White LGBTQ+ People Need to Avoid Racism Bait

We cannot let our Queer be a doorway into racist engagements

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It goes like this. The bigot will pick something about you they are willing to compromise on to seem like a decent person. It could be that you are female presenting, or you are possibly a migrant, or a tourist, or you are a member of the LGBTQ+ community. The bigot will then use one of these ‘traits’ as bait for a conversational doorway:

“You know, I’m all for gender quotas”, “So how long have you been here?”, “I’ve always wanted to visit where you’re from”, “Gosh it’s a real shame there won’t be Pride this year.”

Only for there to be a racist follow up:

“But do we really need racial quotas? I think that’s overkill”, “The diversity here must be a bit shocking to you”, “There aren’t many black people in your country, right?”, “Those rioters are really ruining things for a lot of people.”

This follow up may be immediate, or much deeper into the conversation. The bigots that use these tactics are often unassuming strangers. I’ve run into them at grocery stores, at pawn shops, at airports, and at concerts. But they can also be more familiar in the shape of colleagues, distant family, old acquaintances, and Queer community members.

How we respond to the manipulative tactic of baiting is the key to shutting down any further racist engagement. The response must be a swift rebuttal, followed by an immediate end to the conversation. Ending it is very important. Bigots will try all kinds of lines to keep you in, to appeal to you with sentiments like: “I mean I believe in equality, but…” However, get physical by literally walking away if you must.

Then, make sure there is a consequence. If the person is an employee, inform their management before you leave. If the person is a family member at a party, tell everyone else you are avoiding that person because of their bigotry. If the person is a stranger in a public place, make your disengagement overly clear, so others know not to engage with that person. If the person is at a LGBTQ+ event, speak to the event organiser, a host, or security about the person to have them spoken to or removed — Queer spaces should never tolerate intolerance.

As a white, LGBTQ+ person, I’ve been baited like this many times. In America, in Australia, anywhere where there are racists. Which is everywhere. They’ll use my Queerness, my vague femaleness, my out-of-place-accent as a doorway to try and get approval (or an audience) for their racism.

These incidents feel like they are becoming more prevalent. Though it’s highly likely I’m simply becoming more aware of them. Racism baiting is a manipulation tactic, and it can take time to educate oneself to recognise what it looks like.

Learning how to spot racism bait and then shut it down is one small thing, amongst many, that white LGBTQ+ people can do in the worldwide fight against racism. Yes, we must continue to call out and excise the bigots in our own community. But we must also be bold enough in our whiteness to call out those strangers who feign allyship in order to spread racists beliefs. We must throw the bait back and warn others. A racist ally is not an ally.

Written by

Queer, Kiwi-Aussie writer and poet. BA in Creative Industries, avid chaser of representation, keen on coastlines and cats.

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