August 21, 2014

"I'm not a racist, but..."

I've noticed in real life, and on the net, that many people, white people, have no idea how to call out racism. I even hear them asking for help on this.

So I drew a little exercise to help folks explore the possibilities of what you might say to someone who is saying racist things.

Is it offensive to call white people 'whities'? There you go.





I invented the above situation. But most people have heard something similar said by someone they know.

What do you say to racism?

Note: Racism comes in all colours; I'm addressing white people who freeze in the face of it. 


24 comments:

  1. Can you read Polish? write Polish? Speak Polish? How does it feel to be dumber than a Polack?" (As a polack I Know it's not always about color.)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. True, it's not always about colour, and it can be argued that at the heart of all forms of discrimination (sexism, racism, ageism etc and I include bullying and intimidation in this), subtle or aggressive, is the notion of power.

      Delete
  2. Replies
    1. Followed by? We want to reach people, and hopefully give them cause to reflect on their beliefs.

      Delete
  3. "I would love to get someone who isn't an ignorant, self-deluded bigot."

    ReplyDelete
  4. If it's as easy as someone saying "I'm not racist, but..." then you just stop it immediately before they get to the really really racist part, "Uh oh, here comes something staggeringly racist." Then if they still proceed with the rest of it, "Why did you lie earlier when you said you aren't racist? And why would you think that's okay to say out loud, let alone think in side your racist brain?"

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Very good. In my experience people want to say what they're going to say, so that little warning "Uh oh, you're about to say something staggeringly racist" prolly won't stop them. But it sure does open up the dialogue for you once they put their foot in it.

      Delete
  5. I pull the 'Kanye' "Yo, I'ma let you finish, but you're about to say the most racist thing of all time!"

    ReplyDelete
  6. "I have a friend who is (insert nationality, sexual orientation, religion, colour, body type...)"
    "(insert nationality, sexual orientation, religion, colour, body type...) are good people"
    "You (insert nationality, sexual orientation, religion, colour, body...) people are really good at (insert activity)"

    .... and I can go on and on and on...I used to just smile, look them in the eye, shake my head and change the subject. Now, I walk out on them as they hit mid-sentence

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I can understand your weariness because that shit can be super offensive, day in and day out. And I get that you don't even want to stick around for it. But...does walking out teach them anything? Society is fucked and we need to change...somehow.

      Delete
  7. "Stop for a minute and think about what you just said. Would you appreciate being treated that way? No. Now Stop for more than a minute. Just stop."

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think this flip is good, because it's reflective and civil.

      Delete
    2. I like this one. I think most people will stop at least for a second to give that some thought. And doing unto others is really hard to argue with.

      Delete
  8. Don't give words the power to hurt you.

    ReplyDelete
  9. "The common denominator in all your unsatisfactory customer service experiences . . . is you."

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I love this. Actually, I was hoping someone would pick up on the "I have problems" line I put in there.

      Delete
  10. Let me tell you about my stress migraines caused by locking up my jaw so as not to respond to the staggeringly racist comments made by my coworkers. I'm white as white can be, and they will tell you about their black friends...just before they say some kind of racist nonsense. If I can bring myself to reply civilly, I say something like "Oh, that doesn't sound reasonable. What about...?" Otherwise - migraines.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. See, these are the kinds of situations we need to address. Thank-you so much for sharing this. What happens if you just come right out and say, "what you just said is racist"? Do you fear retaliation in the workplace? These are the kinds of feelings that make people freeze up.

      Delete
    2. If someone is telling you about their black friends just before saying something racist, I'd be inclined to ask them if they'd repeat what they just said to their friends. If not, it might be time to rethink it.

      Delete
  11. I agree, JC, that some kind of conversation - some correspondence or confrontation - is needed to correct our dialogue (or absence thereof). But here's the thing that I find distressing and which has paralyzed my thinking recently: research increasingly finds that people DON'T change their minds. Which explains why these interactions are so frustrating and feel so fruitless regardless of what you say.

    Here's what the research says: when people do alter their position, it's under very specific circumstances (which, predictably, don't include confrontation at the office or over Thanksgiving dinner). So that means that a pithy or educational retort will have little to no effect, except on your own sense of justice (which isn't nothing, of course).

    The New Yorker covered some of the research which concluded that the only circumstance consistently proven to alter fixed opinions or biases was when subjects were prepped with a boost to self-esteem: http://www.newyorker.com/science/maria-konnikova/i-dont-want-to-be-right but TBD how long that effect would persist.

    And in Cass Sunstein's book, Going to Extremes, he posits that the one reliable way to effect a change in opinion is if "the information comes from a source they cannot dismiss," i.e. someone whom they already trust shares their convictions. E.g. Wayne LaPierre walking back his position on gun control would have a huge effect on NRA members but Obama (or me) spending hours on a reasonable argument would only cause them to entrench more firmly.

    *sigh* So what to do? It depends on your aim: if it's to maintain your peace of mind and convictions, be brief and calm and walk away, I suppose. If it's to change the course of events, start there and live to fight another day, preferably legislatively, to restrict or outlaw the behavior even if individual mindsets can't be changed.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank-you! This is helpful. I've learned something and I somehow feel a little less helpless. I find it interesting about the subjects being prepped with a boost to self esteem prior to attempting to alter their view; when I was supervising teams of artists on animation production I would always praise their good work before giving them revisions. It was most effective and everyone came away feeling good. So there you go, human nature is not so impermeable.

      Delete
  12. I call my husband out on this all the time and just call him a racist to his face. It becomes a bit of a comedy situ, but I think it does make him realise how much he does it.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm glad to hear that. It's heartening to know it!

      Delete

Cuz You Rocketh.