I am Racist and (If You’re White) You Probably Are, Too

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I am a white man.

I am racist.

But that’s kind of redundant.

It’s like saying, “I am a fish, and I am soaking wet.

In some ways, I can’t help it. I don’t even notice it. I live my life immersed in a world of white privilege that most of the time I frankly can’t even see.

That doesn’t excuse me. It doesn’t mean I should just shrug and say, “What are you gonna’ do?”

But it does mean that the first step in removing that racism – in undoing the systematic subjugation of people of color – is recognizing my own culpability in that system.

It’s like being an alcoholic. The first step is admitting the truth.

I know I’ve pissed off a lot of people with what I’ve just written. This article isn’t about gaining new friends. But I’m sure I’ll have a lot of death threats to delete from the comments section tomorrow.

The initial reaction white people usually have to being called racist is – Who? Me? I can’t be racist! I have a black friend! I dated a black girl once! I listen to rap music!

Or a whole host of other excuses.

First of all, relax. I don’t know you. For all I know you’re that one white guy out there who has somehow escaped the pervasive societal attitudes that the rest of us unknowingly took in with our baby formula.

But chances are – yeah, you’re a racist, too.

Second of all, I’m not talking to people of color. None of you are racist. Congratulations!

You might be a hate-filled bigoted, misogynistic, xenophobic, homophobic, prejudiced asshole.

Again, I don’t know you. But racist? No. You can’t really be that.

Here’s why. Racism doesn’t mean hating someone because of their race. That’s a kind of prejudice. And anyone can be prejudiced.

Racism is hate plus power. If a black person says, “I hate white people,” he is prejudiced. However, there is no system that then backs up his hatred. The police don’t arrest white people more than black people for the same crimes. The judicial system doesn’t give harsher sentences to white people than it does black people for the same crimes. Public schools serving a majority of white students aren’t chronically underfunded. It isn’t harder to get a loan or a job if you have a white-sounding name. If it did, THAT would be racism!

Get it?

So I’m sorry, white people. This means there is no such thing as reverse racism. Despite what you may see on Fox News, the only racists in America have white skin.

Don’t get me wrong. There are degrees of racism. If you have a Confederate flag prominently displayed in your home in front of your personally autographed picture with David Duke, well you’re probably a bit more racist than most Caucasians. But no matter what, if you’re white, you’ve probably benefited from white supremacy and are de facto racist.

Maybe your folks gave you a middle class upbringing in a quiet suburb. Maybe you went to a well-funded public school in a wealthy neighborhood. Maybe your dad was convicted of white collar crime and got little to no jail time. Heck! Maybe you just walked down the street once and the police didn’t follow you through a convenience store or reached for their guns.

If your upbringing was in any way favored due to wealth amassed over a few generations, you benefited from white privilege. If the judicial system let you or a loved one go with a lighter sentence, you benefited. If you were not harassed by law enforcement because of your complexion, you benefited. And when you benefit from a system, you’re part of it.

For every white person in America, it is almost certain that something like this happened to you at some point in your life. And you probably had no idea it was even occurring.

Good fortune becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. People start to think they deserve it. And maybe they do, maybe they don’t. But people of color who don’t have such privileges certainly don’t deserve their inequitable treatment.

When we fail to acknowledge that white supremacy exists or that it benefits us, white folks, we’re just perpetuating that same system.

Some of you will say I’m putting too much emphasis on race. We’re all the same under the skin. We shouldn’t bring up the topic of racism. It just makes things worse.

Easy for you to say! You’re on top of the social food chain! If we don’t talk about the inherent inequalities entrenched in the system, nothing will change. Us, white folks, will continue to benefit, and black folks will continue to get the short end of the stick.

One of the biggest obstacles to solving racism is its invisibility – to white folks.

We’re shielded from it because its negative effects don’t reach us, and its positive effects to us are either shrugged off or we assume we deserve them.

Being racist rarely involves overt action anymore. It’s become covert, an entrenched sickness in all our social systems. And the only way to cure it is to make it visible – to recognize, isolate and destroy it.

I know. Some of you will say you had it tough, too. And you probably did. Few people live charmed lives. There are poor white folks. There are white people who are discriminated against because of their gender, nationality, sexual preference and/or religion. But this doesn’t mean you didn’t benefit. There is a crossroads of American prejudice and racism is only one of many intersecting avenues.

Maybe you were the victim sometimes, but you were probably the victor in others, and you never even saw it coming.

