“I couldn’t move back to California. I’m too racist.”
“I don’t have a problem with black people. I have a problem with N—–.”
“Black people have different glands, and smell differently.”
I wish I was making those quotes up. They’re probably not too surprising to some of you, but to others, you might wonder where in the hell I’m finding the people responsible for such vile utterances. For those of you wondering: all of those quotes were in a work environment–my office. I couldn’t figure out what made people feel like these comments were acceptable. I chastised each person immediately. I figured it wouldn’t happen again, and then it did. I wondered why people were saying these horribly racist things to me.
I’m ashamed to admit it took me so long to figure it out.
Um, hello, you’re white. This is the shit white people say when they’re alone.
We know too well the racist, insensitive, vitriolic things white people say and do in public, but the worst of it comes in the spaces that racists read as “safe” for their antiquated opinions. The worst things come out when someone reads your white skin as an invitation to spew hate. These are the things said away from cameras. In living rooms, locker rooms, and car rides. They say it with complete self-confidence. They don’t think you’ll say anything, because white privilege binds you in some universal understanding of racism?
Make them think twice.
Act like you don’t understand the punchline when someone tells you a racist joke. Force them to reiterate the meaning behind their racism. It won’t feel as funny when they have to say, “You see, the joke is funny because I believe all black men are criminals.” OR. Tell them their statement is racist. Tell them that you think it’s intolerable. Make it clear that you aren’t comfortable with that kind of statement/joke. (Obviously, you don’t have to say a word if you don’t feel safe.)
Let the white people in your life know that shared pigmentation is not a license to say horribly bigoted things to each other, because those nasty public sentiments are just mild slip-ups compared to the filth going on behind closed doors.