Internalized Racism

Noah Brand admits that yes, he has internalized racial baggage. Just like everyone else.

This article is a response to “You’ve Got To Be Carefully Taught” by Jackie Summers.

It’s a truism in American society that any sentence that begins with “I’m not racist, but…” is going to end with something really, really racist. There’s a reason for that, and a reason the sentence is always constructed that way, and until we address it, we’re going to keep hearing that sentence a lot.

So, yes, I’m racist. And so are you. And if that pisses you off, allow me to elucidate.

Much of the problem, to my mind, comes from the fact that we tend to identify people as racist, making it an adjective, or worse, as a racist, turning the adjective into a noun. By saying “that guy’s a racist” we implicitly wall-off the racism, imprison it in his flesh, and by implication taint every aspect of his being with it. We free ourselves from the idea that “a racist” is something we could ever be, allowing us to remain the stainless heroes of our own stories. After all, we don’t burn crosses on people’s lawns, we don’t use certain epithets, and we don’t consciously think “Gosh, I sure do hate people of ethnicities different from my own!” So long as we don’t do those specific things, we tell ourselves, we’re not “a racist,” and we can construct sentences on that basis.

“I’m not racist, I’m just concerned about property values in the neighborhood.”

“I’m not racist, but I think we should look after our own people first.”

“I’m not racist, I just don’t feel like Obama’s a real American.”

“I’m not racist, but c’mon, we all know what they’re like.”

Make your own list. If you’re having trouble, turn on Fox News, they’ll help you out. We hear these things all the time, and they all stem from the same ugly fallacy: they construct racism as something you are rather than something you do. Or perhaps even better, something you have. Something that got handed to you a little at a time when you were a kid and still learning how the world worked. Something you carry around with you to this day, whether you want to or not, and most importantly, whether you know it or not. The first step to laying down that burden of prejudice is to admit that we’re carrying it. You can’t solve a problem until you look at what it really is, otherwise you’re going to be treating a virus with antibiotics or dumping water on a grease fire.

♦◊♦

So as I said, I’m racist. I was raised in a racist society, and I carry around a lot of weird cultural crap from that. Heck, as a result of my parents’ globetrotting jobs during the 1980s, I grew up sampling a wide variety of racist societies. If any non-racist society exists, it has as yet eluded sociologists. Our brains like to assign people to vast, stereotyped categories based on superficial features, and we tend to think in terms of “us” and “the Other.” It is literally easier for our brains to be racist than not to be. A bug report has been filed with the manufacturer, but we haven’t heard anything back yet, so we’re going to have to deal with this ourselves. Here, I’ll start.

I am as white as it is possible to be. My ancestry is English, Scottish, and Swedish, without even that bullshit 1/32nd Cherokee that white people love to claim. (Why always Cherokee? How come nobody ever claims their great-great-granddaddy was Ohlone or Pima or Nez Perce?) Hell, I have an acquired condition that prevents my skin from forming melanin normally, so I can’t even tan. And you bet I carry around some racial baggage.

Every TV show and movie I saw growing up assured me that people who looked like me were Normal and people who didn’t were Other. Stereotypes were casually tossed around, some consciously, others just taken as read. The people around me reacted differently to different ethnic groups, and every little subtlety of body language and vocal tension helped inform my view of how the world was supposed to work.

Did I ever get explicitly told “Black people are criminals” or “Asians are weird” or “Latinos are a great way to scare poor white people into voting for rich white people”? No, not in those terms. Didn’t have to be, really; the messages got through. If you’d asked me, most of my life, whether I was racist, I’d have said no, vaguely thinking of Klansmen or Neo-Nazis or Pat Buchanan, and feeling confident that I definitely wasn’t those guys.

Now that I’m a little older, I know better. I have a bunch of stereotypes in my head, a huge sense of who is Other, that I have to consciously deal with on a daily basis. It’s not that I think these stereotypes are correct or true, but they’re in there anyway. They’re complicated and weird and tied in to other things in often-unexpected ways. When I was living with a lover who was black, I could never bring myself to dance with her, for fear of being judged by her superior African-American dance standards. For her part, she shared Dave Chappelle’s claimed inability to eat fried chicken in front of white people, for fear of looking like a stereotype. And I counted as “white people,” naturally. Hell, I found myself surprised by Herman Cain’s presidential campaign, because I’d had an unexamined notion that black guys were never that particular brand of asshole. Imagine my relief when the harassment allegations arose and he settled back comfortably into the stereotype of black men as horny sexual predators.

