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5 Reasons You Might Say Something Racist (Part 3)

4. Exposure

If you grew up with a bunch of people from other cultures it could be easy to assume because of over exposure that you know everything about them and their experiences. But do you really? Have you ever asked them about how they feel about specific comments that people make or racist things that happen in the media? It’s easy to fall into the trap of assuming something doesn’t bother your friend because they never said anything about it. But there are many reasons why you may not hear a peep from people around you. Don’t assume- ask. Sometimes people only share their thoughts with those that ask. I have personally been in a few racist encounters and said nothing because I didn’t feel my opinion would make a difference. I know others have sat silently through uncomfortable situations because they were so shocked or just didn’t know what to say when something racist was said.

If someone isn’t exposed to an education about how to treat other cultures or they just flippantly say they are colour blind… chances are they may not recognize when something is racist. Another key is to never broad stroke people’s experiences. I’m writing this from my perspective and I know there are probably other people with my background who may not agree with me. Always ask. Never assume that other people think the same way just because they are the same colour.

On the other side of over exposure is under exposure…maybe you just didn’t have enough growing up. You lived in an area that wasn’t multicultural or you stuck around friends that were similar to you in every way and it never occurred to you that someone else could have a completely different life and totally different experiences living in the same country as you. So you have no idea that some of the things you say could be considered offensive. Like I said in the first part of 5 Reasons You Might Say Something Racist you have to make sure that you listen when uncomfortable topics do come up or when someone calls you out so that you do not end up inadvertently shutting down future conversation.

5. Race Card

I have very supportive open minded friends and so I can say I don’t generally feel like I need to be quiet when I notice something that is unfair or racist. But I know that’s not the reality for many people. Some are constantly silenced every time they want to point out injustice. There are many coloured people out there that just can’t be bothered to be “that guy” who always points things out. It’s tiring, you seem like you have a chip on your shoulder and you may be met with negativity for pulling out the “race card” again.

Just incase you didn’t know- this term race card is racist all on it’s own. It takes serious concerns and turns them into a catch phrase that dismisses people’s valid perceptions and experiences. If someone speaks about an upsetting issue and you say… why are we making this about race? or why are you pulling the race card? Realize that you are contributing to their hurtful racist experiences in this world. You may not feel that the issue is related to race but for that other person it is. Don’t take away from their need to voice what is visible to them because it makes you uncomfortable to speak about. If it isn’t true for you then be quiet and listen. It’s not your job to be the “race card police” and make sure that people are not relating things to race that you feel have nothing to do with race. It’s very arrogant for you to even think about doing this. Even if someone from the race that you are accusing of pulling the “race card” agrees with you, it still doesn’t mean that you have the right to do this. Remember everyone has different experiences and perceptions and you can’t use a broad stroke or assume people should think the same way because of the colour of their skin.

How can we fix the problems in our society if we are constantly shutting down the people that have been marginalized. It would be better to say that you didn’t notice or thank the person for their opinion. Remember from Part 2 that just because you don’t notice something doesn’t mean it is not real for someone else.

Have you ever experienced any of the 5 Reasons?

 

 

Nana Abraham is a speaker, youth activist and author of For Black Girls: The Shaping of a Young Woman– a handbook for life that discusses relevant issues for young women today.

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