The Streak: The feeling's mutual. You're a credit to your people, son.
John Stewart: Uh... thanks.
In some shows, ethnicity is mentioned so little that we could almost say the characters didn't believe in the idea that every person on earth can be classified as being a member of one distinct racial group (e.g. Nordic, Germanic, Japanese), and that all the people in those groups always share inherent, unique, and unchanging characteristics of both appearance and character i.e. racialism.
Then, out of the blue, someone will make a maybe-bigoted, maybe-innocuous remark to the Token Minority, often in the form of a backhanded compliment. The audience blinks, even if no-one on the show does. It's often a good and memorable way for an audience to discover a character's belief in races, but more importantly it showcases the speaker as being blunt, perhaps to the point of tactless, but well-meaning. They might well be an Innocent Bigot who sincerely has no idea that their beliefs are objectively invalid. In some cases, the comment comes from an already-established bigot, generally an unabashed one...in which case, it's probably meant as a rare moment of generosity, and best to take it that way.
Like every other cultural concept, this may be internalized, with an insecure character constantly worrying about being a credit to their own race (which is where Stop Being Stereotypical tends to come in).
What's most damaging about this attitude is its implication that people who are different from the majority need to earn respect not as individuals, but on behalf of their respective groups instead of having it granted to them as a basic courtesy.
Compare Positive Discrimination and Not Like Other Girls. May lead to Some of My Best Friends Are X, wince-inducing as the combination of the two usually is. Or even Boomerang Bigot, when the minority in question invokes this. Often plays a part in Condescending Compassion.
- The page image comes from JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Nazi officer Stroheim goes to a group of Mexican prisoners and makes them choose which one of them will be sacrificed to the "man in the column". One boy stands up to offer himself to save the rest, and Stroheim is so impressed by his bravery that he chooses to spare him and kill the rest (thus giving the boy exactly what he did not want).
- Black Lagoon has the old SS officer Albert complement Dutch with this after Dutch and Revy kill an entire shipload of neo-nazis who had failed him. He explains that although (the African-American) Dutch is an "inferior race" and that he sincerely hopes "his kind" will one day be exterminated, he's still quite impressed that they managed to defeat the entire crew and that he'd award Dutch an Iron Cross if he was white. Dutch retorts that he wouldn't have wanted it anyway and that he sincerely hopes the old cracker "rots in hell".
- A darker variation occurs in One Piece when Arlong goes into one of his racist tirades against humans and Nami tells him she's already heard it. Arlong apologizes to her, saying he would make an exception for her since she can't help what species she is. He continuously praises her skills as a navigator and says she's the one human he values the most.
- Later, Arlong says to Luffy that while the rest of humanity are rats, Nami is a cat. Any rebellious behaviour from her would be seen as cute.
- Arlong also respects Captain Nezumi for their mutual Money Fetish.
- Crocodile says this to Jimbei when he saves the Impel Down escapees by summoning whale sharks, noting that most Fishmen are just brutes (like Arlong above), a point that Jimbei doesn't deny.
- In The Heroic Legend of Arslan, Etoile believes all Parsians are heathens that need to be killed off. Arslan's kindness and genuine desire to improve the Pars kingdom makes Etoile acknowledge that Pars has at least one decent person.
- Tohru starts off feeling this way about Kobayashi in Miss Kobayashi's Dragon Maid, but it stops applying later on since Tohru's racism towards humans slowly fades.
- From Top 10: (the black) Det. Corbeau is stuck in a gladiator tournament on a parallel world where the Roman empire never ended and most "Nubians" are slaves. The announcer introduces him and his opponent, a robotic dinosaur, as: "John 'King Peacock' Corbeau of Precinct Ten, a credit to his race, and Delta 'Technozoic' 2401 of Precinct Seven, a credit to his manufacturers."
- In Uncanny Avengers, Nazi bastard Red Skull "compliments" Scarlet Witch by telling her she's quite beautiful... for someone of Jewish and Romani descent, that is.
- In ElfQuest, Picknose the troll at one point refers to Cutter's late father Bearclaw as "the only elf who was almost as smart as a troll". He actually means it as a backhanded compliment, but Cutter doesn't take it well.
- A Black Panther story had a Caucasian police sergeant get roped into helping fight off an invasion of the African country of Wakanda, leading one character to comment that he is not completely useless for a scrawny white man.
- This point is brought up in Ms. Marvel (2014) #15:
Nakia: It's like... being an immigrant kid... you have to be the best, 'cause if you're not, it's proof that your parents and their culture messed you up.
- In Rom vs. Transformers: Shining Armor several Space Knights tell Stardrive how lucky she is to not be a destructive monster like other Transformers. They're being sincere and are just Innocently Insensitive; their only knowledge of Transformers comes from biased secondhand accounts, so as far as they know the species is just a bunch of mindless Killer Robots and Stardrive is only nice because the Knights took her in when she was young. This means they also don't realize how much they're hurting Stardrive's feelings.
- In Lockjaw #1, D-Man's landlady attempts to compliment him by telling him that he's a nice gay man and not like those "scary gays" she sees on cable news.
- In Preconceptions, a crippled vampire asks an amnesiac Xander to stake him. Xander promises to knock him out first so he won't feel it, causing said vampire tell him "for a blood bag you're all right."
- A Changed World deals with Bajoran-on-Bajoran discrimination due to their now-abolished Fantastic Caste System. Fish out of Temporal Water Colonel Shad Yima, Va'telo (pilots, spacers, and sailors), spends most of the story criticizing Starfleet Captain Kanril Eleya, Ke'lora (laborers, tradesmen, and lawmen, and lower in the hierarchy than Va'telo), for being the CO of a starship. Late in the story there's this exchange:
Shad: I guess all Ke'lora aren't the same either. You handle your ship like a born Va'telo.
