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No, Talking About Racism Doesn’t Contribute to Racism

November 26, 2014

I’m feeling a little Scoldy McScolderson about race after a day of reading stupid comments online, so please bear with me as I take a trip to Racial Discussion Kindergarten. Here’s an example of what set me off.

  • Talking about racism doesn’t make racism worse any more than talking about the weather makes it rain.
  • Just because someone of a different race than you treated you badly doesn’t make you a victim of racism. It makes you a victim of prejudice. Racism is a system, not an event.
  • Racism is not an us-vs-them phenomenon. As Booker T. Washington said, “You can’t hold a man down without staying down with him.”
  • Racial issues bear discussion, and you being uncomfortable with that doesn’t make the discussion less necessary. In fact, the discomfort probably means the discussion is very necessary. Uncomfortable discussions of race aren’t the cause of racism.
  • Just because you don’t understand what someone is angry about doesn’t mean they don’t have a good reason to be angry.
  • Asking the dumbest questions over and over (For instance “Why do we have to keep talking about race all the time when we all should be equal?”) isn’t helpful. You have the responsibility to educate yourself.
  • It’s not anyone’s duty but your own to educate yourself. It is not your one friend-of-another-color’s responsibility to change your mind, especially if you have shown yourself unwilling to be open-minded at all.
  • When you say things like “What about black on black crime?” you’re just trying to derail the discussion at hand. This is not helpful. Also, crime is most closely linked with economic inequality and poverty. Anywhere in the world that there is more economic inequality and poverty, there is more crime, regardless of race.
  • “Slavery was a long time ago.” Yes, but its effects ring down through the days. And Jim Crow was not very long ago. I remember the Civil Rights era well. Housing discrimination, educational discrimination, discrimination in our justice system and discrimination in hiring are all alive and well, and it doesn’t take much more than 2 minutes of googling to find plenty of examples. A little education goes a long way.
  • If all else fails, ask someone and then shut up and listen without arguing why their truth isn’t valid.

If you believe that there aren’t any racial issues operating in the US anymore, do me one favor. Take an hour and listen to this episode of This American Life. Or even if you’re well aware of racial issues. It’s worth a listen.
My friend Kelly is very wise. Go read this great collection of her essays on race.

If you have more responses to dumb comments about race, I’d love to hear them. Hit me in the comments section.

One Comment
  1. Vanessa D. permalink
    November 26, 2014 07:30

    I live in a community with a large population of migrant workers from the Caribbean. I see both subtle and blatant examples of racism daily.

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