Are these things stupid, offensive, and provably wrong? Oh my god, yes. They’re so stupid it is actually painful to type, to publicly admit to carrying around this much godawful racial baggage. And that’s only the tip of the iceberg. Once, while taking martial arts, I caught myself being surprised that one of the Asian guys in class was terrible at it. I had to have it pointed out to me that, at the Tex-Mex restaurant where I worked, all the kitchen staff were Latino and none of the waiters were. I hadn’t noticed because that just seemed natural somehow. Believe me, I could go on at some length, but I think my fingers would seize up in protest if I did.

Most of all, whenever I’m interacting with a non-white person, I cannot mentally escape the fact of their Otherness. I’d love to take refuge in that comforting lie one only ever hears from white folks, “I’m color-blind, I don’t even see race,” but I actually am color-blind, and I know the difference. I understand why people say that; being aware of one’s own weird racial hangups creates the responsibility to fight them, to work against them, to try to get the hell over them. It’s way easier to just claim not to have any.

♦◊♦

Right now we think of racism as this enormous sin that taints your entire being with evil. That can lead only to denial, as people claim to be without sin and therefore fully qualified to throw stones. I think a more useful model would be to think of racism as a human failing, something that exists within all of us to some extent, like cruelty or selfishness or pettiness. We’ve all felt the impulses to be mean to someone we dislike, to grab what we want without regard for the other fella, to resent others for stupid reasons. We’ve all stumbled and succumbed to those impulses at one time or another, too. But you only become a bad person when you embrace those impulses, when you justify them to yourself as not that bad and stop fighting against them.

“I’m not a cruel person, but I love to see that bastard twisting in the wind like this.”

“I’m not selfish by nature, I just don’t like sharing.”

“I don’t have a petty bone in my body, but I’m not going to apologize until he does first.”

“I’m not racist, I just don’t like going in that neighborhood.”

Fits into that category pretty well, doesn’t it? This is not to minimize racism and the horrors perpetrated in its name. Any of these failings, when embraced, can lead to vast and terrible acts. But by accepting racism as a human failing, we can allow ourselves to engage with it using the mechanisms we all use to try and be a decent person every day, rather than shying away from it as something unimaginable. We can work at unlearning our own bad habits rather than pretending we don’t have them. Most of all, by admitting our own sins to ourselves, we can more thoroughly and more honestly condemn those who embrace racism, who allow it to drive their actions, who lack that little inner voice that says “Hold up, I’m being a jerk here.”

Let’s all admit it, then. I have a lot of racist programming in my head, that I’m still working on getting rid of. How about you?

 

Photo—andronicusmax/Flickr

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About Noah Brand

Noah Brand is an Editor-at-Large at Good Men Project, and possibly also a cartoon character from the 1930s. His life, when it is written, will read better than it lived. He is usually found in Portland, Oregon, directly underneath a very nice hat.

Comments

  1. I’m not homophobic, but I can’t stand when they kiss in public.

    or as a gay man my personal favorite is

    I don’t hate effeminate guys, but I just wouldn’t want to be friends with one or date one.

    • HeatherN says:

      My absolute favourite is: “I don’t have anything against gay people, I just don’t want my kid to be one.”

      What’s even better is when that one gets used alongside: “I just want their lives to be as easy as possible.” Which it’s like…you know what’d make their lives easier…not saying you don’t want them to be gay ‘for their own good.’ Grr.

      Right yeah sorry…just had a bit of a rant there.

    • !@Ryan

      I don’t see what the problem is with someone not wanting to date an effeminate male.

      “I’m not racist, I just don’t like going in that neighborhood.”

      Just because a certain race may live in the neighborhood, doesn’t mean there isn’t a legitimate concern.

      • HeatherN says:

        “I don’t see what the problem is with someone not wanting to date an effeminate male.”

