Why Saying "I'm Not Racist" is Racist
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Politics and Activism

Why Saying "I'm Not Racist" is Racist

How we incite more racism by ignoring its presence.

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Why Saying "I'm Not Racist" is Racist
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The other week, I was in a conversation with a friend. They were telling me a story and began with, “I’m not racist, but...” The notorious phrase that we have heard hundreds of times. As I was listening to them speak on behalf of a human’s actions that had absolutely nothing to do with their race, I realized something. That person actually believed that they weren’t racist. If I were to have asked that person if they had ever said the “n” word or refused to serve someone of color or shared a racist article or made a racist joke, they would be taken aback, and say, “of course not, I’m not racist.”

The problem is not that we are racist. The problem is that we believe we aren’t racist.

Saying, “I’m not racist” ignores that we are influenced by factors such as our education and exposure or lack thereof in our youth and our lives that could result in racial biases. We will never be able to overcome racism or understand white privilege by denying that it exists and is a real problem. By saying, “I’m not racist” when there are factors that have fostered unconscious biases to be present in our lives, we are denying that racism exists and are therefore propelling oppressive behavior. Saying “I’m not racist” also dismisses the conversation. It is linked to the idea that: “I’m not racist, therefore, racism is not my problem.” This is where unconscious bias comes into play.

“Unconscious bias is a prejudice born from personal experiences, perceptions and attitudes that is unrecognized by the perpetrator. In this sense, unconscious bias is a byproduct of experience in which an absence of clear prejudicial intention nonetheless results in bigotry. Less about right and wrong than intolerant perspectives, unconscious bias occurs at the level of individual agency rather than systems, as people hold views that inform systems, whose biases are either explicit or implicit.” –John Fitzgerald Gates, Ph.D. Huffington Post.

Just because we do not act maliciously in propelling racism does not mean that we are not suffering from unconscious biases that make us racist.

So how do we fix this?

1. Recognize that your racial bias exists.

It takes more than just thinking that there may be a bias. This means admitting that there is a bias and identifying its roots as well. This will help you to make sure that your bias is internal, and then begin the journey to ridding yourself of that bias altogether. It can be difficult to overcome because part of your mind may still see parts of the bias as attractive. It will take more than saying it once to rid yourself of your racial bias. It is a continual process of humility and knowing that the human mind is difficult to change.

2. Ask yourself: What makes me uncomfortable and why?

If admitting that you may be racially biased is uncomfortable, then that is good. Perhaps it is because you are uninformed on the topic or the issues at hand. Perhaps it is because you have never been able to have a constructive and open conversation about it. It can feel uncomfortable to surrender ideals that are part of your identity. But when we open ourselves to change and allow our minds to be shaped by what is good, we will find ourselves embracing this knowledge.

3. Allow yourself to experience what is different.

The best way to go about confronting your bias is to place yourself in a situation in which you are listening to people of different experiences and races and actively paying attention to where their voices may not be heard or have been silenced in the past. This can include watching Ted Talks, reading articles or attending educational collegiate forums. This will shed more light on the privilege you may experience or on the prejudice that may be present in your community. Then, when we acknowledge this privilege, we are therefore after held accountable. We are held accountable to rid ourselves of biases that are detrimental to those around us.

If you do wish to express that you are working on overcoming your unconscious biases and do wish to propel racial equality, perhaps express it with one of the following statements:

“I support the fight for equal rights.”

“I am an ally in the fight against racism.”

“I am working on overcoming my unconscious biases, here’s how you can too.”

This article is not an attempt to say that everyone is racist or everyone is guilty of racial bias, but it is providing an opportunity to address unconscious racial bias that perhaps we aren’t aware of. This article is not questioning intentions of those who are privileged by their race. I hope that this article stands as a tool to learn about how to overcome boundaries within our own perception.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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