The point isn’t to say which malady is worse. They’re all bad and all deserving of a cure. But if you really don’t want to be a racist, you have to look it straight in the eye and call it by its rightful name.

You probably didn’t ask to be treated differently. Most of us just want fairness. But to be on that side we have to proclaim our allegiance. We have to take a stand.

Whenever you see injustice against people of color, you must call it out. You must make yourself a part of the solution and not the problem. You must be a voice demanding the citadel of white privilege be burned to the ground.

It’s not easy. You’ll be called all sorts of names: bleeding heart, libtard, self-hating white, maybe even cracka. Because even people of color may not understand what you’re trying to do. After so many years of racial oppression by people with melanin deficiency, they may not trust an open hand when they’ve been so used to expecting a fist.

But that’s okay. It’s understandable. The only thing to do is press on. Understanding will come – eventually.

Racism is a problem for black folks, but the solution is mostly in the hands of white people. We’re the ones doing – or allowing – racism. It’s our job to fix it.

And much of that work will not be in the public sphere. It will be in our own hearts.

Many of us have been socialized to be afraid of black folks. We get this from the news, movies, television, the internet, often even our own relatives and friends. We’re constantly told how dangerous black people are, how untrustworthy, how violent. But the facts don’t bare this out. Given the degree of aggression – both overt and covert – black people have endured from white people over time, they have been incredibly non-violent. It is us, white people, who have been violent and inhuman. That is the legacy we hide under our fear of dark skin. We’re really afraid that one day our black brothers and sisters will have had enough and give back to us all the accumulated hate of centuries.

No. We aren’t responsible for slavery or Jim Crow or lynchings or a host of other horrible things. But we still benefit from them.

So it is up to us to even the scales, to treat black folks fairly and equitably with a loving heart.

That is why I make this confession. That is why I write this article that will probably be roundly criticized or maybe just ignored.

That’s why I admit I’m a racist.

It’s the only way to stop being one.


NOTE: This article also was published on commondreams.org.

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106 thoughts on “I am Racist and (If You’re White) You Probably Are, Too

    • Hey. Interesting article. Agree on many points such as whites inherently being privileged, though implying they are all racist goes against your own definition of racism, namely racism is hate plus power. Sure the power is there, but MANY do not hate on the basis of race. The fact that people don’t do anything about it is something else. According to you, you’don’t would have to do everything within your capacity to acheive equality, else be racist. I believe it is wise to differentiate between people who actually are racist and those who are just privileged. Good to admit to being part of the problem, for example, with pollution… but saying that the person riding the bus, polluting very little, is in the same box as Consol Energy…
      PS.. this isn’the a reply to the above comment

      Like

  1. I wish I wasn’t white…I realize that other races have problems of their own, but I can’t stand being called a racist, and the words “white privelage” ugh I wish I didn’t have it…I’m a self-conscious person, and I hate having more of anything whether it be money, privilege, or whatever then anyone else because it makes me feel deeply uncomfortable…I would rather have nothing then lots…I guess you could say I’m a minimilist, but I seriously hate the whole racism thing. I kinda wish everyone was just one color (it could be pink for all I care) so that they would all get along and not stereotype and fight based on a stupid skin tone that they were born with and can’t really change.

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    • Everyone does not need to be “just one color.” I like diverse people. The world would be too bland without diversity.

      White people need to simply stop think their color makes them superior to others.

      It really is a simple equation, although loaded in many ways due to the high investment so many have in maintaining white supremacy.

      Let us be clear: White people need to hold other white people accountable for the BS created, promoted and maintained in attempts to make themselves feel they are somehow “better than” all others.