Eleya: (narrating) From her, I guess that passes for a compliment.
- Just like in the canon game, in Walking in Circles, Solas praises Evelyn by saying that he cant understand how someone as wise and compassionate as her could exist while her kind are nothing like that. This, of course, pisses her off and she instantly calls him out on that.
- Escape From the Moon: In the sequel The Mare From the Moon, Spliced Genome says this to her doctor, but realizes afterward that her words might be taken as offensive. Her attempts to apologize lead to a case of Digging Yourself Deeper.
- In Amazing Fantasy, Dr. Tsubasa is impressed that the immune system of a Quirkless kid like Izuku could weather out the spider's venom with no ill effects. Izuku is naturally hurt by the repeated mention of his Quirklessness, but Tsubasa, who told Izuku to give up on his dream of becoming a Hero ten years ago, doesn't notice or seem to care.
- Despite retaining his canon Fantastic Racism against Muggles, Lucius Malfoy feels this way about Nick Fury, who was his equal and opposite during the war against Voldemort. Of course, he still absolutely loathes Fury, which has a lot to do with the fact that after the war, Fury came looking for revenge. The resulting Offscreen Moment of Awesome is the reason Fury's missing an eye, and that Lucius walks with a limp, is on his second wand, and had to rebuild Malfoy Manor (Fury used napalm to make his point).
- Disney's Pocahontas has this play out when John Smith meets the titular Pocahontas, and assures her that she is not a savage, which she throws back at him with an accusatory "No, just my people."
- In Felidae, Bluebeard believes that Humans Are Bastards, but he thinks Francis's owner is a very good cook.
- In Zootopia, when Nick gets upset at Judy because she was provoked into delivering a press conference that was discriminatory towards predator species, Nick calls her out on this, leading to a Heel Realization from Judy.
Judy: Nick. Stop it. You're not like them.Nick: Oh, there's a them now...Judy: You know what I mean. You're not that kind of predator.
- In Aliens, Bishop uses a fantastical non-malicious version after Ripley disposes of the Alien Queen. For the sake of context, Ripley has made it very clear she hates and despises synthetics, especially after another unit from the same line as Bishop went bad on her previous mission.
Bishop: Not bad for a human.
- In Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, Raoul Duke describes Doctor Gonzo, his lawyer/partner in crime, as being very important to him "in spite of his racial handicap" while the man is sitting right next to him. Gonzo is tripping too many balls to care. Interestingly, right before he starts making these racist comments, he asks if the guy he's speaking to is prejudiced, implying he doesn't judge people based on race. And then immediately disproves it.
- Spoofed in the Woody Allen flick Scoop; Allen's character says those exact words to so many people he meets it's practically his Catchphrase, never mind that all of those people are white, British aristocrats.
- The main character of the World War II film A Soldier's Story is a black Army Captain (not to be confused with a Captain in armed anarchist groups during the Russian Revolution), which at the time was utterly unheard of, as the Army was still segregated at this point. He was sent to an base in Louisiana to investigate the murder of a black sergeant. The Colonel of the base clearly doesn't want him there, but has orders to comply and gives the captain this speech before he begins his investigation:
Colonel: Remember, you're the first colored officer most of these men ever seen. The Army expects you to set an example for the colored troops... and be a credit to your race.
- District 9 has an alien vs. human variation early on, when Wikus van de Merwe and the MNU camera crew are trying to evict the aliens from the titular slum. When they hand alien Christopher Johnson a clipboard with the paperwork, he asks why he's being evicted, (rightly) points out that what they're doing is illegal, they're required by law to give him 24 hours advance warning before an eviction. Wikus then turns to his colleagues to discuss their strategy.
Wikus: (speaking about Christopher) This one's a little sharper than the others, yeah?
- The Star Trek (2009) movie has Spock welcomed into the Vulcan Science Academy in such a manner. "It is truly remarkable, Spock, that you have achieved so much, despite your disadvantage [ ] Your human mother". Spock declines the offer (reminding them that by their own metric, their perfect record of accepting the offer to join among Vulcans still stands, as he is a "half-human" instead) and then turns it back on them with a viciously subtexted "Live long and prosper" that sounds like a Precision F-Strike. Brilliantly paraphrased by someone as "Live long and prosper... and the horse you rode in on" or "Live long and suck it!" Many fans also translate it as "Live long and fuck you."
- In Star Wars: The Phantom Menace, Watto describes Anakin as a credit to his species. Of course, most humans can't do what Anakin can.
- Underworld: Rise of the Lycans: 7 minutes in. "You are a credit to your race," said by Viktor to Lucian. Probably done deliberately to highlight his twisted father/son relationship with Lucian.
- Happens to black Yo-less in Johnny and the Bomb. It's to be expected in World War II-era England, though.
- This is one of the primary ideas discussed in the superhero satire, Tales of the Astonishing Black Spark ; The satire discusses this both in its subtext, and directly. Donald sees himself as "one of the smart ones" in reference to his race. He is constantly referenced as "speaking well" and lacks, for the most part, the ability to use AAVE (African-American Vernacular English). However, these things act just as detrimental to his psyche as they are in making him, to certain people, 'exceptional'.
- In A Conspiracy of Paper, the protagonist is Jewish and one scene has him conversing with several intellectual friends, all of whom are presented as enlightened people. They are all of the opinion that Jews are basically Always Chaotic Evil and view the protagonist as one of the few exceptions.
- Harry Potter:
Draco Malfoy: "Arthur Weasley loves Muggles so much he should snap his wand in half and go and join them. You'd never know the Weasleys were purebloods, the way they behave."
