blind) jokingly claims that he was unaware of his (black) co-worker Tom's race:
Tom: I'm just a well-rounded brother from East Flatbush.
Jim: You're black?
Tom: [in disbelief] Get the ...
Jim: No, are you serious? You're a black man?
Tom: Jim! You didn't know?
Jim: No. How would I... [gestures to his eyes]
Tom: You just thought you was working with Eminem for the last four months? How could you ...
Jim: No, I just ...
Tom: How could you not feel my blackness?
Jim: I thought you were just kinda...groovy.
- In the second Night Huntress book, Cat gets really pissed about her team's racism against vampires without remembering that she is half-vampire herself.
- Subverted in The Far Side: One elephant is calming another elephant down who just heard an elephant joke said by one human to another: "He probably didn't know you were an elephant when he said that!"
- To clarify, the elephants were drinking at the same table as the other two, and dressed in human clothes - you know, to highlight the absurdity.
- Used with delicious sarcasm in a Doonesbury cartoon when a young man was refused entry to a country club, and the servant rejecting him said straight out that it was because he was black. He and his white friend Mark (whose father was a club member) pretended to have never noticed his skin color before. "Wow, wait'll I tell Mom!"
- Played with in Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, where CJ has been working with Wu Zi, a Triad leader who tried hiding the fact that he's blind but fails spectacularly. When CJ responds to Woozie's big reveal by saying "(long pause) NO SHIT!", he then asks if Woozie knows he's black, quoting the trope title verbatim. The Triad's response? "I'm blind, Carl, not stupid."
- Actually, with Woozie, Carl didn't know he was blind until an aide told him. Carl had trouble believing it because they were in a car race the week before. Also, to clarify, the 'no shit' answer was Carl doing a bad job at disguising the fact he already knew.
- Mass Effect
Shepard: "You? I said a badass, not some scout whining like a Quarian with a tummyache."
- In Sam And Max Freelance Police Season 2 Episode 1, Bosco makes a comment that paranoia is 'what separates us from the animals'. Sam looks offended and caustically responds that the saying 'plays better with the non-dog-and-rabbit crowd'.
- This can happen in The Elder Scrolls V Skyrim as a side effect of Welcome to Corneria. In the Fantastically Segregated city of Windhelm, NPCs are known to mutter about "damn Dark Elves" and "damn Argonians", even if the Dovahkiin happens to be one. Borders on Too Dumb to Live if a player is trigger-happy.
- Also, if you happen to travel with certain Nords, while fighting other races, they'll occasionally shout out "Skyrim belongs to the Nords!"... Even if you're not a Nord at all.
- Can happen in Dragon Age II if you're playing a mage Hawke and you choose the right set of responses when talking to Cullen after a quest. He'll say that "mages aren't people like you and me," even if you're wearing obvious robes, carrying a staff, and he's seen you casting spells in front of him during an earlier fight.
- What's even funnier is that Hawke (yes, even Mage-Hawke) can agree with him. In front of your mage party members.
Anders: ...Why do you do this right in front of me?
- Parodied in Rob And Elliot. Elliot makes a joke about a "dumb guy," prompting Rob to blow up in his face: "My mother was dumb! I'm half dumb!"
- In Loserz, when Carrie comments to Alice that her friend Jess coming out of the closet is disturbing, Alice responds with something similar to this trope.
Carrie: Doesn't that freak you out? Isn't that totally gross?
Alice: Let Me Get This Straight
. You're asking one of the only black girls at this school if she should be repulsed by somebody because she's different?
- In this Something Positive strip, a white male Pagan ran across a Davan-created webcomic taking a potshot at Wicca and works himself into a righteous anger over the "persecution":
Pagan: You'll never know what its like to live with the pain of your ancestors being oppresses for who they were! That they lived in fear because they might get lynched! To know that the suffered so I'd have the right to —
with (African-American Wiccan) Kim staring at him.]
Kim: Do you need some time to comprehend why saying that to me makes you stupid?
Pagan: ...No, I think I've got that figured out.
- Inverted in another: Aubrey is reprimanding one of her employees, who accuses her of being prejudiced against white people. Aubrey points out that she's half-white (the other half is Asian).
- In RPG World, Soldier #347 makes elf jokes to Plum. Due to his poor vision, he doesn't realize Plum is an elf.
