I, Racist
John Metta
7K899

Thought-provoking article. As a minority without the baggage or privilege of black or white, and who has experienced racism in both the U.S. and in Asia, I have mixed feelings about this article and would respond to the author this way:
First of all, I agree with your conclusion: it really is on you, and every other black person to “educate” white people about their perspective (or lack thereof). Yes, it is exhausting and onerous, but it’s either fight the status quo or choose to live with this “racism.” Obviously, I’m choosing the former.
It is ironic that you complain about being tuned out for being an “angry black man.” Of course white folk who have not consciously acted racist will feel personally, unjustifiably attacked. It’s a non-starter. Why not use a more precise and less loaded term- “ignorance”- instead? I don’t mean ignorance in the sense of uneducated or indifferent, just ignorant in the same sense that men can never really understand what childbirth or the lack of male privilege- that same system you and I benefit from- feels like. We can overcome ignorance with education, but that will never happen if we don’t speak up.
You need to develop white folks’ empathy and understanding, but before that you need to develop yours. It is about working through their ignorance, not working through your issues. It is not about you, it is about your message. It is about them. They are the problem and the solution. Unburden yourself of your baggage and try to understand things the way a white person does so you can get through to them. To extend the pervious metaphor: maybe we can never really experience the double standard of being called a “slut” rather than a “player,” or the fear of being raped and then blamed for being victimized, but we can listen, and understand, and emphasize. We can become mindful and act and advocate accordingly.
Finally- black people can be as “racist”- sorry, ignorant- as white people. It’s ironic and frankly hypocritical to stereotype every white liberal as racist, and I’m not going to waste time rebutting it. This is not a condemnation of you specifically or even black people generally, but more of an observation of how universal human nature can be. It can be as innocent as a Japanese kid thinking I’m white (I’m Asian-American) because I’m from American, or half white if I mention my parents are Chinese; it can be as hateful as a Japanese man literally turning his back on me and refusing to talk after I mention I am Chinese.
You and I are Other- no getting around that. Strangers in the U.S. see a black man and an Asian. You and I can slip into the undifferentiated African-American and Asian-American, but there’s no such equivalent usage nowadays for “European-Americans.” It’s taken a little over two-hundred years for us to get there, which is not bad on the scale of human civilization. So maybe that just means another hundred years, if ever, for you and I to be treated as individuals.
I know as a member of a “model minority” I can’t relate to the experience of your daily life, or the cumulative toll it must take. That doesn’t mean I’m privileged. That doesn’t mean I don’t care. As a member of a “model minority” and as a student of history, I’m very mindful of the genocide of Native Americans, the internment camps for Japanese-Americans, the fear and distrust and alienation of Muslim-Americans. I expect to have my turn in my lifetime.
Takeaway: you want equality? Fight for it. Our forefathers fought and suffered so that they and you and I could have better lives. To paraphrase a recently popular slogan, it does get better. Yet you and I, we’ll do much the same: we’ll fight twice as hard to get two-thirds as much. But hey, at least that’s something half of all white people- women- can relate to, so maybe we’re already halfway there. You’ve heard of the white man’s burden, right? Educating him is ours.
PS Go on a vacation abroad and try explaining America to foreigners for practice. Teaching English in Japan for a year is how I did it. Watch out for the “kancho,” though.

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