Calling All White People, Part 50: I’d go non-racist for…

Calling All White People, Part 50

TODAY’S EPISODE: You just need that one friend, right?   

I mean, we all know that classic about how “I’d go gay for [insert celebrity name here]” right? The casual theory goes that everyone has someone they would “go gay” for no matter how heterosexual they are—for one night, at least. Or a few.

Leaving aside that having same-gender sexual relations in some sort of fantasy one-off is not really truly being “gay” and rather minimizes the character and nature of the LGBT community, there is of course some truth to the theory. Sure, not “everyone” literally. But for every kind of person in life, we are generally willing to make exceptions for our usual rules.

Race and ethnicity are no exception to the exception-making.

Bigotry of all kinds can be put to the side for that “special someone.”

You see it with racists who will root for their favorite Black athletes and go on about how great they are not just professionally but in terms of personality or style. You see it with people who will mock Asian people or deride Latino people or ridicule Black people yet still pursue them sometime for dates. You see it with the most hate-filled, nonsense-swilling assholes who use the N-word without hesitation and scream “all lives matter” when Black people protest who has that one Black buddy or in-law who they think is just a great example of a race they otherwise despise.

With that in mind, if you’ve ever started a sentence with, “So-and-so can’t be racist because…” please stop now. If any kind of sentence construction like that starts to pop up in your brain, delete it before it reaches your lips.

You do realize that a fair number of men are, sadly, misogynists…right? They don’t respect women, they don’t think they should have equal treatment (or rights), they don’t emotionally support them and sometimes they outright blatantly abuse them. The vast majority of these kinds of men seek to (and often successfully do) date women. Marry them. Raise girls. And so on. It is entirely possible for a rancid misogynist to even love or treat certain women well (mother, sisters, wife, whatever) even as they treat women like garbage in most other areas of life.

And it works the same with race. Racist white people can and do date, love, and marry non-white people. They make friends of non-white people. They accept non-white people into their families.

If, for whatever reason, those individuals meet whatever criteria that racist has be being considered human.

It doesn’t stop the racist from being racist or mistreating non-white people, or keep them from voting for racist politicians, or prevent them from financially supporting racist causes. We cannot judge people just because of the company they keep or the people they have in their lives—we have to judge them by their opinions and actions more broadly.

That also means that we need to recognize the racism that is present in progressive/liberal circles as well. It might not be as flagrant, but it’s still there and still damaging to non-white people. As someone in my Twitter timeline recently commented, white liberals like to micro-dose racism. They may not do it with conscious intent, but still they do it. They make judgments about people based on race, they see themselves as superior to them in various ways, they condescend to them, and all that other crap. And often, in sort of a mirror image of right-wing racists making “exception” friends of Black or other non-white people, liberal types will sometimes seek out such friendships as if the non-white people are a collection they are amassing.

The tricky thing about not being racist—or even more so being actively anti-racist—is that there really isn’t a time that you “arrive” officially. You can never really relax and rest on your laurels. And that’s probably why so many people, even “progressive” ones, eventually withdraw support of Black Lives Matter and other movements, or retreat back to all-white spaces and friendships, or start to wonder if there really is something wrong with “those people” since they won’t ever give them a full irrevocable lifetime membership card declaring them perfectly non-racist.

Racism is baked into whiteness. It has some similarities to being alcoholic. Once you’re there, you’re there. And almost all of us who are white started in a racist system and society that taught us that white was better somehow. To be honest, almost all of us white people began with a default setting of “racist” and still are on some level. And, like with alcoholism, the remedy is to recognize that in ourselves and not give into the temptations to act on our problematic desires.

And, as an  added bonus with racism—and here is where the alcoholism metaphor stops applying—it is incumbent upon us to dismantle, piece by piece, the systems that allowed us to so easily adopt racism (whether full-fledged, undercover, or vague and situational) into ourselves to begin with.

To find other installments of “Calling All White People,” click here

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