There are three general types of racism. Overt, covert and institutionalized. I'm sure most people would swear on their "mama-nem" grave that they aren't "racist," but in saying this, let's be clear, they are speaking solely on overt racism. They'd never actually say the n-word out loud to a Black persons face *eye roll* and may even make a conscious decision not to discount someone from a job because they "sound Black" on the phone.
Great! *passes out cookies* But they are ignoring the other two types of racism - microaggressions - and I'm sure also have a tendency to not speak up in racist situations.
Here are 10 unconsciously harmful things that white people do every day.
1. Get uncomfortable in situations that aren't harmful to them.
Here's the thing. When a POC is dishing on an experience where they have felt belittled because of their race, they are not blaming anyone and they are not blaming you. They are speaking on their experience and venting. Your job as a friend is to either be a listening ear or to not be there at all. The one thing you don't need to do is get defensive because all that does is reinforce to that POC that their feelings don't matter and that their traumatic experiences aren't worth mentioning.
2. Hesitate to say something.
As a Black person I can tell you that one shared experience that we have all had is wanting to speak up and put someone in their place, but holding our tongue so not to come off like the "angry Black woman," or the "big, scary Black man." Well, like I always say, "see something, say something." That's your cue to speak up.
3. "Blacken" themselves in the presence of Black people.
Please, for the love of God, just be yourself. There is no need to try and make yourself look cool, by playing rap songs or using AAVE. Save the, "girl, that dress is on fleek" for never. We know what you're doing and you're making us very uncomfortable.
4. Use words like "bright" and "articulate" in describing a POC.
You may think you're complimenting someone, but the truth is, these words have come to have meanings a bit different from what may be listed in the dictionary. When you're telling a POC that they are very "articulate," what you are in fact saying is, "Wow. I assumed that you spoke with a 4th grade vocabulary, but you're actually able to hold a conversation with me and I am taken back by this." And when you use the term, "bright," you are expressing again that you generally feel that POC are not generally as educated or sophisticated as you.
5. Saying, "I don't see color," or, "we're all the same."
You think you're being inclusive but what you're really doing is admitting that in order for you to even try to treat people who aren't white with inclusivity and respect, you have to pretend that they are white too. The truth is, we are all different and there is nothing wrong with that. We look different, we speak differently, we have different cultures and we see the world through different lenses. You need to understand that.
6. Compare the oppression POC have faced with some hardship in your life.
One of the most moronic things you can say is that you hate your job because they "treat you like a slave." Last time I checked, you weren't working for free while getting whipped and having limbs cut off. If you don't like your job, you're free to leave at any moment. No one is going to chase after you and hunt you down for a reward. You won't be ripped away from your spouse or children for trying to leave.
Not a single thing we face today holds a candle to the trauma of slavery. So, stop it.
You also don't face modern-day oppression. Institutions were never built with a point to exclude you. No one refuses to hire or do business with you based on racial stereotypes, your skin color or perceived intellectual capabilities. If anything, being white means you don't have to face these things.
7. Ask/expect POC to explain to you why things are racist.
POC are not walking encyclopedias. We aren't all professors on history or sociology. And to be very honest, asking us to constantly explain ourselves, our feelings and our experiences with race is extremely rude. Most, if not all, of your questions can be answered with a bit of research.
8. Thinking you have a place at the cookout.
Often times, Black people like to joke about which white people would be "invited to the cookout." Just for clarification, "the cookout" is a metaphor for Black safe spaces. When a Black person tells you you're invited to the cookout, what they are actually saying is that they feel comfortable around you. The thing is, that comfort is bound to diminish at some point when you do something that crosses the line, and trust me, you will do something that crosses the line.
9. Makes jokes about race at the expense of POC.
Even most professional comedians know when something shouldn't be touched, so there is no reason for you to think that you should go there.
10. Think they aren't racist because they don't intentionally do overtly racist things.
The truth is, you're always going to be racist. Whether you realize it or not, you are complicit in racist institutions every day and benefit tremendously from them.
I'd imagine that if you asked most people if they were racist, they'd say, "no." But I'm positive that most, if not all, of those same people really have no idea how the Black people in their lives truly feel about them. And I'd bet my life savings that they are completely oblivious to the many microaggressions they put out into the universe on a daily basis. There are numerous things white people do, mostly unconsciously, that perpetuate racism.
Feel free to add suggestions in the comment section.