How to not be “Inadvertently Racist”

Most white people don’t understand the true definition of racism, so they don’t realize when they say racist shit, then get upset when they get called out by other people.

Don’t believe me?

How often does the following scenario occur:

  • White Person (“WP”) says something unintentionally racist without knowing that it’s racist; a few examples:
    • “If she’d just been respectful to the police officer, she’d still be alive.”
      –or–
    • “If #BlackLivesMatter, then why isn’t anybody protesting the victims of black-on-black crime?”
      –or–
    • “#AllLivesMatter”
      –or–
    • “I don’t see color”
      –or–
    • “If black people can say the ‘N-word’ and not be considered racist, why can’t I?”
      –or–
    • “That’s reverse-racis(m/t)!”
      –or–
    • “How is affirmative action not racist?”
      (I could go on all day)
  • Black Person (“BP”) calls out WP for saying racist thing–or worse–calls them a “racist”
  • WP immediately becomes defensive, shocked that BP would attempt to label him a “racist”, the equivalent of being given societal leprosy.
  • WP then tries to counter-label BP as a “racist” because he “brought race into the conversation” or “played the race card.”
  • BP needs to walk away, because he “can’t even” with WP.

Sound familiar?

What’s unfortunate about the above scenario is that WP can be a “completely good person”; i.e. he may not hold any hatred in his heart for non-whites at all. He may even have a “black friend” or two. Because of this, he doesn’t understand how he can be labeled a “racist.” His only character flaws are that he fails to:

  • Understand the true definition of racism
  • Acknowledge his own privilege
  • Admit the existence of White Supremacy in American society

But guess what: it’s not his fault.

Why? Because he most likely:

Of course, none of the above reasons are an excuse for #InadvertentRacism.

Note that I said “it’s not his fault.” But it is his responsibility to check his own privilege and to stop being an Inadvertent Racist.

Inadvertent racism is still racism. That being said: I have a problem with the word “racist” as a descriptive noun, mainly because it’s a one-size-fits-all term, when clearly, there’s level to that shit. There’s definitely a difference between the “Inadvertent Racist” who is otherwise a “good person,” and would make a great “ally” (fuck that word), if he only knew how he’s part of the problem; and the “Explicit Racist” i.e. the Confederate Flag-waving person who consciously and deliberately hates non-whites, who is unlikely to ever change.

As a white person, if you’re not an “Explicit Racist”, then being called a “racist” is one of the most terrifying things to be labeled, especially if you’re an “Inadvertent Racist” that doesn’t think you are one, mainly because:

  • You don’t consider yourself a racist
  • You’re being called a racist

It triggers an immediate visceral response, causing the aforementioned defensiveness, which leads us nowhere except worse off than where we started.

So what can we do to make progress?

#DearWhitePeople:

Your ignorance to the true definition of racism, your privilege, and white supremacy does not excuse you from your #InadvertentRacism. As white adults, if we don’t want to be labeled as racist, then we need to do the following:

  • Educate ourselves (and our children) about racism, our privilege, and White Supremacy – Whether or not you like it, you were born with the privilege of being white in a white-supremacist society built on a history of racism, and you’ve benefited from it, even if your life sucks overall. Acknowledge it. Own it. Learn about it. Note: This does *not* mean find the nearest black person and ask them to explain it all to you. This is the 21st fucking Century, and if you’re reading this, then clearly you have an internet connection. Do your own research. Use this site as a guide, and check out our Resources Page for more information.
  • See black people as “people” (Note: this does *not* mean to “not see color”) – Empathize with them as human beings. Put yourself in their shoes and imagine how you’d feel if you had to go through what they experience every mothalickin’ day.
  • Stop downplaying black struggles and pain – You know the phrase “playing the race card”? Remove it from your vocabulary. Now. Same goes for “reverse-racism.”
  • Make close black friends – The kind to which you really open yourself up and show your vulnerabilities, not just ones that take you to a black clubs so that you can see what real twerking is (it’s amazing, btw).
  • Stop it with the “Diet Racism” – See video below:

#DearBlackPeople:

I don’t blame you for calling out white people for their #InadvertentRacism; lordt knows that y’all hear that bullshit Every. Damb. Day. As a white person who only recently became truly empathetic to the struggles of African Americans, it’s frustrating and infuriating for me to hear #InadvertentRacism from other white people. But because I am white, I can’t even begin to imagine how emotionally exhausting it must be to live it.

Here’s the rub: If you stay silent around (Inadvertent) Racists, they’ll keep being inadvertently racist. If you call them out and call them “racists”, they’ll get defensive, you’ll get defensive, they’ll downplay everything, you’ll get pissed off, and–more likely than not–they’ll still keep being inadvertently racist, and you’ll have wasted your energy on them. Only if you call them out in a gentle manner (without calling them racist, because: #WhiteFragility) and explain why what they said was problematic, hopefully you’ll get them to rethink everything, and eventually convert them. If they’re receptive, you’ll have helped make the world an incrementally better place.

“But Xander, you just told them not to find us and ask us to explain it to them…” 

You’re right, I did. This is not your responsibility; it is strictly voluntary. I understand that you’re tired of this shit. You don’t deserve it. Unfortunately, if we want society to change, then we have to “be the change” (sorry for that lame-ass cliche).

I look forward to the ensuing shitstorm conversation in the comments section.

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