I say, “Since all white Americans have been raised in a racially segregated and biased society that has provided them with certain cultural privileges and advantages, all white Americans are racist.”

Another white American says, “How dare you call me racist. That’s offensive.  You don’t know my heart and mind.  You don’t know how I think or act.  You don’t know how I was raised.  My parents were good people who taught be to be color blind.  I’m not racist.  You’re the racist.  You’re the one who is judging a whole group of people based on the color of their skin.  If you are going to continue to make broad and outrageous statements like this, our conversation is over.”

I say, “I apologize. I didn’t mean to offend you.  I just think it is really important for white Americans to talk about our role in perpetuating racism.  Could we at least agree that since all white American have been raised in a racially segregated and biased society that has provided them with certain cultural privileges and advantages, that most white Americans are racist?”

Another white American says, “That’s offensive, too. Most white Americans are good people who believe in basic human rights, a level playing field and the rule of law.  I hold no animosity toward people of color.  I have never intentionally mistreated a person of color.  In fact, I have friends and family who are people of color.  To lump me in with neo-Nazis and white supremacists is offensive and unfair.  If you can’t see the difference between those people and me, our conversation is over.”

I say, “I apologize. I’m not accusing you of being a white supremacist or even a bad person.  I just think racism is more pervasive than you’re suggesting.  Could we at least agree that since all white Americans have been raised in a racially segregated and biased society that has provided them with certain cultural privileges and advantages, that a majority of white Americans are racist?”

Another white American says, “I could never agree with that. Most of my white friends are just like me.  We aren’t racist and we’re tired of getting judged and condemned for being white.  Slavery ended 150 years ago.  In the 1960s, segregation ended.  You completely ignore all the progress we’ve made. Most of the problems faced by minorities in our society today have less to do with racism and more to do with poor decision making.  If you’re going to insist that white Americans are still responsible for every inequity, our conversation is over.”

I say, “I apologize. I don’t want our conversation to end.  There must be some common ground as we seek to create a more racially integrated and just society.  Could we at least agree that since all white Americans have been raised in a racially segregated and biased society that provided them with certain cultural privileges and advantages, that some white Americans are still racist?”

Another white American says, “Well, I can agree with that. I know some white people who are racist.”

I say, “Wonderful. Let’s begin there.  What can we do about that?”

Another white American says, “There’s no point in talking to them. When people are racist, they won’t hear anything you say.  They’ve been raised to see the world in a certain way and don’t see anything wrong with it.  If you challenge them, they just get defensive, offended and angry.  It’s a waste of time.”

I say, “On that, we can agree.”

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5 thoughts on “Are All White Americans Racist?

  1. All whites in America have been raised with many advantages. In your conversation, you get responses that will not acknowledge that they have ANY racism within them. They are all just like the person they define as racist – they will not discuss how they might be racist. This inability of whites to discuss – in fact to refuse to discuss – the racism in our society is the major issue I see.

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    1. Good point, Bill. In my experience, people see racism as a all or nothing term. If I admit to any racism, I’m a bad person. Therefore, I must defend my lack of racism at all costs. If racism is a continuum, then all white people can admit to being racist and still address the more blatant and systemic manifestations of racism.

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  2. Here is a thought. According to your brief biography, you are 56 years olde. Then you’ve been around for quite some while.
    Racial integration in the schools began in the 60s. I was in the 6th grade. So, for some 50 years, roughly two whole generations, Whites and Blacks have been forced to get to know each other beginning in kindergarten and all through school and beyond.
    Yet in this day, the seemingly common perception is that race relations are worst than ever. How can it be that the two races having known each other since age 5, played together, hung out together, became friends… now can’t get along?
    Can it be this hugely, mega-expensive experiment in racial integration just won’t work? And that it is tyme to admit it and call it a failure? To not is insanity, by definition. 50 plus years and we still can’t get along.

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    1. Jimmy, I think there are several flaws in your argument. First, most white Americans, by choice or circumstance, have not gone to integrated schools. I certainly didn’t. There was only one person of color in my high school class. Also, many of the most racist whites intentionally kept their children out of integrated schools and thereby passed their bias on to their children. This is not to say integrating schools wouldn’t help. I think it does! My children, by intention, did attend an integrated school and two of them married someone of a different race. However, a small percentage of whites have attended integrated schools and benefitted from that experience. So I don’t think the mega-expansive experiment has been tried. I think we can get along, but not until we truly engage each other and part of that engagement will necessitate whites hearing what their race has done to people of color.

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