Do you have Passive Racist Tendencies?
I have done a lot of self-reflecting, self-assessing, and internal conflict resolution in my life. I have grown and overcome obstacles that most will never know about. Over the past several months this reflection has been focused on Racial and Social Justice, the Black Lives Matter Movement, my role in it, and my lack of previous involvement. In some ways I feel like I was living my life with blinders on. I knew things weren’t right but I didn’t take the time to investigate and look for exactly what was wrong. It didn’t directly affect me, plus I had my own struggles and issues to deal with. While this is true, it is also an excuse to not look at and confront uncomfortable issues. Now the blinders are off and while there are lots of excuses, there are no good excuses to not look at and examine these issues, no matter how uncomfortable they are.
Today I want to talk about Passive Racism.
Maybe like me you don’t consider yourself to be a racist, and outwardly that is probably the case. You don’t go to Klan rallies or wear a white hood. In fact, you openly denounce the Klan and all white supremacists. You have friends of different races who you are close to and go out with.
That is all well and good but under the surface there may be some things hiding. Have you asked yourself, as I’ve had to do, “why didn’t I speak up sooner when I saw Racial Injustice, why haven’t I talked to my friends of different races about Social and Racial issues they face on a daily basis?”
Maybe you are good about speaking out when you hear blatant racially discriminatory language from people. But, do you let it slide when friends or family make subtle racially insensitive comments, or jokes, or use derogatory stereotypes? You might use these yourself from time to time.
Passive Racism reveals itself through language and stereotypes. Stereotypes are inherently discriminatory; this can be racial or in other ways. Have you ever thought to yourself some version of the following, “Look at that fat person, they must be so lazy,” “That kid is dirty, he must be poor,” “She does construction? She must be a lesbian.” “They’re in America, why don’t they speak English?” “His pants are sagging so low, he’s a gang member.” The examples go on and on and are applied to many races, ethnicities, sexual orientations, body types, socio-economic status, religious beliefs, and gender.
Have you heard or used the terms “he ‘jewed’ him down”, “he throws like a ‘girl’”, “he’s such a ‘fag’”, or many, many others? They are racist or otherwise discriminatory. Not checking yourself when you think them, or say them is racism and/or discriminatory.
The tough thing about stereotypes is that they may contain a small kernel of truth, for one individual person. You can’t take that one example or tiny sample and apply it to all people of a race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, religion, body type, or socio-economic status.
Using stereotypes is discriminatory and racist. Allowing others to use them makes you complicit in their racism and/or discrimination.
Another way Passive Racism rears its ugly head is through white privilege. Specifically, by not acknowledging our privilege and using it to help end racial and social inequality. We need to acknowledge our privilege. We need to use our voice to advocate for change. We need to use our privilege to open doors that are currently locked to others. We need to take the advantages we have been given, not earned, in our society, simply because of our skin color and use them to help others. Whether you are conscious of it or not, just being white makes your life easier in America, take a close look at how, and use it for good.
There are many other ways that Passive Racism shows up. We need to be conscious of it and willing to hold ourselves accountable, and call out others for using it. We need to be aware. It is not easy because so much of Passive Racism is woven into the fabric of our society and lives. It is up to us to unravel this mess we have helped create or contributed to, whether we were aware of it or not.