#NotAllWhitePeople, The Quiz

flickr/Alberto G.
Ask yourself if you can honestly say ‘No’ to all of these questions.

I t should go without saying that discussing racism is difficult. It’s awkward and uncomfortable and people often find themselves either talking past one another or retreating to their corners, never to meet again.

Over the past two years, I have devoted a significant amount of time to facilitating discussions about race on Twitter. I have learned, after watching and participating in thousands of these conversations, that one consistent sticking point is the assertion “White people are racist.”

Because in America, we have come to think of racism only in terms of its extremes (slavery, Nazis, the KKK, Jim Crow, etc.), when Black people call out systemic racism, the average White person, not seeing themselves in any of these extremes, responds with defensiveness. This resistance to being considered complicit in systemic racism is exemplified by the Twitter hashtag #NotAllWhitePeople. This is a constant refrain in my discussions. “I am exempt!”

In America, we have come to think of racism only in terms of its extremes.

But anti-Blackness is deeply rooted in American culture, extending far beyond the most egregious examples of racist aggression. Racism manifests in laws, in advertisements, in economic policy, in media portrayals, in criminal justice, and in general society. We have all been steeped in it, and that you as a person have been unaffected by it is highly unlikely.

If you still think there’s no way you’re at all racist as a White person, here’s a quick quiz. The questions aren’t exhaustive and nobody is scoring you but you. So be honest with yourself and ask yourself if you can say “No” to all the following:

● Have you ever presumed that a Black person was less qualified for a skilled job than a White person?

● Have you ever defended accusations of racism by invoking Black friends?

● Have you ever laughed or poked fun at a characteristically Black name like LaTisha or Daquan?

● Have you ever considered a Black friend “not really Black”?

● Have you ever joked that you were Blacker than your Black friend because you engaged in more stereotypically Black aesthetics (clothes, slang, music)?

● Have the terms “welfare” or “poverty” automatically brought up images of Black people in your mind?

● Have you passed by stories of missing Black kids while paying rapt attention to a missing White girl?

● Have you ever thought or suggested that a Black person was exaggerating their experience of racism?

● Have most of your Black friends been people whose families and friends you know little to nothing about?

● Have you ever caught yourself agreeing with the sentiment that Blacks ARE more criminal than Whites?

● Have you ever felt more unsafe around a group of Black kids than around a group of White kids in the same circumstance?

● Have you ever dismissed movies with predominantly Black casts as “Black movies” and not of general interest?

● Have you ever laughed at a Black stereotype?

● Have you ever been surprised that a Black person was eloquent?

● Have you ever looked at a cop shooting of an unarmed Black person and thought “Not my problem?”

● Have you ever wished that Black people would “speak properly?”

● Have you ever presumed that you were smarter than a Black person without evidence?

● Have you ever pointed to Obama as evidence of a post-racial society?

● Have you ever assumed that a Black person got into a good school or job just because of affirmative action?

● Have you ever told a Black person that if they’d just stop talking about race, it wouldn’t be so much of an issue?

● Have you ever cringed at a family member dating a Black person?

● Have you ever sat through offensive racist jokes about Black people and said nothing or laughed along?

● Have you ever found yourself thinking of Africa as a country?

● Have you ever insisted on your colorblindness?

● Have you ever felt the need to explain how racism works to a Black person?

● Have you ever thought of Black history as separate or tangential to American history?

● Have you ever affected/mimed Black mannerisms in order to greet a new Black person?

● Have you ever responded to a Black person discussing the damage inflicted on them by racism and answered “NotAllWhitePeople?”

● Have you found yourself concerned with proving that you pass this test?

You probably didn’t get through this without saying “Yes” to at least one of these things, and that’s okay. It doesn’t make you a bad person, it just shows that we are all affected by anti-Black attitudes and teachings in America. If you did get through this without saying yes, remember that it’s not an exhaustive list and getting all nos doesn’t make you immune to anti-Blackness.

We are all affected by anti-Black attitudes and teachings in America.

You may feel guilt, you may feel defiance, you may feel superior, you may feel vindicated. These are all valid responses, but the point is self-reflection. Racism in America is not sustained by hate groups. It is sustained by everyday, good-hearted people who do not realize how deep anti-Black biases can be planted in our minds and our culture.

If you find yourself in this list, don’t beat yourself up — take an opportunity to confront those biases, and encourage others to do the same.