Friday, December 8, 2017

These Are All the Racist Things You Must Believe to Think Racism is No Longer a Serious Problem

When they think no one's watching, white people like to indulge in what I've begun calling white bonding. White bonding is when white people remove their veneer of civility, quit pretending to be "colorblind" and anti-racist, and say what they really think.

It's when your racist uncle makes fun of your cousin for dating a black guy, or your racist boss implies that a client's blackness reveals something about them. It's the moment when your co-worker tells a racist joke, or your great-aunt starts referring to people of color as "they" and "them." Every white person has seen this. Which means that, deep down, every white person knows that racism is still very real.

Maybe that's why white people get so defensive about racism. We see it all the time. We know it happens. Some of us are complicit in it. Yet white people continue to deny that racism is a real problem. We accuse our black friends of "playing the race card." We act as if differences of opinion about the full humanity of people of color are trivial.

Denying the Reality of Racism is a Form of Racism 
White people created racism. It's up to us to end it. So next time someone tells you that racism isn't a serious problem, or that playing the race card is as bad as racism itself, or that any person of color can get ahead if they just try hard enough, remember that denying racism is a form of racism.

Here are the many racist ideas a person must accept to assert that racism is no longer a serious problem:

  • That the overwhelming majority of people of color are liars. Their experiences of racial profiling didn't actually happen. 
  • That the most reliable source of information on a person of color's experience is a white person. People of color misread things as racism all the time. They need white people to explain their experiences to them, so that they can understand that apparent racism is actually their fault. 
  • That people of color are too dumb to understand their own experiences. When they think they have been profiled, something else is actually at play. 
  • That the white police accused of profiling people of color are all honest, and the black people who accuse them of racism are all liars. 
  • That 500+ years of legalized slavery, rape, murder, segregation, and other horrors have had no effect on people of color. Any disparities between people of color and white people are due to the shortcomings of people of color (note that the belief in a group's inferiority is dictionary definition racism). 
  • That 500+ years of legalized slavery, rape, murder, segregation, and other horrors do not in any way color the way police interact with people of color. As soon as Jim Crow ended, all police abandoned their racist ideas and embraced full and immediate equality. 
  • That black people are just more criminal than white people, and that's why they're detained, cited, and arrested more frequently (the research shows that black drivers are disproportionately stopped by police, but that whites are more likely to be found with contraband; other research shows that whites are more likely to use drugs than blacks). 
  • That the avalanche of social science demonstrating that racial profiling is a real problem is a conspiracy. 
  • That no members of any white power or Nazi groups have ever occupied, or will ever occupy, a position of power. 
  • That no racist people ever make it onto juries. 
And, above all else, people who believe racism is no longer a problem seem to have adopted the idea that a person is only racist if they say so. Causing racist outcomes--such as is the case in most police departments--is not enough. Spouting racist ideas--as President Trump does--is insufficient. As long as a person insists they aren't racist, they must not be. 

Even neo-Nazis won't explicitly admit to racism. Even Hitler said he wasn't racist. 

No, You're Not 'Colorblind'
"I'm colorblind. I judge all people the same" has become the new racist dog whistle. 

Pop quiz: What color was Martin Luther King, Jr.?
If you can correctly answer that question, you're not actually colorblind. 

People are raised to notice race. Research shows that people who claim to be colorblind are actually more racist. That's because they refuse to engage with their own racist ideas, and therefore don't do anything to correct those ideas. 

So the next time someone tells you they're "colorblind," hear what they're really saying: That they refuse to see racism. That they are incapable of understanding how racism affects people of color. That they cannot be trusted to correct their own racist ideas. 

Racism is real. I'm not colorblind, and neither are you. 

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