I am Racist and (If You’re White) You Probably Are, Too

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I am a white man.

I am racist.

But that’s kind of redundant.

It’s like saying, “I am a fish, and I am soaking wet.

In some ways, I can’t help it. I don’t even notice it. I live my life immersed in a world of white privilege that most of the time I frankly can’t even see.

That doesn’t excuse me. It doesn’t mean I should just shrug and say, “What are you gonna’ do?”

But it does mean that the first step in removing that racism – in undoing the systematic subjugation of people of color – is recognizing my own culpability in that system.

It’s like being an alcoholic. The first step is admitting the truth.

I know I’ve pissed off a lot of people with what I’ve just written. This article isn’t about gaining new friends. But I’m sure I’ll have a lot of death threats to delete from the comments section tomorrow.

The initial reaction white people usually have to being called racist is – Who? Me? I can’t be racist! I have a black friend! I dated a black girl once! I listen to rap music!

Or a whole host of other excuses.

First of all, relax. I don’t know you. For all I know you’re that one white guy out there who has somehow escaped the pervasive societal attitudes that the rest of us unknowingly took in with our baby formula.

But chances are – yeah, you’re a racist, too.

Second of all, I’m not talking to people of color. None of you are racist. Congratulations!

You might be a hate-filled bigoted, misogynistic, xenophobic, homophobic, prejudiced asshole.

Again, I don’t know you. But racist? No. You can’t really be that.

Here’s why. Racism doesn’t mean hating someone because of their race. That’s a kind of prejudice. And anyone can be prejudiced.

Racism is hate plus power. If a black person says, “I hate white people,” he is prejudiced. However, there is no system that then backs up his hatred. The police don’t arrest white people more than black people for the same crimes. The judicial system doesn’t give harsher sentences to white people than it does black people for the same crimes. Public schools serving a majority of white students aren’t chronically underfunded. It isn’t harder to get a loan or a job if you have a white-sounding name. If it did, THAT would be racism!

Get it?

So I’m sorry, white people. This means there is no such thing as reverse racism. Despite what you may see on Fox News, the only racists in America have white skin.

Don’t get me wrong. There are degrees of racism. If you have a Confederate flag prominently displayed in your home in front of your personally autographed picture with David Duke, well you’re probably a bit more racist than most Caucasians. But no matter what, if you’re white, you’ve probably benefited from white supremacy and are de facto racist.

Maybe your folks gave you a middle class upbringing in a quiet suburb. Maybe you went to a well-funded public school in a wealthy neighborhood. Maybe your dad was convicted of white collar crime and got little to no jail time. Heck! Maybe you just walked down the street once and the police didn’t follow you through a convenience store or reached for their guns.

If your upbringing was in any way favored due to wealth amassed over a few generations, you benefited from white privilege. If the judicial system let you or a loved one go with a lighter sentence, you benefited. If you were not harassed by law enforcement because of your complexion, you benefited. And when you benefit from a system, you’re part of it.

For every white person in America, it is almost certain that something like this happened to you at some point in your life. And you probably had no idea it was even occurring.

Good fortune becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. People start to think they deserve it. And maybe they do, maybe they don’t. But people of color who don’t have such privileges certainly don’t deserve their inequitable treatment.

When we fail to acknowledge that white supremacy exists or that it benefits us, white folks, we’re just perpetuating that same system.

Some of you will say I’m putting too much emphasis on race. We’re all the same under the skin. We shouldn’t bring up the topic of racism. It just makes things worse.

Easy for you to say! You’re on top of the social food chain! If we don’t talk about the inherent inequalities entrenched in the system, nothing will change. Us, white folks, will continue to benefit, and black folks will continue to get the short end of the stick.

One of the biggest obstacles to solving racism is its invisibility – to white folks.

We’re shielded from it because its negative effects don’t reach us, and its positive effects to us are either shrugged off or we assume we deserve them.

Being racist rarely involves overt action anymore. It’s become covert, an entrenched sickness in all our social systems. And the only way to cure it is to make it visible – to recognize, isolate and destroy it.

I know. Some of you will say you had it tough, too. And you probably did. Few people live charmed lives. There are poor white folks. There are white people who are discriminated against because of their gender, nationality, sexual preference and/or religion. But this doesn’t mean you didn’t benefit. There is a crossroads of American prejudice and racism is only one of many intersecting avenues.

Maybe you were the victim sometimes, but you were probably the victor in others, and you never even saw it coming.

The point isn’t to say which malady is worse. They’re all bad and all deserving of a cure. But if you really don’t want to be a racist, you have to look it straight in the eye and call it by its rightful name.

You probably didn’t ask to be treated differently. Most of us just want fairness. But to be on that side we have to proclaim our allegiance. We have to take a stand.

Whenever you see injustice against people of color, you must call it out. You must make yourself a part of the solution and not the problem. You must be a voice demanding the citadel of white privilege be burned to the ground.

It’s not easy. You’ll be called all sorts of names: bleeding heart, libtard, self-hating white, maybe even cracka. Because even people of color may not understand what you’re trying to do. After so many years of racial oppression by people with melanin deficiency, they may not trust an open hand when they’ve been so used to expecting a fist.

But that’s okay. It’s understandable. The only thing to do is press on. Understanding will come – eventually.

