3 Types of Racism Against Black People That Many White People Do Not See as Racism

Jan 14, 2015 · 3 min read

Guess what? You can send those people a link to this article! Did someone send you this link? Awkward.

Here’s a short post about some pretty basic and obviously racist shit that, despite its enduring basicness, I still see all the time. So feel free to post this in your racist uncle’s Facebook feed. I’ve tried to sum some things up.

1. Many white people seem to think that, because they oppose blatant racism against absolutely perfect black people (“I just love Morgan Freeman! He’s not like those other….”), they are not racist.

It does not occur to them that most people are not perfect, and that equality is important for ordinary, fallible human beings.

How many white women who call Mike Brown a “thug” are married to a man who, in high school or college, had a little bit of “fun”? I know white Ivy League graduates who have stolen a police cruiser, sold drugs, smoked pot in public, disrupted public events, held illegal parties with illegal alcohol, and driven very badly. All are alive and well, and hold prestigious jobs. A man who shoplifts and enjoys marijuana does not deserve a summary execution.

Pointing out that an unarmed black man shot dead by police has committed a crime, somewhere, sometime — is racist.

2. Many white people think that they are not racist because they do not discriminate based on skin color. They do, however, discriminate against people who have black-sounding names, and sport various fashions and hairstyles and manicure styles popular among black Americans.

That is, they’re not racist against people with black skin; they’re just racist against the majority of actual black people.

This is the primary form of racism I grew up with in 1980s Virginia. Almost all white people said that racism was very bad. And yet many of those same white people had cruel things to say about nearly every black person they actually interacted with. You could just picture a million white people shrugging, saying, “Well, I’m doing my part. I don’t know why these people don’t get with the program.”

This shouldn’t be complicated, but if your version of non-racism creates a sieve that sorts almost all black people into a category of “bad” black people, you are racist!

3. Many white people do not think “accidentally” benefitting from racism is racist.

(See Racism Without Racists). The fact that such people live in a society in which white people — even the most painfully mediocre white people — do better than black people on virtually all measures of educational, health, professional, and financial outcomes is viewed as somehow irrelevant. I’ve never personally been mean to any black people, say these white people, and therefore I am not part of any racist “system.” Such people often follow up with some verbiage about how the laws (not the law enforcers, alas) treat everyone equally.

Say you’re playing football. You’re working hard, you’ve practiced hard, and you’re winning. But at some point, you realize that the refs are ignoring a lot of blatant penalties you’ve been committing, while your opponent keeps getting flag after flag thrown for even the most borderline of infractions. You didn’t ask for the ref to help you like that. You didn’t come into the game thinking they’d do that. So what do you do? Just keep playing? Do you spray champagne in the locker room after the big game?

Of course, the stakes in real life are much higher. When we talk about education, the legal system, health care, and every other system where the “referees” are mostly white—yes, you’re doing something wrong if you don’t help fix systems that are “more than fair” to you, and less than fair to others. That’s racism—even if you didn’t mean it.

Pass it on!

Jennifer Dziura is the founder of GetBullish and the annual Bullish Conference.


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Jen Dziura writes career and life advice from a feminist POV on getbullish.com and runs the annual Bullish Conference.

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