How Does A Black Person Know If A White Person Is Racist?

Rebecca Stevens A.
Feb 20 · 5 min read

We can tell within the first minute of meeting you

So yes, within 60 seconds of meeting you, most black people can tell whether you are racist or not. Here are some of the telltale signs:

The way you look at us. Some white people are just plain scared when they meet a black person. Guess what, it shows. We can see it on your faces, we can feel it from a mile off. You see, nonverbal cues — the subconscious involuntary signals that your body sends out are about 80 percent of the message you emit. It talks to the person in front of you before you even open your mouth.

Some white people have an unconscious deep-seated fear of black people that they themselves try to ignore. But it shows up in their nonverbal, and it’s the first thing we notice when we meet you. Sometimes white folks subconsciously even do things that show us that fear. An example is the older white lady who clutches her bag tighter when she sees me approaching her or the person who hurriedly shuts the door to the elevator to avoid riding with me. Sometimes white people don’t even realize they are doing these things, other times they think we might not notice, but we do.

Another way we know that you are racist is when you say the words:

“You’re different from other black people, you’re articulate, you’re educated, you look more western…”

These telltale comments tell us all we need to know about you — namely that you are racist. I never understand why white people think it is ok to say this. Are you trying to make me a black woman feel better, by telling me that I’m great but the rest of the black people in the world aren’t? It’s just like the stupidest thing anyone can say. And the actual message you’re conveying in saying what you think is a compliment is this:

“You’re the only black person I’m not racist with”.

It might surprise you, but this is really what you are saying and that’s the way I and many other black people understand it.

Another sign that you’re racist is when you constantly use stereotypes and generalizations to categorize black people. Don’t say stuff like:

“All black people are good singers”.

That is absolute rubbish and you should know that — at least I hope you do. Judging people based on stereotypes is just plain lazy. Human beings are the most intelligent creatures on earth. Get to know people instead of packing them into a category. Not all black people are good singers, not all black people run fast, not all black people know how to dance (I don’t). Avoid using stereotypes and generalizations.

If you believe positive stereotypes i.e all black people are great singers, then you’ll also believe negative stereotypes i.e all black people are thugs. And that’s what led to a knee on a man’s neck and the tragic racist consequences that ensued. Make an effort to educate yourself, to learn about individuals and cultures that you don’t know. Don’t put people into boxes because it’s convenient or easier. Get to know the other — please.

Another way that we know that you’re racist is when you tense up and get all defensive about racism, Black Lives Matter, white privilege, white fragility, and what have you. We can immediately feel the tension. You vehemently attack us whether it is by way of trolling us on the comments section or bullying us in real life.

The way you behave shows us that you have something to hide or some form of guilt nagging at you. If you weren’t a racist, you wouldn’t feel attacked — do you get what I mean? There is no smoke without fire, and you’re only vigorously defending yourself because you did something racist along the line or you’ve entertained racist thinking or actions at some point or another.

My personal favorite is when a white person says:

“I’m not racist, you’re my friend. Or, I’m not racist, my wife is black or I like rap or I go to Africa all the time”.

There is something so wrong with either of these statements. Why do white people feel the need to say these things? You’re actually telling me you are racist when you say these things. Because it means, you’ve gone out of the way to justify what you think is your nonracism. Because you have a doubt in your mind — no matter how small it may be, you’ve asked yourself the question about whether you’re racist or not and you’ve used token examples to reassure yourself that you are not.

It’s like corporations who reassure themselves that they aren’t racist because they’ve hired 1–2 black or brown people in senior management positions while other black people in the organization face racial microaggressions on a daily basis. My lay woman’s view would be that that organization is indeed racist, trying to dissimulate that reality under a performative veneer of tokenism.

So yes, these are just some of the ways we can tell you’re racist, and no, you haven’t been able to hide it from us. We see and we smell it, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t change. You may be racist now given the circumstances of your birth or the way you were raised. But the reality is simple, no one is born racist, so there is always time to change, to transform yourself.

You can choose to become nonracist and even better, antiracist, it is all a matter of choice. Educate yourself — go out and find the information. Understand that racism is a social construct built on a bedrock of lies and white supremacy to advance the economic and political ambitions of a privileged few.

Realize that we are all human beings, that we are all equal, that we are all in the pursuit of happiness. Know and believe with all your heart that while we all inhabit different hues, in essence, we are all the same, and that there is no place for racism here on earth.

Thanks for reading my perspective.

You can sign up for my Diary Of A Black Woman In A White World newsletter here: https://www.getrevue.co/profile/baselpoet

Rebecca Stevens A.

Written by

I write about racism, but there are so many other things I would like to write about instead. Help me dismantle racism so that I can get to that.

ILLUMINATION-Curated

Outstanding stories objectively and diligently selected by 40+ senior editors on ILLUMINATION

Rebecca Stevens A.

Written by

I write about racism, but there are so many other things I would like to write about instead. Help me dismantle racism so that I can get to that.

ILLUMINATION-Curated

Outstanding stories objectively and diligently selected by 40+ senior editors on ILLUMINATION

Medium is an open platform where 170 million readers come to find insightful and dynamic thinking. Here, expert and undiscovered voices alike dive into the heart of any topic and bring new ideas to the surface. Learn more

Follow the writers, publications, and topics that matter to you, and you’ll see them on your homepage and in your inbox. Explore

If you have a story to tell, knowledge to share, or a perspective to offer — welcome home. It’s easy and free to post your thinking on any topic. Write on Medium

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store