Racism is a problem for black folks, but the solution is mostly in the hands of white people. We’re the ones doing – or allowing – racism. It’s our job to fix it.

And much of that work will not be in the public sphere. It will be in our own hearts.

Many of us have been socialized to be afraid of black folks. We get this from the news, movies, television, the internet, often even our own relatives and friends. We’re constantly told how dangerous black people are, how untrustworthy, how violent. But the facts don’t bare this out. Given the degree of aggression – both overt and covert – black people have endured from white people over time, they have been incredibly non-violent. It is us, white people, who have been violent and inhuman. That is the legacy we hide under our fear of dark skin. We’re really afraid that one day our black brothers and sisters will have had enough and give back to us all the accumulated hate of centuries.

No. We aren’t responsible for slavery or Jim Crow or lynchings or a host of other horrible things. But we still benefit from them.

So it is up to us to even the scales, to treat black folks fairly and equitably with a loving heart.

That is why I make this confession. That is why I write this article that will probably be roundly criticized or maybe just ignored.

That’s why I admit I’m a racist.

It’s the only way to stop being one.


NOTE: This article also was published on commondreams.org.

110 thoughts on “I am Racist and (If You’re White) You Probably Are, Too

    • I loved this article!!! I am struggling with the fact that my white husband is an undercover racist. It hurts my heart and is impossible to comprehend. It’s like bad math, if it doesn’t add up, it’s just wrong!!! Thank you for sharing.

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  1. Am I reading this right? The message I get is that because you were born white you have no choice – you are a racists. That does not seem right. I take your point that the combination of prejudice and power wielded by a white majority have hindered non-white citizens, but I think a bigger problem is elitism. If greedy elites of any race can keep the common folks divided they can accrue more to themselves, live in their gated communities and insure a legacy wealth and power for their elite progeny.

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    • In a way, that’s right. But it’s not genetic. It’s a product of American culture. If you’re a white person raised in America, you probably were enculturated to accept racist and stereotypical views of people of color. You may consciously disagree with them, but unconsciously they’re a part of you. Moreover, you have benefitted from countless instances of white privilege. Therefore, you’re a part of that system. My point is this: the default position for American white people is racist. If you want to change that about yourself, you have to take action to destroy our racist system.

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      • rac·ist: noun
        1. a person who believes that a particular race is superior to another.
        synonyms: racial bigot, racialist, xenophobe, chauvinist, supremacist

        ^This does not apply to me.

        I don’t deny that racism exists – it absolutely does. I don’t deny that there are white racists entrenched in positions of power. Nor do I deny that everyone – not just white people, or black people, EVERYONE – has a societal obligation to fight and end racism wherever possible.

        BUT

        I am not a racist. Whether or not I have indirectly benefited from a system geared toward lending advantage to white people does not MAKE me a racist. It makes the perpetrators of that system racist, to be sure. I know for a fact that i have never consciously or willingly taken any advantage conferred to me because of my skin color. If someone has, without my knowledge or consent, decided to lend me any sort of favor or advantage because of my skin color, I was not nor will I ever be complicit in its execution.

        Absolutely, white people must call out and denounce racism wherever and whenever they see it. So must black people. So must persons of any race or color. Race is not and never has been a viable standard upon which to make value or character judgments – and that INCLUDES saying all white people in America are racists.

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      • Ouro, I am using a different definition of racism. The problem with the one you cite is it leaves out the systematic nature of American racism. I think that’s a big omission. Moreover, in my view racism does not have to be overt or even conscious. If your world view has been shaped by a racist society (as just about every American’s has) and if you benefit from white privilege (as almost all white people do) then I would argue that is a kind of racism. Surely it’s not as extreme as someone who burns crosses on black people’s lawns, but it is still something. If we don’t include these interior and covert kinds of racism in our definition, I fear we’re leaving out some of the most vile and pernicious racism we have in our country. But who knows? Maybe I’m being too extreme. I’m just sick of white people hearing about racists attitudes and white privilege and then smugly saying that it’s not them. White folks should be as pissed off about the covert racism we have in America as black folks are. But we’re not. That’s why I take this view. Get off your ass, white folks. Get angry and start doing something about the systematic oppression of people of color that benefits you every day. Thanks for commenting.

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    • That too is an issue but as long as the division is amongs the common then how do you think the common will ever come together to conquer elitist. So back to the article. Admitting there is an issue can lead to unification of the common that can lead to getting rid of elitism and ones work will determine ones worth … but as a black man its just a dream because most people will look for any other clever diversion to not admit privileged let alone racist. …

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      • I have a couple observations. While hanging out with two black pals on the Baja Peninsula, I learned that black and white Americans have a lot more in common with each other than they do with anyone else on the planet. Racism probably has a lot more to do with the clannish thinking common everywhere before the world shrunk. I believe in one or two more generations racism will be a minor issue. Elitism, however, is a more virulent and older problem that we all need to fight. It is not even in the best interest of the rich and powerful.

