When someone uses the phrase, “I’m not racist, but…,” you can be nearly certain they are racist. In my experience, what follows the word “but” is usually stereotypical and often racially offensive. Indeed, the least racially prejudiced people I know never make such claims. If they say anything at all, it is to acknowledge their continual struggle to address their racist tendencies.
Some white people are clearly less racist than others. Not all of us are white supremacists who think people of color genetically and intellectually inferior. Many of us are genuinely trying to check our racism and address our white privilege. While I applaud such efforts, I continue to discover ways in which I am unconsciously racist. I offer this short list of statements, attitudes, behaviors and possessions that I’ve either had or tolerated.
You might be a racist if…
- You have recently begun a sentence with the disclaimer, “I’m not a racist, but…”
- You hit the automatic locks on your car in response to the presence of a person of color.
- You have suggested people who complain about injustice in America should “go back where they came from.”
- You say “they should go back where they came from” when a Native American complains of injustice. (In this case, you are not only racist, but really stupid.)
- You own a Confederate flag or a black Sambo yard ornament.
- You claim “all lives matter” or “blue lives matter.”
- You think traveling to a resort in Mexico qualifies as traveling to Mexico.
- Your only real interaction with people of color is when they’re serving you.
- You think of a black male when asked to describe a drug dealer.
- You can’t understand why “Indians” get so upset about sports team mascots.
- You have wondered why there isn’t a White History month.
- You don’t notice when you’re in a group without a single person of color.
- You are never the only white person in a group.
- You’ve hired an undocumented immigrant and paid them less than a fair wage.
- You don’t know any details about the life of Frederick Douglas.
- Even worse, you think Frederick Douglas is still alive.
- You have used the term “those people” to describe a racial group.
- You think affirmative action is unfair, but think it perfectly acceptable for your child to get preference at your alma mater.
- You own a signed copy of a book written by Rush Limbaugh.
- You’ve never watched a Madea movie.
- Even worse, you’ve never heard of Madea.
- You have recently said, “Some of my best friends are people of color.”
- You’ve made the argument that the Civil War was about state’s rights.
- You don’t celebrate the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
- You think one or all of the following to be true – Asian people are more talented at math, black people love watermelon, people of Muslim faith are violent, Latino people are more tolerant of heat or Jewish people are better with money.
- You still think Christopher Columbus discovered America.
- You are white and were born in the United States.
This last indicator is probably the most important. It is impossible for white people to grow up in America without some level of racism. Until you acknowledge this reality, you are ignorant in the truest sense of that word. You ignore the truth. This combination of ignorance and racism makes a white person very dangerous. They can do or support terrible things while continuing to see themselves as morally righteous.
Unfortunately, even for those of us who acknowledge our latent racism, this list only captures the more obvious examples. Sadly, I was once oblivious to the racism in much of this list. In the future, I expect to discover other examples of racism within myself, racist statements and behaviors of which I am presently unaware.
This is good news.
The longer this list becomes, the less racist I will be.