        If you’re just talking about personal preference – i.e. some people just aren’t sexually/romantically attracted to feminine men, then that’s one thing. If you’re talking about writing someone off just because they’re feminine, well that’s when you’re getting into prejudice. Ryan was more referring to the idea of being okay with feminine men in the abstract, but being unwilling to actually become close to feminine men (which is why he also said ‘be friends with’ as well as ‘date’ one).

        “Just because a certain race may live in the neighborhood, doesn’t mean there isn’t a legitimate concern.”

        Yeah, but that ‘legitimate concern’ does not exist because of the ethnicity of the majority of a population in a neighbourhood. And there is often an assumption that there are more ‘legitimate concerns’ about going into neighbourhoods that have mostly African-Americans or a Hispanic population, than there is about going into a predominantly white neighbourhood.

        • Megalodon says:

          “If you’re just talking about personal preference – i.e. some people just aren’t sexually/romantically attracted to feminine men, then that’s one thing. If you’re talking about writing someone off just because they’re feminine, well that’s when you’re getting into prejudice.”

          Good luck on ever finding that coherent dividing line between “personal preference” and “prejudice.”

  2. I was on the diversity counsel for a Fortune 100 company when they made everyone in the entire company attend a seminar by a guy named Steve Young, who had some interesting things to say about how these minor inflections make major reverberations in corporate policy. He called them “microinequities” and was engaged in helping corporations to see how having these perceptions ingrained in corporate culture made them prone to expensive class action lawsuits.

    http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1172212-2,00.html

    JFB

  3. This isn’t just limited to racism. It also attacks sexism and even “differenthaircolor-ism”. I mean, just look at people so say a dark-haired man seems mysterious while a blonde-haired man seems meek. It’s part of how our brain categorizes things.

    The important thing to look at is not our internalized prejudices, but any actions taken on those bases. Different groups of people WILL act differently, but not because of their actual race or genetics, but because how each of these groups is treated. Denying this is ignorance, but acting on it without any personal merit is racist. You can agree “most black people act a certain way”, it’s called sociology, but tendencies are where it should stay.

    I wouldn’t consider someone racist or sexist unless they act like they already know how someone is before even meeting them. Everyone has their own merit and that shouldn’t be changed by social tendencies.

  4. HeatherN says:

    I see what you’re saying here, Noah…and I’m agreeing with a lot of what you’re saying. But I think this entire article would be better suited to discussing just generally a prejudice against otherness. You do bring it up a couple times, but I think by focussing on racism it makes the topic a bit too narrow. I don’t know that I’d agree everyone has internalized racism, but we all definitely have internalized prejudices against people who we consider as “other,” whether that’s because of ethnicity, or just style of clothing, etc.

    And I also think that while it’s important to recognize racism (and other fears of the “other”) as a human failing, it’s also important to remember the social and historical context for it. Which is to say, treating it like any other negative trait (i.e. selfishness, cruelty, etc), pulls it out of it’s context.

  5. Thank you for writing this article, Noah…it’s true we have all grown up with racism in many forms and while it may be easy to spot overt and rude racist statements, it is so much harder to spot the subtle comments or looks…

    Each ethnic group carries its own racist tendencies….to deny that history is too facile….I work in the Asian-American community so I hear a lot of awful and angry statements about other ethnic groups, even against other Asian groups or even against different regional groups within the same nationality….I was born and raised in America so I get angry when I hear people say prejudiced statements but I can understand their anger at a certain incident or maltreatment (but that doesn’t justify painting all of people of a certain background that way)….

    I think the best I try to do is to listen and hear people’s stories…and try not to judge….and just try to help them if they need it…

  6. Kirsten (in MT) says:

    I have a lot of racist programming in my head, that I’m still working on getting rid of.

    How so? What form does that work take?

  7. This article is self-congratulatory and pointless.

    I love the fact that so far all the commenters who agreed with this article have only offered examples of how other people are racist instead of examples of how they themselves are racist, of which there should be plenty if they’re agreeing with the premiss of the article.

    I also love that Brand “admits” to assuming the all the bigotries that concerned white people seem to just love to admit: “Oh, god, this is so difficult. I sometimes think black people are good dancers and are just plain cooler than whites. Phew, good to get that off my chest!” It’s the perfect type of confession because it lets one feel smug and self-righteous without risking a punch in the face. And, really, it took Herman Cain, a black Republican presidential candidate to learn that blacks can be assholes? Gee, I bet there’s no political motivation there.

