This is something I really wanted to write about.  It’s too hard to ignore but at the same time an easy issue to dismiss if you’re not the victim of a system designed to trap you in the glass cage of prejudice.  This is also the most difficult thing I’ve ever written about.  This difficulty is not so much because of what to write but more how to write it.  I am bolstered down by ignorance because I’m a rich, fair-skinned, Indian girl.   I don’t want this to be shallow or self-congratulatory.  It’s already off to a rough start because so far I’ve made this entire introduction about me.  I will acknowledge this now: I’ll ALWAYS be ignorant but I have a duty to make myself less so.

It’s an easy issue to dismiss for those unaffected.  Of course racism is the most destructive form of oppression to plague humankind but I say that it’s easy to dismiss because it’s constantly being disregarded. Racism is often normalised since standing against it is seen as “heroic”.  This shouldn’t be the case.  Speaking against racism should not be an act of martyrdom. Every time a blatantly, racially-fuelled incident occurs, a bunch of people have to say “BUT…”.  The second you hear or spot this word, you know that the lived pain of an entire race will be brushed aside.  “But…” is usually followed at some point by “not everything is about race”, “stop playing the race card” and “you’re just victimising yourself”.

One of the major points of criticism to the phenomenon of the “social justice warrior” is that these people use so called “infantile spewing” of arguments based emotion rather than fact.  However, the criticism of anyone who speaks out against racism and sexism doesn’t take into account how relevant emotion is.  Racism is a lived experience.  It impacts people’s lives on a daily basis.  It’s an inescapable part of our society.  It’s something intimately involved with people and will therefore elicit an emotional reaction.  Laws don’t cure racism.  Laws can’t cure racism.  Facts and statistics can’t bring into account a person’s personal story.  Statistics don’t tell you all the times the person of a colour’s skin made people assume they are “the help” or that they only hold their job position because of BEE/affirmative action and not their skill.  Statistics can’t tell you about every time a black person isn’t taken as seriously due to decades of ingrown beliefs about their entire race and the unending manifestations of years of disadvantage.  They don’t tell you about every time black men are assumed to be thieves or thugs.  Racism isn’t always blatant but it’s largely present.  When racism is brought into discussion, people want obvious examples of it.  They want to hear about the *David Dukes and *Hendrik Verwoerds in order for its existence to be proven.  Even when a variety of black people relate their experiences and all have similar stories to tell and examples to give, people are still not convinced.  It baffles me that we hear the same stories of institutionalised racism repeated over and over, and yet a lot of people still maintain that these stories are nothing but ways to pander to victim mentality. The people who ignore racism can so, because they are privileged enough not to experience it.

That is what white privilege is.  It’s the privilege of being able to ignore and dismiss racism because it doesn’t affect you.  It’s the privilege of only seeing it when you open your eyes and are not living it.  It’s the privilege of being on the other side of the glass cage, blissfully unaware of the person of colour who has to prove themselves because the colour of their skin elicits harmful assumptions and stereotypes.  It’s being unaware that a black person, no matter how rich or educated, may not quite be viewed as equal.

Racism is primarily a mental state rather than a political notion.  Racism did not magically dissipate when Apartheid was dismantled.  It is such a long-standing part of history that it could not die but rather evolved into something different to keep up with modern times.  So instead of the overt racist, we have the silent racist.  Racism has adapted to become much more congenial.  This congeniality is just as menacing, if not more.

The overt bigot knows what they are.  They know and celebrate their own prejudices.  The silent racist is on the other hand, often not aware of the extremely damaging mind-set that they have.  The silent racist isn’t even always an inherently bad person.  Even so, with their lack of understanding of the instilled prejudice that they have, they play a big role in perpetuating inequality.  This is unacceptable.

That’s why it’s not very helpful to say vague things like “don’t be racist”.  Racism is a simple notion but complex in its manifestations.  You write something like “say no to racism” and “black lives matter” and it gets a lot of likes but is never all that helpful because it doesn’t challenge the mind-set and prejudices that have been instilled in us since we were young.  For example, the face of the poor is a black person.  Black people make up majority of the menial jobs such as housekeepers and gardeners etc.  Therefore black people become easily stripped of their humanity and are seen as ghosts of people making up background decorations to our privileged lives.  HIV and TB are also more prominent in the black population due to socio-economic factors.  These diseases are considered issues more associated with poor black communities where the statistics are given more of a focus while engaging with the culture takes a backseat.  Those affected are seen as merely problem cases in need of liberation with their stories told by privileged people who don’t really understand them or their situations.  They aren’t seen as equals but as ego-boosts.  Due to decades of inequality and living under a system specifically designed to ensure that black people would be poor and disadvantaged, we have stereotypes that persist and mind-sets so implanted in us that we don’t even know they exist.

