As a black chick, I–like other people of color–have a pretty intimate understanding of a fun little thing called racism. Whether it’s in your face racism–N-bombs, harmful generalizations–or subtle–using coded words, telling me I speak well for a black girl, following me around in a store–I know enough about the ins and outs of racism to call people out on it when I see it.
Unfortunately racism can be so deeply embedded into people’s subconscious that they can often be racist without really realizing it. Whenever I tell someone that they’ve said something racist or racially insensitive, instead of saying, “Oh crap, I’m so sorry I won’t do that again thanks for letting me know” I receive defensive attitudes and general nastiness. Hey, we all make mistakes, we all screw up and we become better people after learning from them! Why is is so hard for people to listen to others–who probably know a little better–put on their big girl panties, and move on?
Here are 9 annoying ways that you (or people you know) dismiss racism without even realizing it. Hopefully this will help people become a little more aware, one step at a time.
1. Telling someone that they’re overreacting.
Um, people can be upset about racism, okay? Don’t dismiss our feelings. When we live in a world where brown girls with headscarves are afraid of being harassed because of the way they look and where unarmed black people getting shot and killed by police on a regular basis, I think we have every reason to be upset. Maybe you’re not overreacting enough!
2. Accusing someone of searching for racism when it isn’t there.
Uh, racism isn’t some elusive unicorn. We’re not looking for racism when we see ourselves lampooned in the media, we’re not looking for racism when we’re suspicious of whitewashing in a movie, we’re not looking for racism when someone says something that is just straight up racially offensive. Do people think we’re having fun when we call out racism? Just because you might not see it, that doesn’t mean it’s not there. And, honestly, people who are victims of racism usually have a better eye for what’s racist than people who don’t.
3. Throwing around statistics to excuse racism.
You guys, we live in a world where black people get arrested more often than white people for the same crime…and people have the audacity to say “OMG black people are inherently more dangerous because they go to jail all the time.” LOL, BYE. Context, everyone, context. We live in a racist society and that is reflected on almost every level, including jails, education, politics, etc. Sorry.
4. Implying that non-white people have more rights or special rights and privileges for silly reasons.
Here’s what people who usually believe this say: Why is there a black history month and not a white history month? Why is there BET and not WET? Why are there special scholarships for black people and Latinos and Asians but not for white people? Honestly, if one month out of the year dedicated to black history–history which is often ignored–or a scholarship for Latinos is signaling some sort of tide shift towards non-white folks having a lot of systematic power then LOL, open your eyes, please.
5. Finding ways to justify a lack of diversity.
Non-white people have to grow up rarely seeing themselves in the media. That’s why we get really excited when we see ourselves represented and why we get really upset when we’re omitted. People will come up with a zillion reasons to excuse the fact that only one show about an Asian-American family is on television, or why a show set in a diverse city like New York has an all-white cast. Fun fact: These excuses are hurtful, annoying and erasing. Don’t do it.
6. Screaming “We all bleed red!” as if that changes anything.
Yes, we all bleed red, we’re all human beings, but ignoring race isn’t the way to approach racism. In fact, studies have shown that having a colorblind approach to life helps breed racism. So yeah, I don’t care if we’re all human. That doesn’t erase the fact that we still live in a racist world, y’all.
7. Assuming it’s impossible to be racist if you have a friend of a different race.
Yeah, I don’t care if some of your best friends are black or if your cousin’s daughter is half-Asian or if you love Mexican food. You aren’t off the hook if you say something racist. Oh, and just because your one black friend is cool with you saying the N-word doesn’t mean every other black person has to be!
8. Bringing up evidence of non-white people being racist to “prove” some kind of point.
Talk about derailing! This happens all the time: A person of color mentions a racist incident–an unarmed black person getting shot, getting called an offensive name because they’re Latina, etc–and someone has to mention bad things that happen to white people, too. Example: “A black girl made fun of me because I’m white so racism works both ways,” or “Someone called me cracker one time in seventh grade.” Listen, nobody should be a jerk to anyone because of race but give me a break…
The dictionary definition of racism gives everyone the power to be racist, but that’s not how it works in reality. Here’s how racism usually works in the real world: Racism is a nasty combination of prejudice and systematic power, and in terms of race, that power is given to whiteness above all else. In other words, white people aren’t oppressed for being white. That’s not to say that every white person ever has a great, easy life–hell, there are white people who are female, poor, queer, disabled, etc. But it’s safe to say that in most countries, especially Western ones, white people aren’t getting a raw end of a deal because they’re white. Most white people can agree that being white has a lot more benefits than anything else! The same cannot be said about many other races or ethnic groups. Stereotypes, actions, and seemingly innocent statements against people who don’t have that kind of power are super harmful and actually negatively impact people’s lives on a regular basis! For example, white men are responsible for a majority of mass shootings in America, but a Muslim girl* is more likely to get stereotyped as a terrorist. White girls in the suburbs might shoplift like there’s no tomorrow, but stereotypes about black people being criminals causes store employees to follow black girls around in Forever 21 like hawks. I can go on with examples forever, but I’ll refrain.
* While Islam is a religion, not a race, I’d argue that Muslims are treated in a racialized manner.
9. Believing that everyone is a little bit racist.
No, they’re not. Stop saying this as a way to brush off racism. It ain’t cute.
What other ways do people dismiss racism? Do you experience this on a regular basis? Tell us in the comments!