    It all smacks of religious dogma. Like evangelical Christianity, you have to admit to sinfulness before you can reach redemption; there’s no possibility that there are actually rational people out there who aren’t slaves to cultural programming.

    Look Noah, when you say you’re a racist, I absolutely believe you, but don’t Schwyzer the rest of humanity into being a mirror for your failures as a human being. And just to let you know, as a minority, your confessional essay doesn’t instill confidence that you’ll redeem you’re ways.

    • HeatherN says:

      “It all smacks of religious dogma. Like evangelical Christianity, you have to admit to sinfulness before you can reach redemption; there’s no possibility that there are actually rational people out there who aren’t slaves to cultural programming.”

      Generally speaking, before you can change so that you aren’t thinking along culturally prescribed lines of thought, you have to recognize that you are, in fact, encultured. Or rather, if someone doesn’t recognize their racist opinions/ideas, they can’t change those opinions/ideas. I suppose it’s vaguely AA like…the first step is admitting you have a problem, etc.

      Anyway, everyone has certain “common sense” opinions that are culturally created, not just about race…but about everything. Which is why I think that discussing this idea of recognizing the very human distrust of what we consider “other” is important…but I think that limiting to a discussion of race is problematic.

      • My point is that Christians believe that everyone is in need of redemption, requiring everyone to admit sinfulness. Noah is acting exactly like a religious zealot preaching on a pulpit. What happened to the idea of not treating populations like monoliths?

        “Which is why I think that discussing this idea of recognizing the very human distrust of what we consider “other” is important…but I think that limiting to a discussion of race is problematic.”

        Please list for me all the ways you are racist. And, no, I will not count beliefs that white are always so eager to confess. Beliefs about other races that are clearly negative and not just negative because they’re stereotypical.

        • HeatherN says:

          “My point is that Christians believe that everyone is in need of redemption, requiring everyone to admit sinfulness. Noah is acting exactly like a religious zealot preaching on a pulpit. What happened to the idea of not treating populations like monoliths?”

          Alright…not to be snarky but…you do realize that you just treated Christians as a monolithic group of people, while calling for Noah to not treat populations like monoliths? Which is just to say, it’s difficult to not lump people into a category and then assign that category traits. We all do it to some extent.

          Anyway…I never said I was racist. I said that I, like every human being, have issues we have to overcome when it comes to dealing with anyone we consider “other.” Whether that’s “other” in the way they dress, or their ethnicity, or their sexuality, their gender…etc. It’s kind of like what Alan mentioned in his comment below this one, that this article could apply to all of our preconceptions about people.

          My own preconceptions, for example, are mainly directed a conservatives and Christians.

          • “Alright…not to be snarky but…you do realize that you just treated Christians as a monolithic group of people, while calling for Noah to not treat populations like monoliths?”

            I was being snarky when I wrote that. Noah is a feminist and he and a lot of feminists on his blog love to point out whenever someone criticizes feminism as a whole that FEMINISM IS NOT A MONOLITH. Yet here he’s treating the entire human race like a monolith.

            “My own preconceptions, for example, are mainly directed at conservatives and Christians.”

            Let me ask you: are you ashamed of these preconceptions? And now that you’ve acknowledged them, what efforts are you going to take to change them?

            • HeatherN says:

              I wouldn’t say I’m ashamed, exactly, but yes I recognise them and I work to self-correct. One of my best friends is an evangelical Christian, for example…though she’s also a democrat. Also there’s my whole experience being in the closet at work. I’d link the GMP article I wrote for it but I’m on my iPhone. So if you search for Tolerating Intolerance you can find it.

              But now I’m curious whether you have any preconceptions youre working to correct? Everyone has preconceptions; it’s just not always easy to recognise them.

            • “But now I’m curious whether you have any preconceptions youre working to correct? Everyone has preconceptions; it’s just not always easy to recognise them.”

              How in-depth and philosophical of an answer are you looking? A preconception is a belief that is held before one has enough evidence to establish its truthfulness. For me to decide what beliefs of mine are preconceived and what amount of discovery is necessary before I can determine if they’re wrong or right, I need to decide what constitutes evidence and what is a conclusive amount of evidence. From that standpoint, nearly all my beliefs are preconceived, because I haven’t made that decision.

