The Aggressive Fragility of ‘I’m Not Racist’ and ‘Not All White People’
Dear Sharon Osbourne, Piers Morgan, and Becky from ‘The Real World Homecoming’: Please. Stop.
People can be so exhausting. Correction: Some people can be so exhausting. Although exceptions are generally implied when we generalize, for some people, nothing can be left to implication — especially if the subject is racism.
I see evidence of this in the comments section of nearly every article I read or write about race. There are always a few in the audience, usually White, who take offense because they presume that when Black people write about the racism White people inflict on them, unless “White people” is qualified with “some,” they are being lumped in with the main offenders. Apparently, for them, the true horror of racism isn’t racism itself but being accused of it due to association.
I understand the frustration, even if I think it’s kind of pathetic. For many Whites, merely implying they might be racist can be as triggering as being called the N word is for blacks. Although the latter is accompanied by centuries of brutal history and a system that continues to undervalue us, the R word is a label most White people, even ones who are openly racist, don’t want to wear. KKK members and White nationalists deny they are racist all the time.
“I’m not racist” and “Not all White people are racist” are two common and thoroughly unnecessary White protestations. When White people use them to avoid being lumped together with “real” racists, they aren’t telling Black people anything we haven’t heard. It’s a racist trope, and by constantly repeating it, they’re shoving themselves into that unsavory box. It’s one step up from “Some of my best friends are Black.”
My advice to Whites who protest too much: Stop making racism all about you and your hurt feelings. When Black people talk and write about the way racism damages our lives and our psyches and how deep the wounds cut, defensively pointing out that you are a model White person is a terrible look. The deflection diminishes the pain of what we are talking about by making it all about something else: you.
When you start shouting at a Black person for not…