- 8-Bit Theater likewise combines this with Fantastic Racism when Red Mage, in the process of explaining one of his needlessly complex and stupid plans, is interrupted by Black Mage, while standing right next to Thief;
Black Mage: Let me stop you right there before I am honor-bound to cut you like an elven whore.
Thief: Hold on. Elven whore? Do I even have to explain why that's offensive to me?
Look, if your mother
had made dresses, I would have called her a tailor instead.
- On Drawn Together, this is illustrated frequently between Foxxy Love and the (occasionally) overly-naive and sheltered Princess Clara in the series premiere and subsequent episodes.
- Variation from Teen Titans: In one episode where Starfire is the victim of Fantastic Racism, she asks Cyborg if he's ever had to deal with prejudice. Instead of uttering this phrase, he says "Sure I do. I'm part-robot."
- Though the questions makes sense from Starfire since she's an alien and hangs out with the very colorful Teen Titans. It'd make sense that she'd never come across racism.
- On Avatar The Last Airbender, Toph's friends (especially Sokka) have a tendency to forget that she's blind. This tends to lead to many of Toph's great one-liners.
Sokka: It's so dark in here, I can't see a thing!
- Subverted in the finale when Sokka, Toph and Suki take over a Fire Nation airship:
Toph: Oh, sure, ask the blind girl to pilot the airship.
Sokka: Actually, I was talking to Suki.
Toph: Oh. That would make more sense.
- In Sokka's defense, Toph could "see" well enough with her Disability Superpower that it's pretty easy to see how he could forget she was impaired. On a number of occasions, Toph forgets she's disabled - witness when she asks why she can't put posters up, while painting glue across a poster's front before putting it on a wall: "...it's upside-down, isn't it?"
- The Archer episode "Diversity Hire" has a lot of fun with Lana getting this treatment from her coworkers because she views Conway as a possible mole.
Malory: What are you, deaf and racist?
Lana: Racist? I'm black—
Malory: Oh, put it back in the deck.
- Used in an episode of 6Teen. While trying to ditch a crazy stalker girl, she thinks Jude and Wyatt are identical twins. Now go over to the page. Wyatt is the black guy in the red sweater. Jude is the skater dude in the ski cap. This finally leads Wyatt to snap, delivering this little gem.
Wyatt: We're not twins! I'm black, and he's white!
- My Life as a Teenage Robot: Tuck manages several times in "The Wonderful World of Wizzly".
Jenny: You think you're better than them!
- On King of the Hill, Kahn had a chance to join a ritzy all-Asian country club, but only if he helped get Hank to join as their Token White. When Kahn expresses outrage at Hank's refusal, Hank exasperatedly comments that Kahn "wouldn't understand" his reasoning. Kahn responds that no, of course he wouldn't understand what it's like to be a token member of a group.
- CNN news anchor Soledad O'Brien, who is mixed-race, has talked about sometimes receiving "compliments" along the lines of "I don't think of you as black." To which she has basically responded "Why? Because you don't think of black as equaling achievements, or good journalism, or good things? It's because you think black equals bad things."
- A lot of fat folk can only look in confusion at friends who say "Oh, don't worry, I don't think of you as fat." when what they actually mean is that they don't think you're ugly or lazy or any of the other associations Those Horrible Fat People have in their mind.
- A similar thing happens- at least in the current climate- to anyone who's struggling to find work. One gets quite a bit of "Oh, but I don't mean people like you, I mean people who don't want to find work..."
- Will Smith, in telling the story of being cast as Jim West in Wild Wild West (who was white in the TV show), said that he mentioned to the producers that people might think it's a bit odd that they've cast him, to which they apparently replied "Oh, nobody knows you're black!"
- There's another version of this story Smith has told, where he asked the producers something like, "Don't you think I look a bit different from the original actor?" and their reply was something to the effect of, "Yes, you're shorter, but no one will notice."
- This always happens to gay people, at least once, because unless you're terribly flaming or have a couple, there's no way to differentiate homosexuals from other people.
- And no matter what you do, it's impossible to tell if someone's bi. Given the amount of discrimination bisexuals face, this leads to a lot of Bi the Way moments.
- Similarly, this often happens to people with different neurotypes like autism, dyslexia, ADHD, etc, since it's impossible to tell just by looking.
- It's not uncommon for people to make jokes about ethnic minorities without realising that a member of said minority is standing within earshot.
Person A: *tells Asian joke*
Person B: *turns them around to face Person C right behind them, who is Asian*