              If you’re asking more in the vein of this article, more lightheartedly, and I assume that means beliefs that are held while a guilty feeling in my gut is telling me that that belief is held for the wrong reasons, then, no; I think I’m quite cautious, more so than the average person, about what beliefs I hold.

            • “From that standpoint, nearly all my beliefs are preconceived, because I haven’t made that decision.”

              Sorry, preconceived in the sense of not being fully rational, not in the sense of empirically supported.

  8. It interests me that the theme of the article is racism, and comments soon moved on to referring to homophobia. The point applies across all of our prejudices and preconceptions about people based on their age, their race, their sexuality, their ‘able-bodiedness’, their accent etc. We all have these preconceptions so to demonise each other for having them is pointless and, as suggested, tends to take the view that “they over there are the….’-ists'”, while I am ‘pure’. Our whole language is created around stereotypes, what matters is are we willing to question what associations we then have about them. Do I call someone black or ‘african’ or ‘caribbean’….different people have different preferences for how they are labelled, what matters is do I think that all people who can be categorised that way are ‘the same’? Or am I willing to question it and reconsider the validity of the label I use and my associations with it. We see the reinforcements of our beliefs and overlook the things that challenge them when we don’t question our labels for people and our associations with those labels. All that is needed is to be open to questioning them rather than to be condemned for having them in the first place and to condemn others for doing so. The ‘old way’ is to condemn, but as the saying goes, ‘When you point the finger at someone, remember there are always 3 pointing back at you’. That’s not meant to say you can’t question others’ stereotyping but are you willing to look at yourself first? At the weekend I was at an art gallery conference looking at women’s experiences of being artists and I was frequently told what I ‘am’ as a man, and what I ‘think’, and how I ‘act’…..but no-one actually asked me if those ‘facts’ about me were true. But whereas in the past I would have been pissed off I now see that they are just living a world in which they haven’t questioned their beliefs, it doesn’t mean anything about me.

  9. John Sctoll says:

    I grew up with a lot of what would be termed rascist programming with regards to natives. I lived in an area that had 0 natives , never saw or spoke to a native until I was about 19. I got all my programming from television shows and the ‘news’.

    But here was the worst that happened to me, when I did start to live around natives, the stereotypes which I was ‘taught’ were very much present in those I saw, “heavy drinking”, “theft”, “abuse”, “drugs”, receiving large sums of money from the government and spending it on HUGE parties and pickup trucks (instead of perhaps an education). They called them coming out parties.

    This was very bad for me, because everything I had been ‘taught’ was ‘true’ , at least for the 1000s of natives that I saw in my life during that period. And unfortunately, the vast majority of the natives that I have seen or talking to since then have also fit that mold.

    HOW do you combat a type of racism that gets re-enforced every single day of your life by the very people who are the objects of the racism.

  10. PursuitAce says:

    Thank god I’ve been anti-social my whole life. This is what I’ve been missing? You poor people are messed up. Good luck figuring out your racism. And race is a great source of humor. Or at least it was until the hand wringers of the world messed it up. People are freakin individuals. Separate life forms. The ONLY problem we have as humans on this planet is group think. “Oooh, oooh. I’m so insecure I have to feel part of something no matter what that does to me.” Grow up people. And don’t bother replying because I will probably just chew your ass…your individual ass.

    • I don't know says:

      “Grow up people,” is a cliche. All the words you use, all the syntax, and even many of the phrases and ideas, we thought up by others.

  11. Mantera,

    Your comment is full of win =)

    This article is self-congratulatory and pointless. I love the fact that so far all the commenters who agreed with this article have only offered examples of how other people are racist instead of examples of how they themselves are racist, of which there should be plenty if they’re agreeing with the premiss of the article. … And just to let you know, as a minority, your confessional essay doesn’t instill confidence that you’ll redeem you’re ways.

    Which is why it’s difficult for White people to work through our own internalized racist baggage. Who wants to be judged harshly while undressing something that all Americans have?

