It’s Not About Race!
John Metta

Obviously culture is relative and carries within it scars and prejudices of the past. The question I’m wondering about is why that’s relevant to proving that “it” is, in fact, all about race.

You’ve said yourself (in the last section of your article) that you approach every situation in your life with cultural baggage, and with the assumption that anyone who crosses you or disagrees with you is motivated by racism. Given that, it’s no wonder that you see racism everywhere. Wear glasses with blue lenses, and I’m not surprised if you think the world is blue.

I need to consciously think about my behavior all the time to conform to social expectations, in order to come across the way I intend to come across. That’s normal; I dare say it’s the case for everyone. And, living in a majority black country, I need to constantly think about how I act in order to not seem racist.

When I walk down the street carrying a bag, if I meet someone going the opposite direction who obviously intends to pass me on the same side as I’m holding the bag, my first instinct is to move the bag across in order to avoid accidentally bumping them with it, and I do this unthinkingly when the other person is white; but if he’s black, I’m conflicted because it might seem as though I’m protecting the bag from him, rather than vice versa. So I give him a wider berth instead, which could probably also be regarded as racist.

When I walk past some people who are having a conversation, and there is space to walk between them, I walk between them, because in the local majority black culture, it can be seen as rude to walk behind someone’s back. But when the people having the conversation are white, I need to remind myself to go around them, because they will regard walking between them as being rude. And what’s funny is that I need to remind myself of this even though I’m also white.

When I’m commenting on current or historical events involving one of our politicians misbehaving (most of whom are black, given our demographics), I find it useful to always mention examples of white politicians doing similar things and how it was also bad when they did it; if I don’t, it automatically becomes a racial argument. Even when I’m talking about events like people getting fired for being white or mixed-race, which happens here in order to prevent some races being “over-represented” in any profession. Let me repeat that: even when I’m commenting on official government policy which discriminates against me based on race, I need to be careful to avoid sending the message that I’m being racist for not wanting to be discriminated against!

But even so, it’s not all about race. It’s about race only when it’s explicitly about race. If it’s not explicitly about race, it will only become about race when you make it about race. If it’s possible to argue the case without appealing to race, then do so. Otherwise you just end up back at the point where everyone else either apologizes or doesn’t, but regardless, the discussion you’re having has not progressed. Unless every discussion you have is about race, in which case, there’s your problem right there. It’s what you’re bringing to the table, and other people are noticing it, which is why they’re wondering why everything’s about race with you. Not because you’re black, but because you’re coming across as being race-obsessed.

I don’t mean this to be confrontational. I just don’t see how you expect to be productive and move beyond racism if you make every discussion you have revolve around racism. That’s how you perpetuate it, not how you solve it.

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