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Ellerbee(cop) met by three beach lifegaurds who chased some bady guys.

Ellerbee: Police do pursuits! When you do it, it's just some guys chasing some other guys. No offense.

Summer: None taken. Hey, what are you saying? You're just gonna let those guys walk?

Ellerbee: Okay, um, how do I explain this so that you people understand?

Matt Brody: "You people"? "You people"?

Mitch: Oh, you don't get to say that. You're just tan.

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  • "You don't get to say that" means just what it says -- Mitch is saying that Matt Brody is not allowed to be offended by the expression "You people". As to why this is so ... well, that's a cultural can of worms that I'm not sure how best to explain.
    – Andrew
    Aug 19, 2017 at 6:51
  • @MvLog No, in this context "tan" is not an epithet. First of all, this is from the movie Baywatch where the main characters are beach lifeguards. Matt Brody is played by the actor Zaf Efron, who is white. He's "tan" because he's in the sun a lot. You have to understand that the character's ethnicity is white to get the joke (if it's even funny), but past that it gets complicated as it's mostly about American culture not English language.
    – Andrew
    Aug 19, 2017 at 14:34
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    @MvLog Let's see if I can state it briefly. In the U.S. people can be very sensitive about racial issues and anything that even seems like a racist statement. The phrase "you people" is sometimes used to refer to people of another ethnicity (often black), for example "Why are you people always doing X?" It's a racist statement because it stereotypes the behavior of everyone of that ethnicity. It also suggests that the person would have chosen a more "colorful" expression than "you people" in they could, but they don't want to sound like a racist.
    – Andrew
    Aug 19, 2017 at 14:38
  • @MvLog As I said, it's more about culture. Here Matt takes offense to the "you people" comment. However, Ellerbee is not (I think) being a racist, because by "you people" he means "you lifeguards". Mitch (played by Dwayne Johnson, who is mixed black and Samoan) reprimands Matt about being offended, since he's not actually a racial minority, he's "just tan". Is this funny? Maybe in context. I'll have to see the movie.
    – Andrew
    Aug 19, 2017 at 14:46
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    @MvLog The joke is a play on expectations. In most contexts, "you people" is only racist when spoken by a white person. Here's it's a black police officer saying it, and a white person is offended (because he's "tan"). Even this light humor might be offensive rather than funny, but in the context of an otherwise silly movie it might be fine. My explanation might also be offensive, which is why I was reluctant to try.
    – Andrew
    Aug 19, 2017 at 14:57

1 Answer 1

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"You don't get to say that" means just what it says -- Mitch is saying that Matt Brody is not allowed to be offended by the expression "You people"

In the U.S. people can be very sensitive about racial issues and anything that even seems like a racist statement. The phrase "you people" is sometimes used to refer to people of another ethnicity, for example:

Why are you people always [doing X]?

It's a racist statement because it stereotypes the behavior of everyone of that ethnicity. It also suggests that the person saying it would have chosen a more "colorful" racial epithet than "you people" if it was socially acceptable, but restrain themselves when it might get them in trouble.

This is more about culture than language. Here Matt (Zack Efron, who is white) takes offense to the "you people" comment made by the black police officer Ellerbee (who is black). Ellerbee is not being a racist, because by "you people" he means "you lifeguards". Mitch (played by Dwayne Johnson, who is mixed black and Samoan) reprimands Matt about being offended, since he is not actually a racial minority. He's not any ethnic skin color -- he's "just tan".

The joke is a play on expectations. In most contexts, "you people" is only racist when spoken by a white person. Here's it's a black police officer saying it, and a white person is offended (because he's "tan").

Even this light humor might be offensive rather than funny, but in the context of this otherwise silly movie it's fine, you really barely notice it. It's a throwaway joke in a movie full of much better jokes, although even those are only really funny if you know something about the TV show the movie is based on.

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