- Professor Horace Slughorn seems to honestly realize that prejudice based on blood purity is wrong, but still seems surprised that the Muggleborn Lily was so talented and naturally assumes that Tom Riddle is from some old, noble family, which was true on one side but not the other. He also seems to take this attitude with Hermione. His surprise seems to be based less on the concept of blood purity, and more on the idea that Muggleborns would have a harder adapting to the Wizard society, having been raised without knowing about magic. Or at the very least, he's willing to look past his prejudice.
- Speaking of Tom Riddle, it is highly suggested (both in the books proper and in Rowling's comments) that he views himself as a credit to his race. To wit, Tom Riddle's genocidal hatred of Muggles stems from his own half-Muggle heritage. To compensate for this, Riddle (as Voldemort) has developed a huge sense of self. Furthermore, it's also suggested that Voldemort is willing to accept half-bloods and even Muggle-borns into the Death Eaters based on certain conditions. For the former group, it could be suggested that he looks at Death Eaters whose wizarding ancestors are particularly prominent, like himself and Severus Snape. However, it's not so much "You Are a Credit to Your Race" as it is "You are such a good follower for me that I don't care if you're not pure-blood". Given how Voldemort is based loosely off of Hitler (see below), this has some historical precedent.
- In an inversion, the Malfoy and Black families see the Weasleys as a disgrace to wizardkind despite them being a pureblood family, calling them "blood traitors;" one member of the Black family was even disowned for marrying a Weasley.
- Speaking of Snape, it's possible that he viewed his friend/crush Lily Evans (Muggle-born) as this during their Hogwarts years. During this time period, Snape also hung around many Slytherins, most of whom became Death Eaters and therefore did not share his (barely) enlightened views. Of course, given how Snape is more or less intolerant of anyone who isn't Lily or Dumbledore, it's not really this trope, but rather You are the only one I actually like.
- In the Discworld book Jingo, this comes up a few times. For example, Sgt. Colon says that a fellow who runs a Klatchian takeaway is "not bad for a raghead". This may be Pretend Prejudice, though, because Sgt. Colon eats there regularly, and while he believes absurd things about Klatchians, he doesn't actually mistreat any of them. There's some Truth in Television behind this: many people in real life will hold very negative views of a particular race, yet still like and respect individual members of said race. note
- In Malevil, Emmanuel makes a comment concerning his foreign lover Birgitta. He "complements" her work ethic as "not being backwards" before stating Germans have no real sense of direction or motivation.
- Done frequently in Hilari Bell's Trickster's Girl. The shapeshifter Raven has a very poor opinion of humans, but thinks well of Kelsa. Whenever he lets her know this, she's too offended by his opinion of humanity to care that she's being complimented.
- The Lord of the Rings: The book is filled with Fantastic Racism. For example, Frodo shares his view of the Big People (Men) and Aragorn (Strider) with Gandalf:
Frodo: For I have become very fond of Strider. Well, fond is not the right word. I mean he is dear to me; though he is strange, and grim at times. In fact, he reminds me often of you. I didn't know that any of the Big People were like that. I thought, well, that they were just big, and rather stupid: kind and stupid like Butterbur; or stupid and wicked like Bill Ferny. But then we don't know much about Men in the Shire, except perhaps the Breelanders.
Gandalf: You don't know much even about them, if you think old Barliman is stupid...
- In Animorphs, Andalites are very prejudiced against the disabled, or vecols, and expect them to live lives of quiet isolation so as not to bring shame to their families. In one book, the main characters discover a famous Andalite Ace Pilot who was permanently crippled in his last mission and is hiding out on Earth. Ax makes bigoted remarks about him throughout the whole book and even gripes about having to rescue him. But in the end, when they finally meet face to face, Ax promises to "remember him as he was", or to pretend the pilot died in battle instead of becoming a vecol. This is intended as and is taken as a great compliment.
- Averted in Nathaniel Hawthorne's The House of Seven Gables. In Hawthorne's time (1851), the expression did not refer to ethnicity, but rather to family.
"Judge Pyncheon was unquestionably an honor to his race. He had built himself a country seat within a few miles of his native town, and there spent such portions of his time as could be spared from public service in the display of every grace and virtue—as a newspaper phrased it on the eve of an election—befitting the Christian, the good citizen, the horticulturist, and the gentleman.""As for Matthew Maule's posterity, it was supposed now to be extinct. For a very long period after the witchcraft delusion, however, the Maules had continued to inhabit the town where their progenitor had suffered so unjust a death. To all appearances, they were a quiet, honest, well-meaning race of people, cherishing no malice against individuals or the public, for the wrong which had been done them; or if, at their own fireside, they transmitted, from father to child, any hostile recollections of the wizard's fate, and their lost patrimony, it was never acted upon, nor openly expressed.""Phoebe, it must be understood, was that one little off-shoot of the Pyncheon race to whom we have already referred, as a native of a rural part of New England, where the old fashions and feelings of relationship are still partially kept up."
- The Hearts We Sold: The Daemon, along with most of his kind, doesn't think very highly of humans. (Not that he hates them or anything he just thinks of them as interesting but inconsequential at best, and annoying wrenches in his plans at worst.) The exception to this is the heartless troop, a group of human teenagers on his payroll. After they've proven themselves multiple times over. Dee, in particular, seems to be a human that has his respect.
- Played for Laughs in The Hate U Give. Starr's friends from Garden Heights all claim that Chris is alright... for a white guy, anyway. Even Starr, who's dating him and loves him dearly, can't resist slipping in a few jokes of her own. Chris, for his part, is flustered at first, but still finds their teasing to be Actually Pretty Funny, and laughs, too.
- In Magik Online, Concordia, an empire built around dragon superiority and conquest of lesser species, openly practices exceptionalism; three of its Ministers (the highest ranks below the Grandmaster) are non-dragons (A Bullman, a Hob, with Brina's species a mystery). Though emphasis should be placed on exceptional, you have to be particularly skilled, intelligent, and powerful if you want to break the glass ceiling.