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    • Yes and not only that…according to the authors definition of racism AFFIRMATIVE ACTION policies are in fact racists. Prejudice and Power via a system designed just for blacks. I get what the author is saying and he is right to some extent, but he comes across as just full of white guilt and doesn’t really offer any viable solutions to anything just: you should feel terrible and guilty you dirty white people. He’s just venting his own pent up guilt. ewwwwww

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      • Thank you for the diagnosis. I always appreciate free pop psychology instead of actually grappling with what I’m trying to say. Let me pay you back in kind. I think you’re projecting your guilt onto me. While I suggest actions speak louder than words and if you don’t want to be racist you should actually do something about it, you make it about me having icky feelings. Go to one #BlackLivesMatter rally and call me in the morning.

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      • And your statement proved his point. What evidence do you have that affirmative action has done any harm to you or whites. Data is my specialty and while that argument gets touted often, it lacks the data to support it. Here is a question for you. What economic and social impact does black racism have on whites? Can he act in a way the would prevent white people from obtaining jobs, equal pay, access to education, equal justice, loans, etc. Then answer me this, what economic and social impact has white racism havd on blacks. What action has white racism taken to undervalue, underestimate and marginalize blacks over the last 500 years. It’s sincere ignorance or either contentious bliss. #kujua_uwazi

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  2. You descibed “racism” as power plus hate. Now I agree that as a white man, I benefit from the system. Most of the time without knowledge or choice in the matter. But how do you get that all whites are by default “racist”? I thought it was power plus hate? I don’t have hate for anyone based on race. And while I am white. I’m Irish white. There was a time in this country when our people came here who weren’t accepted by english hailing whites. I’ll be the first to say we didn’t have it as bad as our African brothers, not by a longshot. So I have a question now.. If the big mix of default racist whites system one day accepts africans fully into the fold, will african folks also be racist for benefiting from a system that favors whites and blacks over middle-eastern ethnicities?

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    • I see your point, but hate is a feeling. You can’t always choose how you feel. If you harbor unfair stereotypical views of people of color, I’d argue that is a kind of hate. As to the point about the Irish, I think it’s covered by intersectionality. To your question, IF that happened, it would indeed be racism. However, the very fabric of our country would have to go through a tremendous change for that to be the case. It would take a long time. Our current society was hundreds of years in the making. I would hope that if we ever destroy our current brand of racism we wouldn’t replace it with a new variety. But who knows? Sounds like us!

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  3. By your logic everyone in the United States is racist because everyone benefits from slave labor everyday and it is their fault for not destroying the system which allows this to occur. Reality is that anyone can be prejudice, stereotype people (like what you are doing in this article) and hold racists beliefs. In fact as a light-skinned person I’ve experienced racism and it’s really hurtful when people tell I haven’t or when people assume because you have brown skin that you have. These are still stereotypes which are the predecessors of racism. If you want to talk about power than you have to include money, class and political economics as money if the real power in today’s globalized world. So no, I’m not personally racist which is why I tend to recognize racism when I see it. Which is why my mother taught me to speak out and fight the system which perpetuates not only racism to a certain degree but materialism, greed and elitism. Which is why it pains me to see this divide and conquer rhetoric so easily accepted by self-proclaimed anti-racists, liberal democrats. Tim Wise is getting money from J.P Morgan and other financial institutions to spread this garbage to take the heat off them. Also, it is ludicrous to say that in order for people to not stereotype me as a “white supremacist” I have to do the very thing that no group of people have succeeded at yet “destroy our racist system.” That’s like telling people with brown skin that their default position is victim and they can do absolutely nothing to change that which is a slap in the face to all the great civil rights leaders. My point is that nothing substantial is ever accomplished with guilt-victimization and blame. We must believe in ourselves and our RIGHTS as HUMANS (not privileges) and join together in intent if we wish to change anything. There is only one human race, so there is no need to subscribe to these social construct, instead see greed, malice and propaganda for what it really is.

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    • Kate, it’s not our fault that racist system exists. After all, we weren’t around when all this started. However, since we benefit from those systems, it is our responsibility to at least try to undo them. Maybe we won’t succeed, but if we don’t at least give it our all, we’re culpable. There are too many white people who refuse to see the problem at all or if they do, they think it doesn’t apply to them. I’m saying that it does apply to you and if you don’t want that, you need to act.

      By the way, these ideas presented here are my own. Though I’ve been influenced by scholarship on the subject, no one contacted me and asked me to further someone else’s agenda.

      When it comes to the 1%, I couldn’t agree with you more. That’s very important. However, it doesn’t mean racism isn’t important, too. These issues are related but solving one will not necessarily solve the other. We need to hit both. Thanks for commenting.

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  4. I feel sorry that you were raised in hate. Not everyone was. Keep turning these analytics inward and stop blaming others. Not everyone is broken the same way like you. Keep putting love in your heart and you will be ok.

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    • Brian, I don’t think I was raised in hate more than most people. Racist attitudes and stereotypes don’t just come from our parents. They come from movies, books, TV, music, the news, friends, co-workers, religious leaders, etc. Moreover, all white folks benefit from white privilege. We have a duty to fight against these things. That’s all I’m really trying to say.

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  5. I googled “racism definition” and it had a different one than yours tho. Like the merriam webster dictionary doesn’t make this racism/prejudice distinction.

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    • There are other definitions of Racism. The one I used here is the one favored in African American Studies. I like it because it captures something other definitions leave out – the systematic nature of racism. It’s not just an individual acting alone. It’s the collective work of institutions and society. I think that’s an important distinction, but you are free to agree or disagree with me. Thanks for commenting.

