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In the legendary movie Tropic Thunder the following conversation takes place:

"What do you mean, 'you people'?"

"What do YOU mean, 'you people'?"

But what DOES he mean, 'you people'?

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up vote 14 down vote accepted

This is a race gag. Tugg Speedman is referring to the group collectively as being unadventurous, however Kirk Lazarus gets super-defensive about being referred to as "you people" (e.g. he implies that Tugg meant "you black people...").

Meanwhile Alpa Chino steps in to take umbridge at Kirk getting upset over Tugg's perceived 'racist' language given that he isn't actually black but has merely had a skin darkening treatment.

We're laughing at three things here;

  • Kirk being so "in character" that he's started to become a stereotypical angry black man, acting super-sensitively toward perceived racism, even where it's clear that none exists.

  • Alpa's disgust at the fact that Kirk (a white man) is mistakenly accusing people of racism.

  • Tugg's discomforture at being accused of racism (by someone white).

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8  
I don't think Alpa Chino came in to defend Tugg's comment, simply to take offense at Lazarus's appropriating the black struggle. – Avner Shahar-Kashtan Jan 30 at 10:59
2  
@avnershahar-kastan - That's an equally valid way of looking at it. I personally think it's a mix of both. – user7812 Jan 30 at 11:05
    
@AvnerShahar-Kashtan - Better now? I've tried to reflect both elements. – user7812 Jan 30 at 15:27
    
It's also a reference to an actual event. 1992 presidential candidate Ross Perot used the term "your people" several times during a speech to an NAACP meeting. It did not go over well. If the link here goes stale, web search for "Ross Perot" and "you people"; it won't be tough to find. nytimes.com/1992/07/12/us/… – Jamie Hanrahan Jan 30 at 21:16
1  
@JamieHanrahan - I'm not so sure. Even a cursory google search reveals multiple uses of the phrase that significantly pre-date 1992; nytimes.com/1986/10/24/us/study-finds-racism-at-mit.html – user7812 Jan 30 at 21:19

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