- Percy Jackson and the Olympians:
- Mister D, aka Dionysus, does not like demigods, and is anything but friendly to those at Camp Halfblood. That sounds strange, because he was once a demigod and later made to a pure god, and he has also children with human women. However, he does seem to like his own children, and later he tells Percy that he's fine for a demigod.
- Annabeth and Percy's half-brother Tyson start like this. Tyson is a cyclop, and Annabeth and her friends have been attacked by vicious cyclops in the past. When he shows on his first mission how heroic he is, Annabeth plays this trope as she says he is not like other cyclops. In the course of the plot, they become real friends, to the point that Annabeth breaks some rules of the camp for his sake.
- Zoe Nightshade is a special case. Like almost all Hunter of Artemis, she despises and hates men (and even boys). But after experiencing an adventure with Percy and seeing him and his actions, she makes an exception for him among the men. But this is more a variant of You are a credit to your gender.
- The Mortal Instruments
- Alec Lightwood dislikes vampires. Most shadowhunters do not like downworlders, but he especially hates vampires. He also makes insulting vampires several times, even when Simon is nearby. But he always emphasizes to Simon that he is not like the others.
- In Tales of the Shadowhunter Academy Simon is no longer a vampire, but has become an mundane again. And the other shadowhunters he trains with are always referring to mundanes, but then they point out that Simon is not like the other mundanes. This leads to one of Simon's rare tantrums, and to tell them his opinion very loudly.
- All in the Family: Used occsionally, and with all sincerity, by TV's best-known bigot, Archie Bunker.
- During "Spin the Bottle", a fourth season episode of Angel, the principal characters botch a spell which causes their memories to revert to the age of about 15. As Angel himself was sired as a vampire in 18th century Ireland at age 26, his 15-year-old personality comes across with a rather biased world view, typified by this exchange spoken while Wesley and Gunn were grappling each other.
Cordelia: Aren't you going to stop them?
Angel/Liam: It's about time the English got what was coming to them. I'm rooting for the slave.
- Jerri Blank says exactly this to her friend Orlando in an episode of Strangers with Candy, where he is frequently one of the countless racial/ethnic/sexual/religious minorities she will offend in the course of the day (or would offend, if any character in the show were capable of being offended by anything):
Jerri: You're a credit to your race, simian.
Orlando: You're a good friend, Jerri. *pat*
Jerri: Don't touch me.
- On WKRP in Cincinnati, Mr. Carlson almost called Venus a credit to his race, but caught himself and awkwardly changed it.
- Papa Titus from Titus was created as being so far beyond being un-P.C. that his comments turn right around and could almost be considered compliments.
Ken Titus: What's the hurry? Your fifteen kids will still be waiting for you when you get home!
Castro: Sí, señor. But I have to go feed the donkey, put on a big sombrero and go sleep underneath a tree, you racist Irish drunk.Ken Titus: That's my kind of Mexican!
- Also when Titus introduced Ken to his new black friend Roger who just moved to the neighborhood, Ken politely greets him, then adds, "This is the first time I ever saw a black man move a TV into a house."
- Star Trek:
- From Star Trek: The Original Series episode "Who Mourns For Adonais," Apollo has this to say of the archaeology and ancient culture expert of the Enterprise crew:
Apollo: You seem wise, for a woman.
- Q, a Sufficiently Advanced Alien from Star Trek: The Next Generation, more or less feels this way about Picard. At every possible chance he gets Q makes fun of the inadequacies of the human race, but shows special interest in Picard whom he frequently tests to prove the worth of the human species. As Picard passes these tests Q praises Picard for his abilities and tells him that he above all other humans he has met proves the potential for greatness that humanity possesses. Beyond even that Q actually went so far as to say Picard is the closet thing he has to a friend in all the universe, above even his own race!
- Also in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode "Favor the Bold", when Damar asks Quark to taste his kanar, to show that it isn't poisoned.
Quark: Poisoning customers is bad for business.
Damar: True. But some people may place a brother's revenge above business.
Quark: Not this Ferengi.
[Quark makes to taste the kanar. Damar takes the glass from him.]
Damar: You're a credit to your race, Quark. Unlike your brother, you've chosen to back the winning side.
- Of course, in true Ferengi fashion, Quark is just liquoring Damar up (again) to pump him for information (again) to serve his own agenda, and playing the part so Damar won't suspect anything.
- From Star Trek: The Original Series episode "Who Mourns For Adonais," Apollo has this to say of the archaeology and ancient culture expert of the Enterprise crew:
- Deconstructed in That Mitchell and Webb Look. Jesus delivers the parable of the Good Samaritan, which his disciples find offensive as it implies that goodness in a Samaritan is uncommon enough to be worthy of notice. From a historical perspective, this actually isn't far off there was a major religious schism between the Samaritans and the Jews, and the point of the story is that a Samaritan, who would be expected to rejoice in bad fortune for a Jew, helped the injured man while his own religious leaders ignored him.
- Parodied in an episode of The Muppet Show. Statler and Waldorf are commenting on one of the guests, and one of them comments on the performer being a credit to their race. The other asks "What race is that?" and the reply is "The hundred-yard dash." Dohohos follow.
- Subverted in Doctor Who, in the Jon Pertwee storyline "The Green Death". When the Doctor meets Dr. Clifford Jones, he mentions that he read one of Dr. Jones' papers, saying that it was "brilliant for his age". Subverted in that the Doctor didn't mean Dr. Jones' physical age, but the age in which he lived (early 1970s).