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  6. Yeah, you’re a racist, not because you’re white, but because you think caucasians are the only ones who are able to be evil. Did you not pay attention to your history lessons? What do Africans, Americans (not specifically US citizens), Asians, Europeans, Oceanians and the rest of the humanrace have in common? Firstly, they are all human, and secondly, they have all been evil at some point in history. All humans originated from the same place, we are the same race (there’s no race – only different traits that varies depending on the conditions your late ancestors lived by (look up Darwin)), therefore there’s no reason that different societies and people with different traits won’t differ in the same way.

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    • Roza, when did I ever say white people are the only ones capable of evil? I wrote that people of color can be bigots, sexist, homophobic, etc. However, that’s prejudice – not racism. Additionally, I fully support that all human beings should be considered one race. There are no significant physical or mental differences between white folks and people of color. However, it would be reductionary to then ignore how white society treats black folks. Racist attitudes persist. White privilege is very real. Time for white folks to get off their butts and do something about that.

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  7. Sweet! So because the majority of the white people are in power or have higher stands in society that means we are all racist? Good to know, where i’m from there is absolutely no racism, actually there are black people banning things from white people. Ever seen a normal white rapper? Nah thats because its for blacks, honostly stop talking about this bullcrap because everytime we talk about it rather than just accept eachother we get a little more racist.

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    • Sad kid, not exactly. White folks are probably racist because we ALL benefit from white privilege. It’s not just those at the top. It’s all of us. I mention some examples in the article. Also we’re socialized and enculturated in a racist society. You can’t grow up here and not get some of it on you – probably.

      Glad to know you found some racist free utopia in the U.S. Not sure where that could possibly be. Before you get too comfortable you might want to take a closer look around. If you’re honest,I’d bet you’ll start to see racism lurking in the shadows. Listen to what people say. Pay attention to how they think. Pay attention to how YOU think. I have for myself and see the specter of racism in my own thoughts and feelings. It’s probably there for you, too.

      No white rappers!? Seriously? Eminen not white?

      Finally, if we don’t talk about racism and call it out when we see it, we will never get rid of it. I won’t stop, but you are free to stop reading what I write.

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  8. You stated that you are using a different definition of racism other than the official definition. Could you provide a cited source that confirms the legitimacy of said definition?

    If you can’t, then you might want to do research before posting more “I am ashamed I am white and you should be to” articles. Your definition is more about bigotry than racism. Racism is more about superiority over other races. It was a way colonists made themselves seem more important and “better” than indigenous people in the land the colonists were settling in.

    I read this article and laughed at the sheer audacity of it implying that because I was born white I am automatically racist. So, basically you are labeling all of the Caucasians in the United States. Do you not see how ludicrous that statement is?

    You should be ashamed, but at yourself for writing this blog.

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    • Patrick, I cited several sources for this definition of racism in the article. Just click on the highlighted words. However, it doesn’t matter where this definition comes from. I think it’s a good one. Maybe you don’t. I’ve addressed why I prefer this definition in other comments. In short, I like how it captures the systematic nature of racism. If we define the term too narrowly, we lose that. Moreover, if we don’t include unconscious attitudes as racism, those go unaddressed, too. I think that’s a horrible but common mistake. White folks too often want to clap each other on the back for not going to white powder rallies yet they often harbor dangerous and unfair stereotypes about people of color. They support a system that subjugates black folks. I don’t think white folks – including me – should be left off the hook for that.

      By the way, you’re not racist because you’re born white. You are probably racist because you were enculturated in America and are favored by white privileges. Is that untrue? Does American culture not instill these values in its citizens? Does white privilege exist? If so, I’m not wrong even if you don’t like how I’m defining things. Why should I be ashamed of trying to point that out?

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  9. We said. White people who are apathetic to it (the majority) are just as bad as those who perpetuate racism.

    Of course even in this very thread and after reading this article. You have people deflecting with “classism” and everything under the sun. That’s why I prefer to just. use the term “white supremacy”

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  10. No one is born racist….racism is taught that’s what’s wrong with today’s society too much hatred this article is a little stupid though to be honest

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    • That’s what I’m saying, Tristina. American culture teaches white people to accept certain racist attitudes about people of color. It also favors white people over black people in various ways, which we call white privilege. I’m not sure why you agreed with my article and then called it stupid.

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  11. I am a 34 yr African American man and I cried when I read the comments on this article simply because I can really see how we as Americans R divided not because of us as Americans just because of a system that runs America. I realize we all have love in us, but because of the system we live by, just to be ability to live in the US, we use a system that promotes some kind of fashion of racism. saddens me. Thank you for your food for thought.

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  12. I don’t have a problem with the concept of racism that you use (hate plus power). The problems I have are first, I and a vast majority of white people I know, can honestly say with deep introspection, that we don’t hate anyone because of their race. Second, you and others flip between the most common definition of racism (thoughts and feelings, prejudice) and this new definition.

    If the anti-racist movement wants to have white people see themselves as racists, according to this new definition, you and those in the movement (me, I am white), must stop using the old definition and the new definition concurrently and you must explain to us how we hate.

    I realize some people will dismiss this and don’t really care how white people feel about being called racist, but anti-racists will make very little progress in changing a system without the help of those who the system benefits.