I read a book called Americanah in which a Nigerian woman moved to America.  She explains that the concept of race never really existed until she moved.  In Nigeria, she was an actual individual person with her own thoughts, ideas and dreams, just like everyone else was.  When she moved to America, she suddenly became black. She was ultimately subjected to being compartmentalised by virtue of her skin colour.  The various attitudes regarding people of different races, ethnicities and religions became blatant.  The incredibly devastating thing about this is that it really shines a light on the fact that racism can be dismantled but it somehow continues to persist.

I also understand why creating a dialogue is so difficult.  White people and other races often feel silenced when they try to engage in the discussion and sometimes they are silenced and told that their opinions don’t matter.  I disagree with that.  I think that all opinions matter. However, the opinions of people who haven’t actually lived the prejudices are ignorant to an extent and often counterintuitive to providing solutions and meaningful discussion.  Debate more often turns into abuse.  Think of a time you’ve tried to explain something but were unable to make the person understand no matter how hard you tried.  This is why terms like white privilege exist.  The struggle of something that is not your own is extremely difficult to fully grasp.

I understand that everyone has experienced some form of injustice in their lives.  Just because you’re white doesn’t mean that you are rich or that you haven’t had a hard life or haven’t had to experience extreme difficulties.  It just means that you don’t experience the problems specific to people of colour.

I say all of this with confidence because I never quite realised how ignorant and privileged I was until I did more reading and started educating myself.  I never realised how many harmful and ignorant attitudes I had despite the fact that I have never actively discriminated against anyone and never let race determine who I was friends with or who I spent time with.  Racism starts and ends with you.  It’s not quite the outside evil that most people perceive it to be.

*P.S my terrible Trump and Hitler comparison annoyed me too much so I changed it.

black-lives-matter

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16 thoughts on “The Modern Racist

  1. “When racism is brought into discussion, people want obvious examples of it. They want to hear about the Donald Trumps and Hitlers in order for its existence to be proven.”
    Alright… I’m not a heavy Trump supporter, but when you grouped Donald Trump in with Hitler (who was literally responsible for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Jewish people), it just turned me off. I would agree that Hitler is an extreme case of hatred; and that anyone who looks at what he did and deny or ignore the blatant racism and genocide that was committed would be guilty of neutrality, but the issues we’re facing today are not the same. Hitler wanted a pure race, a “superior” race, which not only was against black people, but more than that was against white people that were not German. It’s racism, but not the same thing that’s going on today. It’s not yet comparable.
    I understand what you’re trying to say here, but I think that putting Donald and Hitler together is not only wrong, but it expands the initial problem: Ignorance spreads neutrality, and neutrality is what keeps Racism going. You’re right when you say that people need to care about this. People need to care that other HUMANS are being mistreated, because eventually THEY will be the ones mistreated, and we’ll want others to stand up for us. It’s our job as adults to influence our peers and raise our children understanding that #AllLivesMatter and that Red, Yellow, Black or White, we are all precious in God’s sight.

    I understand what you’re saying here, and I can appreciate that you already plead ignorance on the matter, but I think you need to reevaluate what you’re saying. Especially here, “For example, the face of the poor is a black person. Black people make up majority of the menial jobs such as housekeepers and gardeners etc.” Because this statement just simple isn’t true, and I’d recommend you check your facts with this one. People who make up menial jobs are people who lack skill. That’s the definition of menial. If you really looked at it, it would depend on the area. Where I live there is not a large black populous, there just isn’t. The people who have menial jobs around here are people without much education – which is folks of all color.

    I appreciate that you’re trying to make a connection, and I really do understand the importance of this issue, I come from a very mixed family, but be careful how you’re wording things, and be sure to check your facts before declaring what seems to be true. Misrepresentation of truth is a big part of the problems we’re experiencing right now.