    For me it isn’t about self-congratulation and purging my sins Schwyzer-syle, but rather a self-examination that I can give to other White people in their attempts to stop being okay with bigotry. (Sadly, that’s a minority of White people. Just like it’s a minority of White people who truly understand how racist they are. I’m still feeling defensive right now.)

    If we want to stop racism, there’s going to be confessional essays like this from White folks. That’s just the reality of White racism, at least in my experience. And I’ve written as much on my blog. Without changing ourselves inside to deconstruct our prejudice, we’ll always give it a pass subconsciously.

    I’m sorry that it bothers you, that it reveals all the ugliness inside of us which we pretend *so well* doesn’t exist, and that it is ultimately self-serving. But if it makes you feel better, it really, really hurts when do it. And it makes us want to do something to stop racism just a little bit more than we did before.

    And as a Jewish person, there is one fact that I can appreciate. Baby-steps really do make change, slowly, tortuously, and often horrendously, but when I look back on history I see a trend towards things being better despite all the setbacks and backlash.

    But, of course, that’s part of my White privilege. It’s easy for me to stay positive when I don’t have to worry about people like George Zimmerman.

    • Kirsten (in MT) says:

      Without changing ourselves inside to deconstruct our prejudice

      What does this mean exactly? What specifically do you do to change yourself inside?

      • It means dropping our opinions about the way the world is for us, and looking at how the world is for other people.

        I’m not sure *how* to do that, but I know talking about it helps.

  12. “Your comment is full of win =)”

    Thanks!

    “But, of course, that’s part of my White privilege. It’s easy for me to stay positive when I don’t have to worry about people like George Zimmerman.”

    I’m biracial, but nearly everyone assumes that I’m a minority (but they don’t always identify correctly what type of minority I am), so I have probably a rarer insight into how context-based privilege and oppression, societal advantage and disadvantage, is. I used to live in Alaska, which a lot more heterogeneous culturally and ideologically than most people realize. In a single day, I can go from feeling privileged to oppressed, outcast and accepted numerous times within a single day. And you know who else often has the same experience? My white father. In fact everyone I know experiences this to some degree and it would help us all to honestly observe how our social standing shifts based on all the social spaces we weave in and out of as a part of just living and log and share these observations. There is no monoculture. The US, and every other country, is subdivided into an endless array of microcultures, but the objective size of a society is moot when you’re in the thick of it; it’s you’re whole world until you are able to escape it.

    I think the concept of “white privilege” is harmful because it simplifies the experiences of both white people AND minorities. There are certainly contexts (and probably more and larger ones) where being white has its advantages, but to assume that a white person is privileged without first acknowledging the space they are situated in is reductive and not the path to reducing racism.

    • I think the concept of “white privilege” is harmful because it simplifies the experiences of both white people AND minorities.

      I think that’s a good point. My girlfriend is Black, and part of our relationship is sharing our time between Black-American spaces, and the majority White spaces that comprise the rest of the world where we live. That said though, increasingly our time is spent in Black majority spaces because we moved to a new neighborhood and it’s interesting how my privilege goes for squat in the social spaces we occupy, haha.

      Still, I use the concept of White privilege because it speaks to — not things that I “get” — things that simply don’t happen to me, that I don’t need to worry about happening to me.

      Also, I can’t even imagine what it’s like to be biracial in Alaska… I honestly have always thought of Alaskans as either White wilderness buffs, or Inuit. Do you write about your experiences much?

  13. wet_suit_one says:

    I guess I’m lucky. There’s a simple world for me and my type. I’m a misanthropist. I hate everyone. From sea to sea, coast to coast, across this entire planet, I despise and hold in contempt all humans everywhere. Also, because I hear more about them than anyone else (and because they wear their flaws on their sleeves) I hate Americans more than anyone else. The best humans are the dead humans. Buddha, Christ, Socrates. Those that proved themselves worthy and whose sins are forgotten or lost in time. The rest of you can burn. Folks in cemeteries are pretty good too. Nice and quiet and don’t make a rukus or do stupid evil things like the living. The living humans, here and everywhere, worth little or nothing at best. AT BEST!!!!

    And no, no one pissed in my cornflakes this morning. It’s just that the living are so tiresome and trying with their multitude of failings and petty stupidities. Long live the dead! Death to the living!

    The Wet One

    • I don't know says:

      You’re a human.

