‘Why I Don’t Want to Talk About Race’

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About Steve Locke

Steve Locke is a visual artist and Associate Professor at Massachusetts College of Art and Design, living in Boston, Massachusetts. Find him at www.stevelocke.com


  1. It is easy for white men to say such opinions are silly, because honestly, they don’t have to deal with it.

    While I’m not black, I am a woman (a group who has been oppressed in almost every race for thousands of years)

    Women are also constantly told we are “deficient”, often times because it was “ordained by God”

    It is tiresome, and one grows tired of defending why they, as a human, are just as human as the person they are talking too.

  2. Being biracial, I would love to talk about race. I get to marginalize everyone. How much does the job pay?

  3. In my job I’ve learned, as I suspected, that while it’s true that experience is valuable, it’s far from being the only criterion for expertise. In fact, it can be a detriment. The best indication that someone will do a good job is intelligence and attitude. I think it’s the same for issues of social justice.

    What I think you may have not considered is a common human fallibility: that is that people feel the need to justify their own value and importance by contrasting themselves with others. If that justification fails, they will use any reason to justify their failures. Both tendencies are logical fallacies, and socially destructive, but most if not all humans do it. So, take oppression. It is most likely brought about by an attempt to succeed at the expense of those that can be taken advantage of. Men are generally physically stronger than women: before there were any rules, men, if they weren’t empathetic, could often use that strength to force women to be subservient–socially destructive. Rules arose to help society function in a more civil manner, but women were not given much ultimate control for many reasons, most of which were (at least in my opinion) also socially destructive–but were “justified” due to assumptions involving obvious natural differences between men and women.

    With the movement for women’s rights and equality, women (people) have rightfully campaigned for equal opportunity and voice within society so that their subjugations could be addressed and overturned: all good. But what happens then, because of women are human, and not every woman can be as notably successful as Amelia Earhart or Oprah, they want to excuse their failures according to the newly established and academically accepted issues of feminism. And in general, it’s reasonable to assume that these issues have a substantial effect on whether any individual woman is successful. But then that only works up to a point. Because most people aren’t so internally strong, they will tend to take advantage of the issue as an excuse to blame away practically ALL of their failings and frustrations. Their identity becomes almost consumed in their activism, justifying bitterness and vindictiveness toward, in the case of feminism, men. And individual men don’t deserve that; even if society isn’t ideal, it’s not their fault, they’re generally on board with equality, and they have issues of their own (many of them with women, who under traditional society, were not without their own underlying influences in the social/gender dance). So, yeah, they pushback, and they want a voice in the issue when the tone becomes accusatory and the complaints unbalanced and unfair. And their words, like anyone’s, should be judged by the content of their character, and not by their sex or race; because there’s a real chance that their empathy will bring their argument closer to the center of true equality than someone who has experienced oppression and whose opinion is colored by bitterness.

    That said, racism, particularly toward Native- and African-Americans, has more to consider. That Native Americans have endured genocide and African Americans have endured centuries of slavery has had a profound psychological impact in a more direct and malicious way, leading to generations of recovery. In addition, existence of these groups has largely been separate from their oppressors. Without the interplay that has always existed between men and women, a feeling of “us vs. them” is much more legitimate. There’s much less opportunity to address the racism in person on a regular basis, to dispel the myth of inferiority/superiority, and to find and embrace the acceptance that does exist from many of their “oppressors.” Also, the differences between races is almost certainly more superficial and baseless than differences between men and women, so counter-arguments have very little if any traction. I still think the same dynamics exist overall, but I think the issues in this sense have more weight. So as a white man, I would defer to experience a little with sexism, and a little more with racism, but I will not defer to vindictive reasoning borne out of personal weakness.

  4. “Black people can’t talk to white people about race anymore. There’s really nothing left to say.” Yet, somehow, you manage.

    Whites can’t help the color of their skin anymore than blacks can. They are born that way. Is it right to make them feel ashamed of who they are? By the way, I am neither white or black but Indian (“dot, not feather” to clarify). Once, my daughter’s teacher told she was “safe” because she was Indian. The same teacher told the white children they were evil and racist. This black/white racism gets really old. How can we evolve when we continue to point fingers and make people feel ashamed of who they are?

  5. huh. I’m going to assume you had his permission to publish this letter about race that specifically states he didn’t want to publish anything about race..

    I have a few other things to say. But it’s 8 am. So give me a few hours.

    • Never mind. Clearly I totally missed who published this article… 8am. I will absolutely contribute something of value in a few hours.

