I am a white, North American male.
I don’t generally experience racism directed towards me in my daily life, but there are many who do and have to live with that racism directed at them every single day. In fact, pretty much anyone who isn’t white is treated as something different, and often less than equal. Jokes are made at their expense and nobody bats an eye.
I don’t know what it’s like to live in an environment where people are racist against me every day, and I don’t even know how exactly to word this blog. I can’t put words in the mouths of others, and I can’t speak for an experience that isn’t mine. I can say that I’ve witnessed enough casual racism to know that I need to say something in this small platform that I have.
First, a moment of honesty. I have definitely been guilty of having thoughts and opinions that I would now classify as racist, and I hate that I was so ignorant in the past. I’ve had my eyes opened over the past number of years as I have grown and matured as an adult. I think the term that applies in most scenarios is “covert racism“, or “microagressions”.
A psychology professor is quoted in a National Post article describing it like this:
“brief and commonplace daily verbal, behavioral and environmental indignities, whether intentional or unintentional, that communicate hostile, derogatory or negative racial slights and insults to the target person or group.”
Examples of this would be:
- Asking someone of a different skin tone “where are you from?” or even worse “What are you?”, while motioning to their skin. Chances are this person was born in the same country as you, and probably a nearby area.
- Assuming that a bad driver is a member of a different people group.
- Sharing a “funny photo” at work, when in fact it’s actually incredibly offensive in multiple ways to a variety of people.
- Stereotyping. Just believing that an entire people group all act and behave a certain way is completely wrong.
- I have been directly asked many times in the food service industry “are they asian?” when referring to a guest or customer. Why does that matter? It has literally no reason to be stated, AT ALL.
The fact is, I see examples of racism in my immediate, direct surroundings almost every day and I believe it should be our goal to eliminate as much of it as possible and love those around us instead of treating people differently because of their skin colour.
Most people who partake in microagressions actually have no idea that they are doing it because they are either ignorant or naive. There are many people that don’t realize stereotypes are racism, plain and simple. I’m tired of listening to people be ignorant of the issues and spout off hate speech so casually under the guise of “making a joke”.
I feel sorry for those who are deeply affected by casual racism every day, and I feel sorry for the person who tries to get the attention of a store employee, only to have them help the white person first. I never used to notice these things, and now I see things everywhere I go that actively try to bury the voices of the minorities.
As I have matured and grown, my eyes have been opened to many of the problems around us, and I want to do something about it. For me, I hate treating people differently. I always have. I want to help those around me have their eyes opened, but I don’t think I can do it justice. I think if you feel open to change, you should check out the things I will list below.
Listen to the words of the people who are actually affected by racism.
Don’t just listen to another white, North American male.
- Why we need to call out casual racism
- My Vassar College Faculty ID makes everything OK
- 100 Ways White People Can Make Life Less Frustrating For People of Color