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The White Person's Guide To Working Out If They're Racist Apr. 10th, 2011 @ 03:39 pm
If you're reading this, you're probably a person. Which means that you probably have skin, which will have a melanin component, in most cases. Despite this, some of you will nonetheless qualify as "white", perhaps because "pinky-beigey-tan-sort-of-thing" looks bad on forms.

Many white people struggle with the notion of "being a racist". Because just about everyone agrees that being a racist is bad, but sometimes, it's so hard to tell, right? What if you're a racist and you don't even know it? What if you're sure you're definitely not one but the question keeps coming up again?

Well, have no fear. Auntie Sami is here to help. Here are some tips on working through this dilemma. And we're not, here, going off that ridiculous assertion that "everyone's a little bit racist" - one, because I don't think that's true, actually, and two, because it implies that that means being racist - if just "a little bit" - is somehow, therefore, okay. Which it isn't. So here goes.

"Racist" has a clear definition, and I don't fit it!

I looked at a webpage today. The webpage's author was totally a racist, and she denies it on the basis that "this is the definition of racism":

"a belief in the innate superiority of a particular race; antagonism towards members of a different race based on this belief."


Well, not exactly. Certainly that's a reasonable definition of racial supremacist attitudes, and it's a reasonable definition of one form of racism, but it's more-or-less equivalent to defining Christianity as adherence to Catholicism, and... not so much. Like Christian denominations, there are many forms of racism, and while some are hard-line evangelicals or rigid Roman Catholics, others are mild-mannered sorts who think overt displays of their faith are rather tacky.

Racism encompasses a lot of other things, many of them subtle and unconscious, some of them not involving antagonism at all.

Real-World Extreme Example: It was once, and for many years, standard practice to take the children of indigenous Australian families away and foster them with white families. It was felt that this would provide the children with much better lives. There wasn't antagonism involved - it was a sincere conviction that the black children would be better off living with white strangers than their own families.

This was, however, incredibly racist.

If you find yourself quoting a definition like the one above to prove why something you're doing is totally not racist, it's probably quite racist indeed, and you're probably a racist.

But I have black friends!

No-one cares.

Whether or not you are racist is not determined by how you treat, or even whether you have, black friends. It's determined by how you treat, think about, and react to strangers. Of course you're nice to your friends - everyone is. And being a racist won't stop you having friends of a different race, because that person will, in your mind, be either an exception, or possibly a token trophy of your non-racism.

Because racism isn't about individuals, not really. One racist isn't even a problem - the problem with racism is the systemic toxicity it causes.

Sure, that person called me a racist, but that happens to everyone sometimes!

Have you noticed that that statement sort of assumes "everyone" is white?

But that's a side-issue. The actual thing of this is: no it doesn't. Getting called racist is sort of like the Ian Fleming count. Once is miscommunication, twice is time to do some careful thinking, three times is you're a racist and you need to shut up until you've done some serious reading on Racism 101.
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