I am a white person who talks about racism. But, I have issues with *other* white people talking about racism. Not all other white people, just some of them.
There are two major issues a lot of white people have when talking about racism, and they tend to be either:
- A refusal to seriously dive deeply into why “racist” white people behave the way they do
- A refusal to seriously dive deeply into what it might be like to be a person of color*
To not become a hypocrite within the scope of one paragraph, I will theorize on why white people do this.
I think that today, it is socially desirable to be “not a racist.” Labeling someone as a “racist” is socially damning, which is a shame, because if we could kind of make it less shocking it may be easier to fix.
Hey bro, that was sort of a racist thing to say.
Oh, sorry! I’ll be more careful next time.
Usually, however, that exchange does not got that way. It goes more like,
Uhhh.. that’s kinda racist.
I’m not racist. I’m not racist. I HAVE BLACK FRIENDS, I AM SO NOT RACIST FUCK YOU FUCK YOU FUCK YOU!!!!!!!
I mean, maybe we could keep “racist” as an extreme term, and replace it with “mildly prejudiced” or something. I suppose that’s what “check your privilege” is about, but I hate the term privilege so perhaps I’ve expunged it from my brain.
Anyway, the flip side of this, is white people can gain social capital by projecting how NOT RACIST they are to the world. Check out this Ellen DeGeneres clip:
Within the first 30 seconds, she claims “not to see color, [she’s] like a cocker spaniel in that way.” Despite her inability to see color, this celebrity stalker website sure makes it looks like most of her girlfriends have been white.
Not that there’s anything wrong with dating white people, but it raises the question – why does someone who only dates white women feel the need to project the incorrect assertion that they are “color blind” to the world?
Thing is, I think Ellen – and many white people – care more about looking not-racist than they do about being not racist. They’re more concerned with their own social status, then they are with the lived in experiences of people of color. A lot this “color blindness” is really narcissistic posturing on behalf of white people. (See the first section of Mia McKenzie’s article on this here.) And like, I get it. We live in a narcissistic facebook “sizzle not the steak” kind of society.
But, this type of posturing doesn’t help people of color. It helps white people look good. Discourse on racism has been co-opted by people of privilege. Engaging in this is actually perpetuating the system of racism, which uhhh, is a problem if you’re actually anti-racism.
Anyway, white people won’t get past this until they learn to see people of color as people, and they can’t learn to see people of color as people until they can see themselves as people and stop self-objectifying. But, that’s a whole other article for a whole other day.
* Apparently it’s a thing, some people prefer the term “racialized” to people of color. I’ve decided to stick with the term for now, after reading/watching these articles/videos with the understanding that “people of color” is something people choose as a self-identity, not something I label them as if they don’t want to be labeled that.