- The Minbari Proud Warrior Race Guy Neroon in Babylon 5 complements the human Sinclair (who belongs to a species he had once tried to genocide, and dismisses as inferior) in this way when Sinclair makes a profound speech about his dead war leader.
Neroon: You talk like a Minbari, Commander. Perhaps there was some small wisdom in letting your species survive.
- In a later episode, he gives a similar speech regarding ranger Marcus Cole, saying that, at that point, the human had been "more Minbari than I".
- What makes the first instance Hilarious in Hindsight is that Sinclair is also Valen, the holy figure who shaped Minbari society for the thousand years since the Last Shadow War. Meaning Sinclair doesn't "talk like a Minbari"; the Minbari talk like Sinclair.
- In Being Human (US), Suren, a vampire, attempts to compliment Josh, a werewolf, on his housekeeping, and tells him that he's "a credit to his kind." Josh's girlfriend takes this as a Jewish slur. Aidan covers by saying she meant keeps clean house for a guy.
- In Farscape, Jool and D'Argo have been stuck on a planet for a while after becoming separated from Moya. One of Jool's fellow Interions makes a derogatory remark about D'Argo being Luxan, and Jool tries to reassure him that Interions are just taught that Luxans are inferior. In response, D'Argo gives her an Armor-Piercing Question about what she thinks.
Jool: (quietly, nervously) I think you're an unusual Luxan.
- iZombie: In "Grumpy Old Liv," Liv is under the influence of the brains of a racist old man. At one point, she's being harassed by a guy at the police station, and Clive shuts the guy up. Liv says, "Thanks, Clive. You're one of the good ones."
- Blake's 7 however uses the trope in an overt insult (albeit not a racial one).
Kasabi: But don't try and browbeat me Servalan. Or have you forgotten that I knew you as a cadet? You were a credit to your background: spoilt, idle, vicious!
- Buddy Lee Promotions used "a credit to her race" as one of their selling points when advertising Sweet Georgia Brown during the 1960s.
- Lenny Bruce, in character, uses the trope name almost word for word during his satirical skit "How to Relax your Colored Friends at Parties".
- Chris Rock once illustrated the absurdity of such statements in a routine where he tracked the progress of African-Americans based on various individuals who were frequently cited as a credit or debit to his race (Martin Luther King Jr., Beyonce, etc.), as if it were a board game. When he got to Tiger Woods, the game piece advanced several squares, only for Rock to remark, "But we can only claim about a quarter of him!" and then moved several squares backwards.
- In GURPS Alternate Earths, one of the alternate timelines is dominated by Muslims. In this world, "Muslim" is seen as a synonym for "civilized", and if a Muslim calls a Chinese or European "almost Muslim", we have this trope.
- In Pathfinder elves are described as often assuming superior attitudes towards other races in general while being able to see the good qualities in individual members. It even mentions that they may not understand why their friend doesn't appreciate compliments about being so much better than the rest of their race.
- The Orks of Warhammer 40,000 generally perceive all other races to be weak and puny, but while they're not capable of affection or tolerance, they do respect an enemy that can provide them with a good fight. The prime example would be Ghazghkull Mag Uruk Thraka, the single most powerful Ork warlord in the galaxy, and his appreciation of Commissar Sebastian Yarrick. Ever since the human stymied his siege of Helsreach, Ghazghkull came to regard Yarrick as "the bestest humie ever", even letting him go after capturing him, because he wanted to ensure there was a proper fight waiting for him when he returned to Armageddon.
"All humies is weak scum dat deserved t'get stomped. 'cept for One-Eye Yarrick. He know how ter fight."
- Note that this is entirely one-sided: Yarrick bears nothing but seething hatred towards his number one fan, wishing only to see Ghazghkull killed as quickly as possible for the billions of lives he has on his hands.
- In the famous Warcraft III custom map Defense of the Ancients: All-Stars, Kardel Sharpeye the Dwarven Sniper is said to be "a testament to his name and race".
- The Vasudan officer debriefing you in a mission from Freespace 2, when you're in an officer exchange program, compliments you this way. To be fair, the two races had fought a 14-year war since their first contact, which was ended (and turned into an alliance) to face the Shivans, and they've come a long way since then in a mere 32 years. Despite the lingering stereotyping, racism, etc, this case is more along the lines of a very high military award. Heck, many such awards in today's militaries are worded along the lines of "your actions reflect great honor upon your unit and were in keeping with the highest traditions of the Navy." However, there are a few other times in the game where this happens, but they're always genuinely well-meaning compliments. This is not quite the case in the first game.
- If you fly with Vasudan wingmen, one of their battle comments is "Impressive, for a Terran."
- Marcus Fox from Pirate 101 is a "credit to his class" who managed to work his way up to the position of Head Programmer in the Engineering Corps, despite being a lowly fox. Subverted when it turns out he's a Radical who only joined the Engineering Corps to sabotage the war effort.
- In Deus Ex: Human Revolution, Brent Radford is quite possibly the most vocal anti-aug in the game, and will keep hurling insults at Jensen even if he tries to save his life. The closest thing to a compliment you can get out of him (and only if you go through the right dialog path) is when he claims Jensen has "a lot of heart...for a robot".
- Granblue Fantasy: After Al-Khalid is defeated in "A Thousand Reasons", he explains that all he wanted was to bring glory to the Harvin race by making a fame of himself, and that he admires Harvins who hold high rankings in society (Harvins are physically small and stout like dwarves, compared to the normal Humans and Erunes and the towering and large male Draphs). Because of their physical appearance, Al-Khalid believes that the Harvin race struggles against combat more than the other races. He then mentions the "Captain of the Lumiel Knights" as one of those he admires, indirectly referring to Charlotta.
- In Mass Effect, Garrus can tell Wrex that he's been raised to see the krogan as savage thugs, but Wrex has surprised him. "You are different." Wrex is about as impressed as Spock, and suggests Garrus go back to the ship, lest staying in the real world force him to actually learn something.