    Thanks for sharing this – I really think you’re on the right path. Good luck!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You make fair points here especially with my poor choice of using Donald Trump and Hitler in the same level. I should have gone with Hendrik Verwoerd and David Duke. I wrote this closer to exams when I was busy (terrible excuse I know) but as soon as I published it I knew it needed work. However, I live in South Africa and because of 46 whole years of apartheid which heavily discriminated against an 80% black population, the face of menial jobs is black people over here. The other day a person made a joke about a girl looking like a maids child. This girl is in our class and is relatively rich but was compared to a maid purely because she’s black. I seriously doubt that a person of another race would get that comparison. I guess I should have added that it was more in a south african context but when it comes to wealth and stereotypes, black people and especially people from Africa are seen as disadvantaged and poor before Thanks so much for your thought provoking feedback. I really appreciate discussion like this and was actually hoping to get criticism because it stimulates a lot of thought and debate.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I think it makes a huge difference that you’re writing this from the vantage point of NOT being in America – I don’t have that vision, so it’s nice to see what it looks like in a different setting. I can understand how different our worlds are, but we both face the same struggles. I happen to be white, and I agree that because I am white I don’t necessarily have to think about racism as a whole, only when it happens to me as a person (which isn’t often, I’ve been fortunate). And while I don’t agree with the violence that has stemmed from the BLM movement, I agree that there is a problem and it needs to be resolved. Maybe it wont be resolved until it’s pushed in everyone’s face – but that’s an entirely different matter. For now, I’ll continue to raise my children and try to influence those around me to see people for what they are: human. the Bible says in John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” As a Christian I know that every person – no matter their color – has worth! I know this because Jesus died for us on the cross. Not just white people, not just men, not just good people, Jesus died for all of us, because we ALL matter. I will continue to prove this until things calm down. I just hope other people realize this before it’s too late over here!
        Thanks for your voice. Keep it up!

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Hey, just a quick note. I think it would be helpful to your readers if you had an “About” page. A little more information about you and your goals for writing would likely help your readers identify your perspective. I know you are South African, because of your comment on my post, so I was able to relate to your context.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. sorry i pressed send before I could finish. Anyway, menial jobs here in SA are mostly performed by black people and on a global scale, black people are more heavily the face of poverty even though there are many countries where people of other races are extremely poor. South Africa has a better quality of life than most other African countries but there are still tons of problems here. I definitely believe that all lives matter, however it negates the particular struggle and prejudice that black people have to face on a daily basis and that no matter their socio-economic and financial situation, racial discrimination follows. People of all races matter but we still need to take into account the history of disadvantage particular races face in order for equality to be achieved.

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  3. There are a lot of good points here. As African-American female, I grew up living a relatively privileged life and pretty ignorant about race even though I went to predominantly white schools and lived in a predominately white neighborhood. I still don’t particularly experience white racism and when I do I blow it off as their ignorance. However what I do experience a lot of is reverse racism. My own black folks have a tendency to tell me that I talk white or act white, which is something that I don’t understand. What does that mean?

    I think one of reasons why it’s hard for white people or peoples of other races to get into the conversation of race with black people is because no one really understands the disenfranchisement of black peoples, especially black males, that still goes on to this day. And black people often hear from some members of the white community something like this, ‘Why can’t you let slavery go?’ or ‘That’s not relevant to today’ Our experiences are often marginalized or diminished or dismissed. The bottom line is that slavery is very important to our history and has had and still has direct and indirect consequences. Negative black stereotypes came out of slavery (i.e. black men want to rape white women and that black people are lazy and shiftless and they are more prone to violence and they have smaller brains thereby they are not as smart. The list goes on).

    I don’t how to start the dialogue, but what I do know is that it needs to happen. Sometimes it’s hard to be empathetic to the plight of another if you’ve never experienced what they’ve experienced or you haven’t taken the time learn of someone else’s experience and I think that is a big part of the problem. Some white people don’t want to learn or even admit that there really is a plight going on and I’ve heard time and again that black people are over reacting. Sometimes yes. Sometimes no. And that black folks have to get over this race issue, but what they fail to realize it’s not just a black issue, it’s an everyone issue. Until we start to see everyone as a person not a black person, a white person, an Indian, an Asian, or a this or that (insert race) than this problem will persist.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. “My own black folks have a tendency to tell me that I talk white or act white, which is something that I don’t understand.” This is a shame that you’ve experienced this – I think this is rubbish. Regardless of how a person sounds when they talk – I mean get real, every area has their own local terms and slang – but the fact that you’re being shamed because of your etiquette, and also that instead of it being just that, etiquette, they’re making it to be a cultural thing. Not all light-skinned people speak or act well. Not all dark-skinned people speak or act poorly. I think more people agree with this than what is publicized, but it’s just embarrassing that after so much has happened people are still trying to hurt others by “comparing” them to a different race. It’s so wrong, and it’s issues like this that not only need to be vocalized by the victim, but you need to set those people straight. I am who I am, and this is the way I speak. If you choose to identify me as someone of a different color because you don’t think this is how “we talk” then you are the ignorant – you are the problem, and I refuse to be a part of the problem.