      Like

  2. I don’t see how this problem can be fixed anymore.

    I’ll explain why. I’m a child of the 70’s I was raised to treat all people the same, so where most of the other kids. I was raised in North Texas and had friends of many races to us racism was a media stunt to get viewers. The few people who acted racist where largely ignored and considered backwards.
    I grew up and joined the Army and on the first day in my platoon we shared who we were and where we were from. That night while asking my new squad leader (who was black and from NY) a question he told me to go ask one of the white squad leaders. Confused I asked why he said “you’re a 6 foot 200 pound Texan I ain’t talking to your racist ass.” I was absolutely shocked by this and didn’t know how to respond. Later after a simular exchange I told him I wasn’t rasist and what he said was. He then informed me it couldn’t be because he was black.
    Long story short this went on and of the 7 black guys in my platoon I fought 6 of them at different times each time in self defense. The one that I never fought was also from north Texas and told me these guys came from genuinely racist places like new York, florida, and California and that he also had always thought it was just media hype.
    I’d like to say we all became friends or I fought the good fight and won but I didn’t. No, after more than a month of being called a racist every day I finally got fed up and said (F%÷@ you Nword.) Bam just like that the most shameful moment of my life. They beat me. Standing behind me was my drill Sargent who I most respected who reminded me most of my father who was a black man. Never looked at me the same again and who could Blain him I just proved I was a racist.
    Besides giving me something to regret the rest of my life those boys didn’t really change me or the way I feel about other races. But they did show me why racism may never die.
    My father raised me to judge people by their actions and I’m raising my children the same way. Like my father I’m also raising my children with the knowledge that people like the KKK are backwards ass hicks and not worth consideration. That includes all hate groups like black Lives matters. They might have started with a noble idea but now they represnt hate. Until all hate groups are considered backwards ass morons what will change.

    I’ve worked all over this country and I know racism is real but I also know that Dr King was on the right path peace, self betterment, and ignoring backward ass morons is the way.

    Telling people they are racist until maybe they become racist doesn’t make a lot of sence.

    My mom always said “People tend to live up to or down to your expectations.”

    Like

    • You lost all credibility when you said that the Black Lives Matter movement is racist. That’s nothing but a lie, and I refuse to debate you on this issue because you obviously do not understand the difference between systemic racism rooted in white supremacy ideology compared to prejudices that individuals may have.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Just because white people taught black people to hate their skin for hundreds of years doesn’t mean that it’s right to attempt to make white people hate theirs. Get over it. My prvillage got me jumped for being white more times than I can count but let’s just ignore the facts in our century and focus on the past. Oh wait that would also show you hundreds of white people who fought for equality for all. I guess they were racist too. Should white people hang themselves. I’m sorry you don’t get to tell me in racist with out me telling you your stupid.

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    • Get over yourself. I’m not saying you should hate yourself or your whiteness. I’m saying own what has been done in your name and what continues to be done. If you’re against it, do something about it. Otherwise you’re still part of the problem.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. First, I’m black. Second this article was live(cool)! Lastly I get that we have to talk it out and all like you said I can only speak as a single individual but I’ll do my best to meet you guys half way and not sure if I can do this but heck I forgive it if you all you really believe white people will really try. I’ll take your word you took the time to write this, think about it, Thanks real talk!

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  5. I’m a racist white woman. Before the age of 5, my adopted ‘dad’ was a ranking KKK member and I didn’t know that he and his gang killed black people until I got older. The first black person I ever seen was when my mom and dad had me in the seat of a shopping cart I seen a black person and hollered “Look Daddy, there’s a n….!”(you know that word we use to use but now it’s not tolerated? Yep, that was me.) My so-called ‘dad’ told me about the KKK he was in when I started elementary school. I’ve been plagued with not liking blacks ever since. I KNOW it’s wrong. I’d never tell anyone that racism lives in my heart. I’d grown up believing that the White Race was superior than the Black race. I wasn’t allowed to have black friends from high school over to visit. My ‘dad’ (so glad he’s dead now) was angered when I told him I have a black friend in High School! She was so nice and kind and always made me laugh! But, As I got older, I learned being prejudice was wrong. It’s just….. I can’t seem to get it out of my heart. Since a Black man killed 5 of our Police Officer’s here in Dallas last Thursday, I hate them even more. Do you have any suggestions that would help me not to be racist?

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    • You can justify hating all black people because a black man shot and killed 5 police officers. But you do not apparently hate all white people despite the fact that a white man killed 9 black people in a church whose members invited him in to pray with them. We can consider so many more examples of white violence, but you appear to prefer overlooking facts and seem to find comfort in double standards that help justify your ingrained hate. You should be angry at your parents for instilling racism in you because that is a form of child abuse to distort the minds of young people to the point they can hate strangers and innocent people who have done nothing to them. By the way, just because one thinks and believes something does not make it true, and no where is this more apparent than in the false ideology of white supremacy. You have a lot of inner work to do to come to terms with the damaged psyche and spirit you have. Black people did not cause it. Your own parents and culture are the source of many of your issues. You need to take responsibility for the fact that you continue to allow yourself to be programmed to support lies that distort your perception of reality.

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