- A similar conversation plays out between Kaidan and Wrex, where he comments that Wrex isn't anything like what he expected from a krogan. Wrex sarcastically replies "Sure, because humans have a wide variety of cultures and traditions, but all krogan think and act exactly alike." Kaidan apologizes, and Wrex accepts (in his own way).
- Wrex is, however, an odd case. By his own admission nearly all krogan are blood knights and have been reduced to little more than petty thugs and mercenaries. While he himself can come off this way it is a façade because that is what is expected of krogan, and he shows deep regret at his inability to help his people because of the fundamental aspects of their species. He does enjoy fighting an awful lot, though, and tends to troll people a lot (especially Kaidan) through his deadpan sarcasm
- A similar conversation plays out between Kaidan and Wrex, where he comments that Wrex isn't anything like what he expected from a krogan. Wrex sarcastically replies "Sure, because humans have a wide variety of cultures and traditions, but all krogan think and act exactly alike." Kaidan apologizes, and Wrex accepts (in his own way).
- Fallout: New Vegas.
- If you get the Boomers' respect, they start being impressed at how competent you are "for a savage" (i.e. a non-Boomer). Some of them even try to correct themselves from calling you "savage" and call you "outsider" instead.
- Similarly, the Brotherhood of Steel can be quite (unintentionally) patronizing towards you as well, even if you have a high standing with them.
- A female Courier gets the same treatment from Caesar's Legion if she decides to side with them, as they are staggeringly sexist yet have to pin all their hopes on a woman.
- In Fallout 2, the highest compliment that the super mutant Marcus has for his old friend Jacob is that he would have been a great mutant, had the Master succeeded in turning everyone into mutants. As Jacob was a Brotherhood Paladin who dedicated much of his life to fighting the Master, he didn't see this as a compliment. (Downplayed, though, in that Marcus doesn't hate humans in the least; he just thinks they'd have been better off as mutants.)
- Minsc in Baldur's Gate II will openly praise Mazzy Fentan for being such a good warrior despite being so short. Subverted in that Mazzy realizes that Minsc isn't racist, but just very earnest and used to saying things outright without social context. Minsc also apologizes once Boo points this trope out to him.
- In Star Wars: The Old Republic, the Imperial Agent can be played to be quite a bigot towards aliens and can quote the trope name verbatim when prompted. Kaliyo (and most of your crew for that matter) disapprove of this bigotry. On the flipside, if the Agent is an alien, they'll be on the receiving end of this, in particular from their handler, Watcher Two, who at one point praises them for their "alien mind".
- An alien Bounty Hunter will also get a lot of this from Imperials, with even less respect. After all, they are merely a mercenary on Imperial payroll. The Sith classes downplay it (in the case of the Inquisitor, who starts as a slave) or avert it (with the Warrior, who comes from a respected Sith family), as the Sith are not just the ruling class and untouchable by law, but it's less about ethnicity and more "can you stab the other guy faster than he stabs you?"
- In The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword, Big Bad Demise has nothing but praise for Link when he raises his sword to him, recalling that the humans when he was sealed did little more than run and cower behind their Goddess. This extends to after you beat him, when his last words are shocked compliments towards Link for fighting with such power for a mortal. His habit of complimenting you makes him come across as less evil than his minion Ghirahim, even though he himself is the God of Evil.
- Dragon Age II:
- This is the Arishok's opinion of Hawke, if you earn his respect (in this case, Hawke doesn't represent humans so much as "everyone not of the Qun"). The Qunari even have a term for examples of this trope, "basalit-an", which means "outsider worthy of respect". Including both the games and tie-in comics, only four characters are shown to earn this rank: the three player characters (potentially) and Alistair.
- While Fenris despises almost all mages, he has this opinion of Bethany or a Mage Hawke. He gains a great deal of respect for them for their ability to control their power and temptation, and believes that they have proven themselves strong enough that they do not need the supervision of the Circle.
- Dragon Age: Inquisition:
"Qunari are savage creatures, their ferocity held in check only by the rigid demands of the Qun. Yet you have shown a subtlety in your actions, a wisdom that goes against everything I know of your people."
- Solas is an elven mage who does not particularly identify with Dalish or city elves, and has issues with the Qunari and dwarves to boot. If your Inquisitor earns his respect, he's so confused that they could exceed his expectations that he asks if their Mark has altered their morals in some way.
- This can also be inverted if Solas's approval drops too low, at which point he will berate the Inquisitor for validating every negative stereotype about their kind.
- Sera dislikes society's elite, believing that they always oppress the little guys. This includes mages, since she thinks their power puts them above others. She also dislikes fellow Elves, especially the Dalish. If an Inquisitor who is one or more of these (such as a Dalish Mage) manages to earn high approval from her, some of her comments have this tone.
- In The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, Athis, a Dunmer member of the Companions (a band of warriors who live by traditionally Nordic values) notes how Skjor, a senior member of the group told him that "even an elf can be born with a heart of a Nord". Athis remarks that Skjor probably meant it as a compliment, and one of the books available in the game reveals that he actually did; he was quoting a previous Companion, who was talking about the first Elven Harbinger. Back then, this was the sign of a major improvement, as Nords are well-known to be rather xenophobic, especially against elves. Skjor was comparing Athis to a previous Harbinger, so he really meant it as a major compliment, but this ended up sounding a bit racist in the recent context. For his part, Athis is more amused than anything and simply rolled with it.
- An/Other - A Game For Social Change: Discussed. Jeff, your co-worker, goes, "You're a credit to your... y'know...", implying the phrase.
