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Correct information, wrong approach. Most white people reading the article will be turned away or made to feel hostile before they get to the part of the article with the information they need to hear. This is one of the biggest problems of dealing with racism: getting white people to accept that the problem is not just limited to white supremacists, but that it can be within someone who despises racism and believes they could never do such a thing. These people throw up defenses—I am being wrongly accused, black people are being racist about me, I am being greeted with hostility, etc. This article trips a lot of those reactions right off the bat. The white people who read this and get to the key information still with an open mind are going to be the ones who are already aware that racism is not a conscious, binary thing, but infused in the culture. The ones who need to hear this—in particular, whites who don’t want to be racist but who do not understand how it works—need to be approached carefully, lest they be pushed off the edge the wrong way. I’m not talking about what they deserve, some kind of privilege of being handled with kid gloves, but rather simply what has the best hope of working well.

I think that part of the problem is language: we need more words to describe the varieties of racism. The thing is, “racism” is the “N-word” for white people: it is the one thing you can call a white person and they become offended, outraged, and defensive. It has the strength of an absolute epithet because it has the force of society behind it. But it also holds no subtlety or shading for a white person. Say “racism,” and white people jump immediately to the image of the hateful, brutal, despicable white supremacist; use it regarding their thoughts or actions, and you have lost them, as they believe you are calling them the extreme, to which they respond with indignation, suspicion,and denial. For most white people, there is no in-between: you’re that, or you’re the good guy. We need an expanded lexicon to describe the variations in source, intensity, intention, and effect of discriminatory thought and action, so that when information like what is described above is presented, it is understood more precisely. Just the introduction of an expanded vocabulary itself will generate awareness, making people consider the variations, what they mean, and therefore how to recognize them and better avoid them. This has shown to be effective with gender, with the greater exposure to the varieties leading to greater understanding and recognition. I strongly believe that this is the single most constructive next step to alleviating racism that we could take.