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    • David, I see your point. However, there are many kinds of hate. Honestly and sincerely calling a black person the N word is certainly hatred. But what about unconscious attitudes? What about locking your door when a black person walks by? What about making fun of the way some black people talk? What about refusing to listen to people of color’s complaints about stop & frisk? Most racism in America today is covert. I’m trying to address that here by asking white folks to examine their souls. What will the result be? Only you will know.

      Moreover, I don’t think I’m flipping between different definitions of racism. The definition I use here includes overt hatred but it also includes unconscious attitudes and white privilege. That’s why I think it’s better.

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  13. I’d probably like this more if the definition were racism = prejudice + power. One’s conscious or unconscious feelings need not rise to the level of hatred to constitute racism in conjunction with power. That’s the way it’s defined in the article you highlight when you first say “Racism is hate plus power.”

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    • Cynthia, I understand your reticence to include unconscious attitudes as racism. After all, we can’t control them. But if we don’t include them, what happens to them? They’re ignored and invisible. As uncomfortable as it may make us, I think we have to include the unconscious, too. Our attitudes greatly affect our actions. That’s why I think so many of us participate in covert racism without even knowing it. Thanks for the thoughtful comment.

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      • I wasn’t being reticent about including unconscious attitudes — not at all — but your using the word “hate” instead of “prejudice” in your definition when prejudice is the word used in the article you link to.

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  14. I am grateful that you desire to engage in the dilogue of white privilege. It amazes me that even with research & evidence that blacks have a harder time buying a home, getting similar appraisals to homes in predominantly white neighborhoods, getting similar quality education, finding & maintaining employment, getting an SBA loan, etc. etc., the concept of white privilege still confounds them. There is not enough empirical evidence that can be shown because they desire to place the impetus on the individual & use exceptions to the rule as the rule (if Ben Carson can make it out of the ghetto & become the most respected pediatric surgeon, what’s your excuse). Yet noone ever points out exceptions like Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, or Mark Zuckerburg to say we should all be multi billionaires because they did it without finishing college, so you don’t need college either. Thank you for trying to open the eyes of those who refuse to see. I don’t agee with everything you said, but that is based on my perspective & life experiences. But I don’t have to agree with you to engage with you. And further more that doesn’t make me right & you wrong or vise versa. We are simply trying to make sense of the world around us. You expressed your truth, rather eloquently I might add, and now we can debate the specifics of your take on the pervasiveness of institutional racism & how we can root it out. But at least you want to have that conversation instead of blaming the victim for having substandard education, homes, jobs, health care, community ammenities with little to no government or private investment & wondering why those communities don’t have the “same values” as white society.

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  15. I was turned down for a job. It was frankly put to me that the man who previously filled the position was Black and they had to find a Black person to replace him. That disqualified me. Yet somehow I am benefitting from white privilege.

    I have read your blog and I have read the responses and I am struggling between thinking; are you surreptitiously and covertly stirring the pot, or are you a good writer with a twisted point of view?

    Certainly, you’re going to appeal to the minority readers. If one hears what he wants to hear he’s not going to deconstruct a premise for the sake of validity. Many of the rest of us, however, will take exception. It’s not because of being white against black. Rather, it’s a case of having made a conscious effort to analyze and evaluate our personal level of racism and now having to weigh that against your premise that if you’re white you’re racist – period.

    Whites are racists, you are white, therefore you must be a racist. That’s what we’d call a fallacious argument. If I am of mixed race does that automatically qualify me as having inner struggles with myself?

    I honestly believe that deep in your mind you have evil leaning tendencies. Your contrived admission and accusation of the universal guilt of racism pits one race against another in an unprecedented way. As long as we keep using these words; racism and bigotry, supremacy, and privilege, etc, we are perpetuating instead of solving, the problem.

    After much thought I have concluded that you are a deliberate and unmitigated pot-stirrer.

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    • Bob, this blog IS called GADFLY on the Wall. Of course I’m pot stirring! I am trying to sting and poke but all in the name of the truth – or the truth as I see it. I’m sorry you were turned down for a job due to Affirmative Action. I haven’t addressed that at all here. Maybe Affirmative Action is a step to undo white privilege and thus a positive thing seen from a macro point of view. Maybe it just replaces one inequality with another. Either way, it doesn’t damage my point. If you’re white, you probably benefited time-and-again without your knowing. One instance of it working against you does not mean there is not a system in place that quite often works in your favor.

      People of mixed race pose an interesting test to my theory. However, individuals usually identify or are considered one or the other. I’ve met very few people who identify as “mixed.” Usually our society considers multiracial people as black, but that obviously depends on the individual, their features and skin tone. Some pass as white. For instance, many people are surprised when you remind them that President Obama is multiracial. Most just consider him black.

      I promise I am not evil. You seem to dislike my article because of what it describes. But this is just a description of the world in which we live. Race matters. Racism exists. If we hide from it, we do no one any good. Better to face the truth and fight for equality.

      Liked by 1 person

  16. Wow, you were right. People got butt hurt. I agree with you. I’m white. I have benefited from my race at the expense of others. Like you said, for years I did so unknowingly. But people like you have opened my eyes. There are so many times when I was younger where I witnessed covert racism and did nothing because I did not know my privilege. I know now. I speak up against it now. Thank you Steven. Keep up the good fight. There are a few of us (and believe me our numbers are growing) who can read your article and don’t feel a need to write long explanations about how, “You just don’t know me.”