- Inverted by the Ma-non in Xenoblade Chronicles X. Even after a xenophobe attempted to round up and exterminate a large crowd of them under the guise of a inter-species relations seminar, the would-be victims quite amicably tell Rook that they know every race has its bad examples and they aren't going to tar all humanity with the same brush due to one extremist.
- Pillars of Eternity: During one bit of Party Banter, Eders xenophobic small-town heritage shines through when he slips up and calls Hiravias "one of the good orlans". Hiravias lets it slide because he knows Eder didnt mean anything by it, though not before some snarky comments.
- This strip has this. Satau, a primitive dog, is questioned on how he can be so distrusting and prejudiced towards cats while still trying to rescue Grape, a cat, from danger. Satau responds that she "clearly has the spirit of a dog" and thus doesn't count. Tarot isn't impressed by his logic.
- In another strip Jata, the leopard prince of an animal-ruled micronation directly refers to a human as "a credit to your species".
- This Manly Guys Doing Manly Things strip, which illustrates gaining Solas' respect as a Qunari. The Inquisitor's response is (sadly) not available to the Player Character.
- The above Justice League quote. The Streak, a World War II superhero who is an Expy of the Golden Age Flash... and his attitude would probably be progressive for the era, as he's being completely sincere; John (who is black) is polite enough to take the condescending "compliment" in the spirit it was intended, although he does sound a mite frustrated at the same time.
- On Gargoyles Elisa gets some version of this from Brooklyn, the Guatemala gargoyles, and Taurus.
- Hey Arnold!, "Phoebe Cheats": It is suggested to Principal Wartz that he honor Phoebe, one of the few Asian characters in the show, since she just won a poetry contest.
Principal Wartz: We're proud of our multicultural students here at P.S. 118. Where do you come from, Phoebe?Phoebe: Kentucky, sir.
Principal Wartz: Well, Phoebe, let's make Ken-Tu-Kay proud on Thursday with a prize-winning poem.
- In a bizarre response, he fails to realize Kentucky is a state, and pronounces it in an exaggerated "Asian" manner.
- In the Futurama episode "Mars University", Guenter the chimpanzee replies to Fry's question of "My roommate's a monkey?" with "Brilliant deduction. You are a credit to your species."
- Subverted in an episode of Teen Titans, when Noble Bigot guest hero Val-Yor turns out to be offensively racist towards Starfire's Tamaranian species. As expected, Starfire eventually saves his life, and Val-Yor learns his aesop... that Starfire is obviously one of the "good ones". Neither Starfire nor her friends are impressed, and Val-Yor takes this as a reason to disregard everything he had learned during the episode.
- In The Venture Bros., original Team Venture member Col. Horace Gentleman, a decidedly "old-school" Adventurer Archaeologist, introduces the Venture brothers to teammate Kano, an Asian, and tells them "Despite his racial handicap, Kano here is a crackerjack pilot." Which itself is a reference to Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.
- A humorous inversion from Futurama, when Fry thinks he's a robot and saves everyone.
Bender: You're a credit to my race!
- In an episode of Extreme Ghostbusters, Garrett reunites with an old childhood friend who turns out to be the member of a racist gang that attacked a Jewish temple. Roland senses this from the beginning, but no one believes him, thinking he's being too sensitive. At the end of the episode, after the Ghostbusters captured the Monster of the Week, one of the gang members tells Roland: "I guess there's some use for 'you' people after all." Roland responds by almost punching him, but decides the racist isn't worth it.
- Downplayed but in Adventures of the Gummi Bears, Cavin (and to some extent, Calla) is given the trust of many Gummis but outside of the Glen Gummis, none of them really seem to change their opinion of humans in general even as they come to trust Cavin with their lives.
- In Steven Universe, after tying in the "Robolympics" and beating Pearl in a giant robot fight in "Back to the Barn", Peridot compliments Pearl on being such a knowledgeable technician...in terms of how remarkable such a thing is for a Pearl anyway.
- The Legend of Korra has the aye-aye spirit, which people do not like, and regularly pulls over them. When he meets Wan, they make friends. Later, the aye-aye spirit makes an exception for Wan, but still does not like the other humans.
- In The Dragon Prince, nobody trusts elves and openly attacks them, given the chance, because of the ongoing war and past grievances between the elven and human kingdoms. This trope frequently occurs when characters try to defuse a violent encounter.
Soren: She's an elf!Callum: But a good elf!Rayla: What do you mean, [in a mockingly deeper voice] buh, uh good elf?!
- In the Love, Death & Robots short "Good Hunting", Liang demonstrates his knowledge of a steam engine, which prompts the comment "You're very clever for a Chinaman" from the Englishman watching him work.
- In the memoir It's Hard not to Hate You, the narrator's elderly aunt has a habit of implying this. The implications grow more and more obvious until...
Aunt: Really, he's a credit to his...Narrator [panicked]: Okay, stop right there!
- Subverted by sports journalist Jimmy Cannon, who wrote: "Joe Louis is a credit to his race the human race."
- Joe Biden infamously remarked that Barack Obama is a "...mainstream African-American who's articulate, clean, and bright". Biden later served as Obama's Vice President.
- In 1940, when Hattie McDaniel won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for playing Mammy in Gone with the Wind, she stated in her acceptance speech that "I sincerely hope I shall always be a credit to my race and to the motion picture industry." It Makes Sense in Context. This was back in the days when it was "appropriate" behavior for blacks (and to a lesser degree, whites) to consider themselves separate races. When the film premiered, in still-segregated Atlanta, she was "ill" and unavailable to attend, or so the story goes. Had she shown up, she might have had to sit in the section reserved for Negroes.
- Used completely sincerely by General George Patton when addressing a colored unit: "You guys are a credit to your race. You're here because I asked for the best. Now go out there and kick some Kraut ass."