      Good luck, thanks for your share!

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    2. I can relate. I had a similar upbringing and I’ve often been told that I “talk/act white”. The only difference is I’ve heard it from white, black, Hispanic, you name it people. I would be rich if I had a dollar for every time someone told me “You’re not black” growing up. At first it was offensive and hurtful, but I love to disprove ignorant stereotypes. I’m proud to represent how strong, beautiful, and intelligent my culture is.

      I’ve noticed that a lot of White Americans get very defensive when racism is brought up. Some search for ways to blame the victim, and deny that race was a factor. I think its easier for them to just ignore the topic because it doesn’t effect them and it makes them uncomfortable. I think sometimes they feel that since they aren’t racist, they don’t want to be associated with racism in any way.

      One of my best friends is white, and I know that she loves me like a sister. Instead of addressing the recent unjust shootings, she just reposted something about how “Its not the police who need to be retrained, its the public”. She’s a wonderful person, with a great heart, but she just doesn’t get it. The best I can do is try to educate her on the issues in our society, and how turning a blind eye makes things worse.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I’ve been told “I’m too white” or “talk like a white” and it’s so confusing because I’m just like this is just my voice, I don’t have an Indian accent because I went to a predominantly “white” school and my parents spoke properly around me and siblings. Do you also notice that when a black person speaks eloquently, they are sometimes told that they are “the good type of black”. That’s one of the most humiliating things I’ve ever heard.

    I completely agree because I never really understood (and still don’t properly understand) the disenfranchisement of black people and the measures that still exist today which seriously limit the social mobility for black people and further perpetuate the cycle of poverty to a point where turning to crime is literally the only choice some people have. I get so angry every time race is brought up and people always have to point out the high levels of ‘black on black crime’ to justify their prejudicial views. Then when poverty is brought up, it’s seen as ‘an excuse’. Even though slavery happened so long ago, I feel that slavery is still relevant as long as racism exists. The effects of slavery should not be forgotten until true equality is achieved.

    Also one of the things that derails the discussion is “but black people can be racist too. I was once bullied by a black person because of my race”. I understand that this does happen and it should not be condoned and is horrible BUT white people don’t have to face institutionalized racism. I believe that we’re all a little racist to other races and cultures that are not our own but some people face more discrimination than others.

    Thanks so much for sharing your views. It’s really helping me a lot to understand the levels of inequality that are still present.

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  5. Racism is a social and economic construction, designed to separate classes and people, much like nationalism did or does, in the past. The imperialist and colonialist warlords of the past and present are being hoist by their own petard, so to speak, as the economically dependent immigrant chickens come home to roost. Don’t worry, get rid of racism a new ‘difference’ will be found, to divide and conquer.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks so much for the feedback. I felt like I was way in over my head when I wrote it but I thought that even if I can’t quite grasp it, even a shallow post on racism could allow for feedback and opposing views and could therefore teach me more about it.

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  6. Hey! Thank you for reading my post on privilege and for sharing the link to this post. I appreciate your willingness to address such a difficult issue. I, too, was nervous to step out to speak. I think you expressed it beautifully when you said, “Speaking against racism should be the norm and not an act of martyrdom.” Beyond this point, you offered several interesting insights. You say you wrote this during your exams and, therefore, you rushed to post. That’s okay! You are stepping out to speak up…so, who can fault you for trying to participate in this conversation with the hope of establishing justice for all.

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  7. I found this quite interesting, I guess the form of racism which occurs differs in relation to where you live. I have a friend from South Africa who says that within a company, you need a certain amount of black people otherwise the company can go bankrupt regardless. But yes, in America it’s silently still a big issue. Thanks for writing, this was insightful 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  8. This was a very informative, insightful post. You make a lot of great points and it is interesting to see how non-Americans look at racism.

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