  6. Yes, I would love to read what Steve has to say about art. Please ask him to write about that!

  7. So unfair and tiresome that people of color are constantly subjected to hurtful ignorance. They shouldn’t have to stand up and fight every time a white person says something stupid. White people – time to stand up and fight it and educate ourselves and our children and stop acting like racism is “over” – it is not over because we *feel* like it is over.


  1. [...] Tom Matlack asked his friend Steve Locke to write for us about race. He declined. Here’s why. Show original Rate this:Share this:TwitterFacebookPinterestTumblrGoogle [...]

  2. [...] “There needs to be discussion among people who think of themselves as white. They need to unpack that language, that history, that social position and see what it really offers them, and what it takes away from them. As James Baldwin said, ‘As long as you think that you are white, there is no hope for you.’” – Steve Locke, “Why I Don’t Want to Talk About Race” [...]

  3. [...] Why I don’t Want to Talk about Race @ Good Men Project [...]

  4. [...] about the most difficult parts of manhood—like race, rape, addiction, parenting, porn, divorce, depression, guns, prison, war and suicide—have a way [...]

  5. [...] It is not up to black people to fix racism, just as it is not up to women to fix sexism. We cannot expect black people to be the only ones talking about race or the only ones doing the educating. We want them to be spokespeople for their race and explain to us how and why racism still exists. The problem is that they have been doing this for years already and nothing has changed. The ball is in our hands now. History has taught us plenty about prejudice and discrimination (whether or not we actually listened and learned is another story). We cannot expect the feminist movement to be successful without the participation of men. There needs to be some sense of accountability among people of privilege in order for us to make any sort of progress. And I say all of this as a person of privilege. I don’t need to apologize for being white or for being thin – but I do need to recognize my privilege and think critically about what it means for people who have different experiences. [...]

  6. [...] Why I Don’t Want to Talk About Race by Steve Locke [...]

  7. [...] Locke, Why I Dont Want To Talk About Race (via [...]

  8. [...] ‘Why I Don’t Want to Talk About Race’ [...]

  9. [...] speaking as a straight, ostensibly white male it is important for me to at least try and account for some of the blind spots in this [...]

  10. [...] 11, 2011, The Good Man Project ran a letter by Steve Locke to GMP founder Tom Matlack titled “Why I Don’t Want to Talk About Race.” The post quickly went viral, gathering well over a quarter of a million pageviews. It continues to [...]

  11. [...] Locke – “Why I Don’t Want to Talk About Race” (via [...]

  12. [...] My Frustration WIth Talking About Race [...]

  13. [...] Tom Matlack asked his friend Steve Locke to write for us about race. He declined. Here's why.  [...]

  14. [...] ‘Why I Don’t Want to Talk About Race’ [...]

  15. [...] Yoga is a Textbook Example of Cultural Appropriation“. Coincidentally, the open letter “Why I Don’t Want to Talk About Race” also showed up in my news feed last week. Reading these two pieces in close proximity really [...]

  16. [...] your friend, Tom, I empathized with your passion regarding  race I felt need to respond to your “Why I don’t want to Talk about Race” with my counter statement of “Why I Must Talk about Race.”  You see Steve I am a white man, [...]

  17. [...] ‘Why I Don’t Want to Talk About Race’ (Steve Locke, The Good Men Project) [...]

  18. [...] Being of Chinese descent in Britain is exciting in many ways – but sometimes white people can’t seem to get enough of enforcing their race privilege. A couple of years ago this report was written by a group of academic researchers about the racism ‘Chinese’ people face in Britain – there’s a handy 1-page summary on page 10.  Speaking of white privilege, there is an EXCELLENT and mind-blowing article about it online, called ‘Why I Don’t Want to Talk About Race’. [...]

  19. [...] just because you haven’t experienced them doesn’t mean they don’t exist. You understand why members of oppressed groups are pissed and tired about these issues and having to teach people like you over and over again that they are [...]

  20. […] ‘Why I Don’t Want to Talk About Race’ […]

  21. […] is their relatively small size.  So, just by sheer numbers, they cannot challenge inequality alone.  Allies are crucial.  But, this need is not merely a matter of numbers.  Allies, by virtue of […]

  22. […] Tom Matlack asked his friend Steve Locke to write for us about race. He declined. Here's why.  […]

  23. […] is reserved for people of color, silencing, and tone policing; which is why many people of color shut down and refuse to engage any further, because we feel as if our voices are being stifled, we aren’t truly being heard, the […]

  24. […] not get much done in the work of saving our species from extinction. Voices like James Baldwin and Steve Locke are not saying, “stop oppressing me, person of privilege,” they are saying, “Stop […]

  25. […] is their relatively small size.  So, just by sheer numbers, they cannot challenge inequality alone.  Allies are crucial.  But, this need is not merely a matter of numbers.  Allies, by virtue of […]

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