- Adolf Hitler and other Nazis are known to have made exceptions to their ideological dogma about 'lesser races' if it served their purposes.
- Hitler's mother, to whom he was devoted, was dying of breast cancer when he was still a teenager. Struggling financially, he begged her Jewish-Austrian doctor Eduard Bloch to help his mother, who then did most of the medical examinations and assistance for reduced prices or pro bono. Although his mother did die, he granted the doctor eternal gratitude, describing him as an Ehrenjude ("noble Jew"). When the Nazis' persecution of the Austrian Jews began in 1938, he placed the doctor under SS protection and allowed him to emigrate from Germany after Bloch contacted him.
- Hitler also gave the title of Honorary Aryan to some Jews, such as World War I veterans, and to the entire Japanese nation. He also once expressed admiration for the Chinese, and really wanted the Japanese and Chinese to stop fighting each other and team up against the Allies.
- In addition, to honor the fact that Field Marshal Erhard Milch, whose father was Jewish, was one of his favorite minions, Hitler issued Milch a "German Blood Certificate," and had Nazi propaganda master Joseph Goebbles rewrite Milch's family tree, while stating "Wer Jude ist, bestimme ich" (I decide who is a Jew).
- Hitler was also a fan of several Jewish performers. He would make a point of commenting that it was too bad they were not an Aryan every single time he attended one of their performances.
- Himmler is quoted complaining about how loyal Nazis who support genocide nonetheless all seemed to harbor a Jewish friend. His complaints paint the portrait of a perfect Ignored Aesop: Rather than see the Jews they actually know as evidence against their prejudice, Nazis all simply write them off as the strange exception to the rule they've already decided to believe.
- Fritz Lang was famously approached by Joseph Goebbels and informed that Adolf Hitler was so impressed by his film-making abilities that he would be offered membership in the Nazi Party and control over Nazi film productions in spite of his Jewish ancestry.note Lang chose to flee the country instead. All that we know about this encounter is from the mouth of Lang himself, so its veracity is somewhat questionable.
- Ann Coulter once claimed that "To become a black Republican, you don't just roll into it. You're not going with the flow...and that's why we have very impressive blacks in the Republican party. (...) And that's why our blacks are so much better than their blacks".
- Asian-American playwright Frank Chin coined the term "racist love" to describe this sort of attitude. According to this trope, a "good" minority is one that whites can control while a "bad" minority is one that they cannot. A term in very much the same spirit is that of "model minority", implying that certain minorities are of greater worth compared to others and a "credit to minority races" as it were.
- Back when Mexico and the Central American and South American Nations were still "The Viceroyalty of New Spain" and "The Viceroyalty of Peru" (all together being Spanish America or Hispanic America), the Spanish had a complex race-based hierarchy with 32 levels for varying racial mixes, which put pure indigenous Americans and black Africans at the bottom, pure Europeans at the top (further distinguishing between those born in the metropole and those born in their American colonies). However, it was possible to get a new certificate stating you were of a "higher" race if you performed some great service (such as collaborating in the defeat of the pre-Columbian American empires) to the Spanish crown... or just gave them a large sum of money.
- Played straight by William Lloyd Garrison, a white abolitionist who wrote the original introduction to Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass when it was published in 1845. He says that Douglass "need[ed] nothing but a comparatively small amount of cultivation to make him an ornament to society and a blessing to his race." The implication that Douglass needed the cultivation of white men in order to become a "blessing to his race" also makes this Fair for Its Day.
- Infamously, a 1958 CIA document describes Che Guevara as "fairly intellectual for a Latino."
- For a long time, the nation of Japan internalized this, harboring an inferiority complex compared to all other (mostly Western) nations and being very sensitive to Japanese people "embarrassing" themselves in front of foreigners. Japanese citizens who looked weak on the world stage (or who even allegedly looked weak) were sometimes expected to go as far as to kill themselves in order to restore national honor.
- Serdar Somuncu is a German comedian born in Turkey who became famous for his work of reading Adolf Hitler's Mein Kampf in a way that makes it funny (It Makes Sense in Context). He dealt with this attitude towards his status as a foreigner and how many people would talk to or about him like that.
- During his presidential campaign, Donald Trump pledged to enact a law that would ban Muslims from entering the US. However, he did congratulate Sadiq Khan for becoming the first Muslim mayor of London and offered to exempt him from the proposed ban.
- Khan's response (basically saying that he had no intention whatsoever of being an "exception" to a law which targeted every other member of his faith because of their faith), made it very clear that he found this trope fully as offensive as one would expect.
- Trump also had a spectacularly horrifying moment in front of the Republican Jewish Coalition where he spewed off a stream of stereotypes about Jews such as "good lawyers", "hard bargainers", and "good with money". In many ways, Trump's statements mirrored those of prominent antisemites except that from Trump's point of view, these were compliments.
- In an example relating to mental health: this blogpost discusses how parents who refuse to vaccinate their children out of fear that their children will develop autism from it essentially have decided that autism is a Fate Worse than Death and that the risk of infecting people with deadly illnesses is worth it to prevent autism in kids. The author, who has high-functioning autism, talks about how these people contrast her from those with low-functioning autism in what is essentially an ableist version of this trope.
Ive been told by some anti-vaxxers that they dont mean my brand of autism; they mean non-verbal autism, or as they are so fond of calling it, profound autism. Im not about to take any solace in the idea that theyre willing to make exceptions for autistic people who can perform as neurotypical, or at least pose as little annoyance to neurotypicals as possible. That just means that I will cease to be of any value to these people if I am no longer able to pass as one of them, and that they see no value and no humanity in anyone who communicates or behaves differently from them.
- The infamously xenophobic, racist, and antisemitic H. P. Lovecraft briefly married a Jewish woman who he considered "well assimilated".