    Liked by 1 person

  17. A good example of the systemic racism that is in the air we breathe is that white people will read this and engage in a conversation about this topic when it comes from a white person but won’t listen to what you said when it comes from a person of color. It is our responsibility to use that white advantage for good to help spread the message. I have tried to explain to people that the air we breathe isn’t just one thing, it is made up of many things, it contains nitrogen, oxygen, water, carbon dioxide, pollen, dust and many nasty human made things that they may not realize they have been breathing in their whole lives. A lot of people don’t want to know, they don’t want to hear it and they get very defensive and uncomfortable when they think that they will lose some of their privileges by others gaining some, but we must realize that we gain nothing by someone else’s suffering. In fact white supremacy harms the white population in more ways than it benefits it. I don’t know if you have already written about that topic, now that I have discovered your blog I will be following it and reading your archived posts. Thank you for writing about this very important issue, and thank you for providing links in your article, but mostly thank you for replying to the comments. All too often I will read an article such as this and then the comment section is left for all the trolls to take over and there is no discussion to learn from or take part in. People of color have always done the hard work in movement building and it takes work to be an ally and a lot of the times I fail, and it will happen, but I learn from it and carry on the fight, because one of the benefits of being white is that I can put it down and not think about it until I am ready to pick it up again, people of color don’t have this benefit and until they do I won’t put it down either. It is nice to be able to read your replies to people’s arguments against your views as I have heard them all before when I have engaged in conversations on this topic but I always felt that I lacked the knowledge to effectively respond to their arguments. I usually end the conversation by telling them that I can’t wake someone who is pretending to be asleep. Next time I will have a little more ammunition for the good fight.

    Liked by 1 person

  18. I am a white woman teaching in a predominantly black high school. I have been in the district for 16 years. The stories I could tell about how my world relates to this article.

    Liked by 1 person

  19. I happen to have come to the same conclusion as Steven. First, I had this concept brought to my attention in my university classes teaching about diversity. It offended me at first because I’ve made a lifetime crusade against bigotry and prejudice. I didn’t see the racism in every day. I looked for the overt and missed the covert. The times where I could assume that I would be treated with respect and be considered trustworthy. Glad when I was assumed to be innocent without question. I was unconscious that it was racism that fueled this. I wasn’t apathetic or intrinsically evil. I just went around with a shield over my eyes. People, Steven isn’t saying you are bad. He’s saying open your eyes. Take a look around. Question. When you see injustice, say something. Do something. Be aware.

    Liked by 1 person

  20. Thanks forbputting this so clearly.
    1. I am looking for white activists organizing white ppl to nurture change in ourselves and the system we foster. I will be monitoring for replies
    2. Nuance being the word of the day, would nuancing the word/concept racist help the issue? Using it can take conversation away from main topic–racism. Instead of saying we’re all racist, maybe “white ppl all benefit from racism.” It also takes a label off the table. Maybe this a good place to start stopping The use of labels.
    3. “I lost a job due to affirmative action” is the epitome of the subtlety of racism. The employer could look the person in the eye and say “I gave this job intentionally to someone else” Racism is when then applicant is never even called in for interview. It is the unspoken “I gave the job to a white person because they are white”
    4. I sit here writing realizing I am thinking I would rather do something else, having to remind myself Black ppl fighting for their freedom would also rather be doing something else.
    5. I have adopted the word “co-liberator”, using “co-” as in copilot. Ally already is tainted

    Thanks again for your efforts

    Margaret

    Liked by 2 people

  21. One of the best articles on the subject of white supremacy/ privilege and systemic racism yet. I completely understand your point. You’ve managed to present it concisely with facts, instinct and courage. Most importantly, with purity and honesty. Your truth seeking is not just academic. It encompasses a humanity and love that is not widely received. Many souls won’t obtain either of these in their lifetime. Blacks in the U.S. should be peers by now. All racists myths have been dispelled. We are educated and contributors in this country despite all that we have endured. And still endure. We are, in fact, exceptional human beings. At a very young age, I questioned how one race can subjugate the quality of life of another race in this country? Are they crazy, ignorant?
    We have ONE life and we came to play.
    Now, multiply that statement times millions. Then multiply that times centuries. Then, perhaps you can extrapolate some moral obligation to at least admit the truth to yourself.
    Thank you Steven.

    Liked by 3 people

  22. There is no such thing as a white man, it’s made up to make others think they are inferior. You need to go and read to find out who you are, You are a mutant, a descendent of Africans. Google how you came to be. You’re delusional. Educate yourself and you won’t sound like such an idiot.

    Like

    • Carol, While I agree that the concept of race is not justifiable from a scientific point of view, it remains an important political and social construct. If we ignore that, we only continue to empower the dominant power structure. White privilege exists. Racism exists. Time to do something about it.

      Liked by 1 person

  23. One of the best articles I’ve seen written by a white male who covers all the important aspects of why systemic racism (social power and prejudice) is different from individual prejudices.

    Liked by 1 person

  24. Congratulations. You did an excellent job on really, really tough sell. Unless you’re deleting the usual troll crowd, for the most part, you also have one of the most civil group of responders I’ve seen commenting on this type of subject matter.

