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July 2012

8 Predictable and Annoying Responses In Conversations About Race

Have you heard any/all of these? I have. All. Weekly. Even daily at times…

1) “Now is not a good time!” This one is used in regards to an event where race IS a factor, but Whites aren’t painted very well (i.e. Aurora theatre shooting.) I am fairly certain that no time will ever be a good time. Meanwhile, people have to live 70-80 years (if they are lucky not to be gunned down, end up in Prison Industrial Complex, die of racially-motivated medical negligence, or the deal with the systemic effects on health that microaggressions and institutionalized racism cause) and just endure something that we can’t even talk about, let alone work towards change?

2) “Instead…let’s focus on…” Yes, “other” issues matter too. However, the philosophy of walking while chewing gum and viewing issues on a continuum means that the focus does not have to be shifted and will not be shifted.

3) “You’re injecting race into it!” I call this one the Conservative Scapegoat Response. People are not only a certain race on certain days then raceless on others. Race is never injected, it is always there. It’s simply a matter of how it applies to a particular situation…but it always applies.

4) “I don’t even see race!” I call this one the Liberal Scapegoat Response. "Colorblindness", is actually a form of racism.

5) “We are all the same race!” No…we aren’t. We are the same species. Our binomial nomenclature is homo sapien. However, since race is a social construction (though it being a construction doesn’t mean that there haven’t been/are not large historical, social, cultural, legislative, institutional, and systemic effects) created by humans with barely any biological basis, we can’t use this human construction that was initially made to divide and oppress and then say we are the same race, while continuing to divide and oppress, based on different racial groups. 

6) “I suffer too!” No one disputes personal tragedies. We are of course all individuals (though White privilege includes the luxury of denying minorities statuses as individuals [except a few “lucky” ones i.e. celebrities, politicians, athletes] versus statuses as monolithic groups) with our own stories and experiences. No one denies the existence of any personal harm anyone has experienced. However, the existence of personal harm does not mean that the effects of ADDITIONAL harms by way of White privilege, White supremacy or institutionalized racism do not occur to minorities.

7) “I went to ____, and I was a numerical minority there, so I can’t be racist. They were racist against me!” I am glad that people are getting their passport stamped, and feel really cool and enlightened by this but simply being of a lower population count doesn’t mean that White supremacy fades. It’s not predicated upon population numbers, but systems and institutions for which dismantling comes at a very high cost…usually money, safety…lives. Furthermore, the definition of racism is prejudice + power. A minority not liking a White person is not racism. Minorities do not systemically subjugate Whites under the existing power structure. (Loved this satirical essay on the myth of “reverse racism.”)

And the doozy….

8) I have ____ relationship with ____ race, so I am not racist.” Wrong. I wrote a whole essay on this one, titled The Biggest Myth About Racial Tolerance.

Related Post: 6 Common Derailment Tactics Used In Conversations About Street Harassment and Sexual Assault

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