    • Kirsten (in MT) says:

      I’m a misanthropist. I hate everyone. From sea to sea, coast to coast, across this entire planet, I despise and hold in contempt all humans everywhere.

      Do you think this is part of being a good person?

  14. Right now we think of racism as this enormous sin that taints your entire being with evil. That can lead only to denial, as people claim to be without sin and therefore fully qualified to throw stones.
    And as a result we have two things that people do:
    1. Viciously deny that they can be racist or say/do anything racist. (And this applies to other -isms as well and the verbal twisting that some will go through to even try to grant themselves immunity from those words).

    2. Use charges of racism to shut down a conversation (or any -ism). This will knock someone off balance and put them on the defensive trying to protect themselves, and probably derail the conversation.

    As has been said -isms carry a large emotional charge. And as such there are plenty of people that will try to make sure accusations of -isms are something they can use against other people and/or something that they are protected from.

    • Megalodon says:

      Or people could be unashamed, like the Grand Pumpkin:

      Nelson: Touch me and I’ll cut your friend.
      Grand Pumpkin: What do I care. That’s a yellow pumpkin.
      Nelson: You’re a racist!
      Grand Pumpkin: All pumpkins are racist. The difference is I admit it.
      Nelson getting eaten: I’d rather die than hate!

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pDUPfdnisGQ

  15. Transhuman says:

    I believe the fundamental flaw in the article is the assumption everyone is racist. I’m not trying to paint myself as a good man (I dislike the term), I just don’t care what form of diversity your human form takes. I assess people based upon what they do to back up what they say, and while I don’t care what colour your skin is I do not forgive those I believe transgress my idea of humanity. I have lived in the UK, South Africa and now live in Australia, all three countries with varied histories of racism. I honestly don’t get it.

  16. There is a limit to how far individuals will admit to their own, internalized, racism. However, that doesn’t mean that everyone is a racist. It also doesn’t meant that there aren’t other core issues that each of us needs to address.

    I have heard ‘I’m not a racist’ many times in 39 years and a very simple test is to imagine your child coming home with someone who has skin color different from yours. What is your immediate reaction? Not the one you verbalize, but the one you think to yourself.

    At this point, part of the problem is no longer that people are still racist, but that so many of us want to believe we’re ‘past all that.’ We aren’t. And understanding that is the starting point from change.

    As for the idea that the conversation can’t be had because Whites (maybe more than other groups) will be tagged ‘racist’ and that stunts the dialogue – all I can say is that I’d personally rather have some speak up about their perceptions than hide them and then use those perceptions against me.

    • Transhuman says:

      Sarah Jane, what does it mean if you don’t care about the child’s skin, but you wonder about their religion, or their eating habits or the way they treat men or women in their culture? There are, to my mind, far more important issues to do with a person than something as superficial as skin colour. Skin colour simply is, it is like hair colour or eye colour. Of itself it neither harms nor heals another person. What people do, their actions, is what is important.

      • Hi Trans,

        There is a definite difference between wanting to learn about people and how they are different, yet how similar they are, and holding their differences against them, which is what racism does.

        I totally agree with you – it’s actions that determine how I want to engage with others – not things they can’t control. Can you imagine if we went through life and only had brunette friends or blue eyed friends. Or if our family was made up of only people who were 6-feet plus? That sounds nuts, but we still see people pick their friends based on nothing more than color. Someone above said it’s all about ‘baby steps’ and I guess I have to agree. I wish the steps were faster sometimes.

  17. Racism has to be UN-learned. No one is born racist; we are all the same species. It’s through learning, environment and influences that makes us view others with a racist lens. You have identified the first step: recognizing when you’re making assumptions about a group of individuals. It’s important to correct our own biases in our heads first, before outwardly accusing others of doing the exact same thing.

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  1. […] whole bunch of new shit! Noah admits that he’s a racist. South Dakota has man camps full of breadwinning men. Legend of Korra episode is leaked. A task […]

  2. Internalized Racism — The Good Men Project…

  3. […] I think so. Yes it’s idealistic. But there are pragmatic answers within the dreams. I see people here at Good Men Project who are doing this work every day. People like Jackie Summers with his piece, You’ve Got To Be Carefully Taught or Noah Brand on Internalized Racism. […]

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