    I, too, am a social content blogger. It’s tough to get to the core of these complex issues in a balanced, yet accurate way. My readers are so tuned out to “racism” that I had to alter my terminology and be more specific. I now refer to white privilege as the “societal benefits of historically established white supremacy.”

    it’s kind of hard to deny that one with a straight face. At least it’s working for now. I don’t hold out much hope because people are so reluctant to change. Humans also have a real tough time being honest with themselves when it’s easier to ignore or deny the consequences.

    Again, great job. Keep up the drum beat my good fellow. Keep up the drumbeat.

    Lj

    Liked by 3 people

  25. I just wanted to say that this is one of the most thoughtful, well constructed, and eloquent articles on this subject that I’ve ever read. I applaud you for your ability to not only convey this harsh truth, but that you did it in such a way that could possibly convince even the most delusional of white supremacists that racism is a systemic problem that every light skinned person perpetuates just by thinking they’re exempt from it. Thank you and I’ll definitely be following your blog now.

    Jp

    Liked by 2 people

  26. Interesting view. Why is the discussion about racism always only about whites and blacks? Where do asians, latinos or middle-easterners fit into this dialogue? Im probably too isolated for it to reach me, but I dont think Ive ever heard this argument/discussion in the mainstream (or social networks) coming from these other races. Why is that? Is the truth that theres a white&black privilege that nobody acknowledges?

    Like

    • Good point, Ed. Racism is not a fully realized intellectual view point. It’s a kind of systematic prejudice. In America, the racist system often applies to all people of color – Asians, Hispanics, Muslims, etc. The term “black” is usually just shorthand for all the huge majority of people who – in America – are considered the minority.

      Liked by 1 person

  27. I’m black and I grew up in a wealthy neighborhood, got a lighter punishment then I probably deserved,or can usually walk thru a store with no worries (I usually don’t get any help without having to find someone ask but I try to chalk it up as lazy employees). Does it make me racist? Even though I’m black? I guess the only thing is, when this stuff does happen to me or lack there of, I notice it.

    Like

  28. You can live in a racist society without being racist. The word is being stretched and distorted all over the place. You can probably get 75-80% of Americans to admit that American society is somewhat racist; you can probably get less than half of Americans to admit that they are personally racist. As well they shouldn’t – nobody appreciates being labeled.

    A pity that the last 15 years of PC has been misapplied into trying to get White people to admit to something that they don’t feel is accurate.

    Like

    • If you put a clean fish into a dirty tank, is it still a clean fish? We are all of us products of our environment. We can’t help it. Twenty years of hearing solely about black people committing crimes on the news might just make you predisposed to think of black people as criminals, for instance. Finally, this is just a blog. There is no public airing of racism. Search your heart. See what’s in there. But if you aren’t fighting against the racist system, you’re part of it.

      Liked by 1 person

  29. I appreciate what you and others are trying to do with this, but I’m afraid this rhetoric is misguided.

    The first and most obvious problem is that it’s blatant equivocation. In a rational discussion, you don’t get to change the meanings of words. Or, if choose to define a word in a particular way, then you have to completely reassess the meaning and implications of the word. If white people are racist according to a different definition of racist, then you have to justify why they should care, because your different meaning of the word doesn’t automatically inherit the properties of the other meaning. You want the word “racist” to carry its traditional weight while changing what it means.

    That’s not what really concerns me though. My main concern is that, while you claim that people’s reaction shouldn’t be to just shrug and say, “What are you gonna’ do?”, I think that is exactly the reaction that it encourages.

    Whatever works is acceptable as a rhetorical strategy in my book (for this particular issue), even if it is (as I mentioned above) logically fallacious. My fear is that it will not work.

    In the USA, racism has been traditionally regarded as an individual matter, so it’s good that you are trying to wake people up to the fact of institutional racism. White people need to realize that having black friends doesn’t help end racism: having black friends does a lot more to help the white ego than it does to help black people.

    It seems, though, that this is a distinctly disempowering way to introduce the issue. That’s a problem, because white people are the only ones who can end institutionalized racism. Making a bunch of white kids feel disempowered might feel like justice, since usually no pains are spared to make them feel like the center of the world, but I question whether disempowering them on this particular issue is wise when what we really need is their action.

    The last bit of your post is just bizarre. If you accept your own line of reasoning, then no, you don’t ever get to stop being a racist. You will always be a racist until the day that you die. You cannot find the right words to say to cleanse your sins and absolve yourself of institutional racism. No individual action will absolve you of racism, because you have defined it on a societal level.

    Like

    • Interesting comments, Alias. First of all, I have not changed the definition of racism. The one I’m using is generally accepted in scholarly circles. Even if you don’t accept it, that doesn’t change the point. It only changes how we talk about it. Second, I think you’re under the mistaken belief that anti-racists can convince someone else not to be racist if we just talk in a friendly tone of voice. I wholeheartedly disagree with that kind of tone policing. We’ve been trying that for hundreds of years. Spoiler alert: it doesn’t work. I think people need jolted awake. YES, racism exists, and you have some of it one you! Finally, there are degrees of racism. Living in a privileged position in a racist society means you probably are guilty of it to some degree. The only way to become entirely clean is to dismantle white supremacy.

