Calling all white people, part 2: I’m not racist (oh, realllly?)

Calling All White People, Part 2

(A periodic attempt to mobilize white people for something other than supporting just other melanin-deficient folks and maintaining a status quo of a nation geared toward whiteness as the baseline and the norm)

By An Average White Guy

TODAY’S EPISODE: Loudly Denying You’re Racist Is a Bad Sign
[To find other installments of “Calling All White People,” click here]

Jesus did not have kind words or feelings toward hypocrites. As it goes in Matthew 6:5 in the Bible, more or less, “When you pray, don’t be like the hypocrites who love to pray publicly on street corners and in the synagogues where everyone can see them. I tell you the truth, that is all the reward they will ever get.”

It isn’t an exact parallel, but I think of this Bible passage when people angrily or defensively (or both) reply to any criticism of their behavior or attitudes toward Black people with some variation of “I’m not racist!”

Like:

  • “I don’t have a racist bone in my body.” (I’m a pretty progressive guy myself and even I have bigoted thoughts at times or do prejudiced things)
  • “I can’t be racist; I’m dating (or married to) a Black person.” (Really? Well, you can be involved with a woman and still be misogynist, right? Same thing)
  • “I have Black friends.” (Usually this means, “There’s a Black person at my job I sometimes share a couple words with”)

The thing is that a lot of the people who get mad when they told (or it’s suggested) that they’ve done or said something racially insensitive and then insist I’M NOT RACIST are, sadly, probably at least racially biased. Maybe openly prejudiced. Perhaps a bit bigoted. Or even a lot racist.

If a Black person tells you that you’ve just said or done something that’s a little bothersome or a lot offensive, your first response should be to actually stop and think. Stop before you say something reflexive, defensive and perhaps stupid. Think about what you’ve done.

If you truly are confused, you can always ask “I’m sorry; what did I do wrong?”

But if you leap immediately to, “Are you accusing me of being racist?” or “I didn’t do anything wrong” or “I’m not a bigot” I’m sad to say you might be suffering from a case of being rather more bigoted than you’d like to admit (either to yourself or to others or to both).

If someone is offended, there’s a good chance you did something offensive. Sure, it could be you were misunderstood, misheard, or whatever. If so, that can get cleared up.

But if you leap to defensiveness when someone is feeling offended or wronged, you’re not showing compassion or understanding. You’re making it about yourself and trying to make yourself the wronged party instead of considering (a) you might actually have done something wrong or (b) might need to correct a misconception.

Fact is that there really aren’t many Black people out there just shouting at white people that they’re racist or even randomly trying to make them feel guilty for doing nothing wrong. Most (i.e. almost all) Black people have absolutely no interest in starting scenes or pissing people off any more than any other human does.

If you’ve been called on possibly having done something racially insensitive, chances are you probably did. Best to own it and see about not doing that thing again.

If you immediately cry out “I’m not racist” or any variation, the likelihood is you don’t really care if you did something offensive. Instead, you only care about not being labeled. Not getting a reputation. And, in that case, you might very well be racist as all hell.

If so, you should fix that not-so-little problem with your soul and your humanity.


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