Nobody thinks they’re racist

A few days ago I talked for a while about racism with a white man, because I couldn’t figure out how to extricate myself from the conversation. If you have tips on how to do so gracefully, please advise.

Early on he alluded to how he isn’t racist because “I guess because I wasn’t raised that way.”

Well yeah, duh. No one thinks they were raised racist. Just like no one thinks they’re sexist, it’s just that women are too emotional to lead! And they’re not homophobic, they just don’t want to see gay men being so flamboyant.

I’m not saying this guy is actually racist. I don’t know. I think racism’s kind of a spectrum though–I don’t think this guy would advocate for banning Muslims or anything. However, I’m pretty sure he’s ignorant of his own preconceived notions and prejudices. I know I had to learn that I had my own prejudices, that I still have to deal with at some level (and funnily, I think Asians are more willing to admit they might have some weird views because being racist isn’t such a terrible thing–open hatred of dark people is somewhat widely accepted in Asia). I’m not proud of it, but that is how it is. I’m not sure if that makes me racist. Maybe. But I try to stay conscious and it’s surprising how often I have to check my own preconceived notions.

A lot of white people seem to think they don’t need to go through this exercise. They think they can just say “Oh I’m not racist!” and poof, that’s it. They’re not racist. It’s very lazy. Yet another white privilege, I guess. But saying something repeatedly doesn’t make it true. Most people, especially white people, just never had to think about how they might have some whack notions. They need to.







3 thoughts on “Nobody thinks they’re racist

  1. As a writer, my problem with “racism” (the word not the phenomenon) is that it is currently used so loosely as to be virtually meaningless. An example: here in Oregon the protesters (all white) who took over the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge were found by a jury (also white) to be not guilty of all charges. Black Lives Matter and other groups decried the verdict as racist–this on the grounds that, had the occupiers been Black or Native American, they would have been found guilty–or shot before ever making it to trial. By this logic, every time a cop doesn’t shoot a white man he is guilty of racism because, presumably, he would have shot a Black man for doing the same thing. “Racism” used to mean something that people, even those who claimed not to be racists, could at least agree upon. That ship, apparently, has sailed.


    1. It does seem like people have differing views on what the term means, though I’m skeptical that there previously used to be only one meaning for it. What meaning do you think that was that everyone agreed it meant?


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