      Liked by 1 person

  30. So I’m mixed, mother is Caucasian, dads from Ghana (actually born in Ghana, not 50 generations back) but I am ridiculously pale, other than my dad’s butt and nose shape, there is literally nothing negro about me. I have green eyes, red hair and a few freckles. I was born in predominantly black area in the united states and lived there until I was 10 years old and let me tell you, racism is NOT a learned behavior and is NOT just a white washed prejudice. Kids didn’t want to play with me, I didn’t look like them. Teachers didn’t want me in their class, I’d make the other kids feel bad. “Are you sure that’s your dad?” “No your white friend can stay over, she might give the dog lice” (Seriously!) Then my family moved to Europe and I’d never felt so at home or so accepted. A lot of people from Africa live here, A LOT. There is no segregation, no prejudice, when people speak they all have the same accent and wear the same clothes. So what I can tell you is that racism is America’s drug, but most of the white people aren’t the ones still ‘smokin’ it. Even south Africa is more blended together than a lot of places in than the ‘good ole US of A.’

    Like

    • Maya, your observations are absolutely spot on. There is a lot of “classism” around the world: India and Japan come to mind immediately. However, America is the only place in the world where racism was/is governmentally imposed and enforced and discrimination is strictly based on the color of your skin or any semblance or evidence of black blood.

      The reason this uniquely vile type of vitriol exists is well documented for anyone who cares to know. From the very first slave settlements, American leadership consistently propagated the lie that blacks are inferior subhumans. Then, in order to reinforce that lie and make it stick, they have systematically and unceasingly made every effort to historically (to this day) always portray blacks in a negative, derogatory manner whenever and wherever possible.

      It didn’t take long for the early American leaders to recognize that racism and white supremacy was not natural and that people of all colors readily mingled and even intermarried regularly when left to themselves. Therefore, they then instituted laws and legislation designed to isolate blacks physically, economically, socially and academically; create enmity and division between the races; punish white people who did not conform; and reward whites who adapted and complied with this new philosophy of racial hatred and white supremacy. The rest as they say, is history.

      After more than 400 years of living this way, the psychological and emotional effects of this mentality have been systemically inbred in all Americans. Outsiders recognize what’s going on almost immediately and just shake their heads in amazement. However, since this official government orchestrated approach to blacks is obviously not as openly blatant and visible today as it has been historically, most white people vehemently deny its existence and categorically insist what happened in the past has absolutely no material bearing on the black community today.

      To this day, white people still control all the power bases and centers of influence in America. As long as they are in control and continue to insist that systemic institutional racism and white supremacy does not exist in America today and that America’s egregious 400 year racist history has absolutely no bearing on the present, there is little hope for racial healing and reconciliation in America. It is impossible for white people to see the need to address a problem that collectively they adamantly and vehemently deny even exists.

      Liked by 1 person

  31. Really interesting article. I agree with most of your points and think you bring things up that any person with white skin or has benefitted from white privilege should consider.

    However, in the beginning of the article you define racism as hate+power and then reinforce your argument by talking about power only it seems.

    I think a better definition of racism would be something like “reinforcing racist power structures either knowingly or unknowingly”. That would seem to fit the rest of what you are trying to convey better I think.

    Still, good stuff!! I think you hit on a lot of good points.

    People’s varying definitions of racism seems to be (at least in my circles) the reason why people don’t agree when talking about what is racist and what is not.

    I think it was socrates who said “wisdom comes through the definition of terms”. I applaud you for making the effort to do that.

    Like

  32. I agree that all white people in America benefit from privilege whether they realize it or not, but I don’t agree with the expansion of white privilege to racism. You say “But no matter what, if you’re white, you’ve probably benefited from white supremacy and are de facto racist.” However, you also say, “Racism is hate plus power.” While I wholeheartedly agree with this definition, the two statements do not align. If I am white, I have privilege and therefore power. However, if I don’t have the hate aspect, then I’m not a racist.

    Like

  33. Steven I really love your article and I also really love the way you’ve handled insulting comments. I hope one day to have your strength haha!

    Like

  34. I didnt read the whole thing (sue me) but I wanna say something for the sake of it.
    To all white Americans who are racist :
    Y’all motherfuckers don’t even know which country’s descendants you are. You prolly a mixture of spanish-french-british-african-norwegian-greek-irish shit. So shut the fuck up you irrelevant countryless bigots. You are not racist,you aren’t the superior race or anything.
    Motherfuckers be spilling hate on african-americans when they prolly had a great-great grandfather who was black as night.
    So to every white mothafucka from any country not just america who hates latinos,jews,africans,arabians WHOEVER aint white and pink, SHUT THE HELL UP U AINT RACIST. All fuckin countries have been through so many wars that we are all prolly half jewish half african half german half british half shit. The fact that yo pale ass nerd skin looks pink in the sun doesnt make you superior. It makes you more unattractive with a bathing suit at the beach.
    To all my brothers and sisters, white or black, yellow or brown, blue or red, who aint racist shit, I send my love.
    Godbless y’all

    Like

  35. I’ve never considered myself racist because I think it’s fundamentally wrong to judge someone by the color of their skin, but your article has made me look deeper within my heart to realize that I’m not innocent either….it’s an uncomfortable feeling, but I do thank you.

    Like

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