How to talk to white people about racism
1. Do not debate. Declare.
I’ve come to realize that debating is just another derailing tactic. If you come across a white American who wants to argue, cloud the issue, split hairs, etc., then you’ve reached the end of the conversation — period. Social justice is not a cult; it’s not your job to “convert” people. They have to choose to either be a decent human being or to support the racist colonialist system that is America.
- If they talk a lot about their “opinions”, end the conversation.
- If they ask you if you really do experience racism, ask them why they’re asking you that.
- End the conversation if they start with lines like,
- “I can’t imagine”
- “I refuse to believe”
- “I just don’t see”
And no, you do not have to be nice about it.
2. Racial discussion is not an “exchange” of ideas.
This isn’t about what we can learn from each other — this is about you learning from me, and you’re already behind by four centuries.
3. Do not end racial discussions on a positive note.
If white people end racial discussions on an optimistic, the-future-is-bright note, they’re happy, they feel absolved, and they tell themselves that things “will eventually work themselves out”. That’s why they have to leave these discussions bothered, troubled, and deeply perturbed.
We don’t get a slow, gentle, candy-coated introduction to the pains of American racism. Never have. White folks shouldn’t get to either.
4. Maintain realistic expectations.
What leads to frustration is most of us operate under the misguided notion that intelligence is all someone needs to learn something. Learning, in fact, requires additional components to intelligence, like consistent practice, research, recall, overall self-discipline, and a need for the absolute truth of things. White privilege conditions much of this out of most white Americans by the time they hit puberty.
5. Stop being afraid.
You don’t need white Americans to like you — if they cross the line, make them uncomfortable. We have already overcome and survived a lot in this country and contrary to popular belief, we did so with an overwhelming lack of support from white America. So do not doubt your worth or tone down your voice or temper your strength.
If you’re being dehumanized socially, assert yourself and walk way. If you’re being dehumanized occupationally or academically…lawsuit. Tolerance is a bullshit term, and we need to stop tolerating from hereon out, online and in real life — period.
6. Stop referring them to Tim Wise.
Since referring white people to Tim Wise as their introduction to social justice hasn’t had the necessary effect, stop doing it. Instead refer them to David S. Reynolds’s “John Brown, Abolitionist: The Man Who Killed Slavery, Sparked the Civil War, and Seeded Civil Rights” (2006).