If you have to say "i'm not racist" chances are you are

A trend that you can’t help but notice if you follow any sort of racial issues is that when white people do something racist, they almost always include in their apology, “I’m not a racist”. Most of you should know the Michael Richards “but I’m not a racist!” protest in his apology after he was caught on tape being racist. But it’s not just the celebrities who pitch this line, it’s average people as well.

Case in point: a bunch of white people posted pictures and a video of them performing a reenactment of the Jenna 6 incident while in blackface. If that weren’t bad enough, when the woman who posted the media on her Facebook page got caught, this is what she had to say [emphasis mine]:

Smith, who did not respond to a TSG e-mail sent to her school address, apologized for the images in several recent Facebook postings. “We were just playin n the mud and it got out of hand. I promise i’m not racist. i have just as many black friends as i do white. And i love them to death,” she wrote. She added in a later message that her friends “were drinking” and things “got a lil out of hand.”

People who aren’t racist would own up to their racism in their apology, not try to erase the reality of the racist act with the “I didn’t mean it” plea. People who aren’t racist wouldn’t use excuses like “some of my friends are black”, “we were just playing”, and “we were drinking” in order to try and downplay the impact that such displays of racism have. People who aren’t racist would not have thought to do such a ‘reenactment’ in the first place, much less thought it was ‘funny’ enough to post on Facebook.

So, yes, Ms. Smith, you are racist. But, you know, that in of itself isn’t a damnable offense. I’ve said and done racist things before, as have all white people. It’s an unfortunate product of our culture, because — by virtue of our whiteness — we are both enabled and encouraged to enact out varying forms of racism in our everyday lives.

But what separates the allies from the racists is that, when the allies fuck up, we admit it. We don’t try to minimize what we did, but we own up to our own mistakes, fully and without reservation, and then we go educate ourselves in an effort to not fuck up again. We don’t insult the people who we’ve hurt by saying things like, “I’m not racist” because we realize that, especially after committing a racist act, we are the last people who have the authority to decide such a thing.

So, to Smith and all the other white people out there who think “I’m not racist” is an acceptable thing to come out of a white person’s mouth: if you have to say it, chances are you are, in fact, harboring a lot of unaddressed and unacknowledged racism. If you truly don’t want to be seen as racist, then the first thing you need to do is to take a hard look at yourself and the world around you, and then start educating yourself on what it takes to be anti-racist. The information is out there, but you’re the only one who can get yourself to take that step and use it.

Via stoneself’s LJ.

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This entry was posted in Privilege, Racism, USA. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to If you have to say "i'm not racist" chances are you are

  1. kristy says:

    That’s so true, people often start sentences with “i’m not racist, but…” and I course the next sentence is always racist!

  2. Jo says:

    Tekanji quoth:

    But what separates the allies from the racists is that, when the allies fuck up, we admit it.

    Thank you. That clear delineation needs to go down in the annals, or something. I certainly need to remember that.

    Kristy quoth:

    That’s so true, people often start sentences with “i’m not racist, but…” and I course the next sentence is always racist!

    Because the work but changes everything that follows it, negating whatever came before. Just like “I’m not one to criticize, but…” or any other variant.

    And to think I learned that from Bible study. It boggles the mind.

    //languagegeek==off

    I wonder, does the same apply for something like this?

    “I know I’m racist, but I’m trying to change my reactions/thinking/fight the way I was brought up” (or similar)

    Well, no. It doesn’t. Because I am racist*, at least a little bit, if I’m working actively against it. Question retracted.

    *I am. Of course I am. I hate it, but there it is. And I’m trying to fight those attitudes I learned from our white supremist society. It’s the best (and the least) I can do.

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