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Calling Out One Racist Doesn't Make White People Any Less Complicit in Supremacy

March 18, 2015 in Blogs

By Rebecca Carroll, The Guardian

Your ‘not all white people’ argument doesn’t dismantle systematic racism. It only reinforces white privilege.

I always knew that I was black, but I did not begin to understand what it meant to be black until it was demonstrated to me: when I was nine years old, a white teacher called me “pretty for a black girl” as if she were talking about the quality of fresh tomatoes in February.

I didn’t tell my white parents, who had adopted me and chose to raise me in an all-white town, because why would I? What would they know? How could they help? They thought the world was changing and they fought for all the right things, but we never talked about race, so I didn’t think to tell them when a teacher made sure I knew that being black made me less-than.

There’s a special kind of anxiety and rage and resentment that comes with discovering your racial identity through the default lens of racism, and without the support and refuge of a shared community vernacular. Folks who see you, recognize your skin, give length to your cultural narrative, exist under and within that space W.E.B. Du Bois wrote of, behind the veil.

Of course racism is more than just a fifth grade teacher devaluing me on the basis of race, or a boss in high school calling me a lazy n***er, or when a 21-year-old white frat boy gets caught gleefully participating in a racist chant. Racism is more than comments that hurt people’s feelings; its a system of power and convenience, the next level beyond cultivated privilege.

And yet, this country continues to mobilize around incidents of racist behavior and not against systemic racism, pushing public statements filled with shock and lip service to “diversity”, individual expulsions and university-wide disassociation. But naming, shaming and shunning individual racists – if it has any deterrent effect on other would-be racists at all, which seems increasingly doubtful in 2015 – doesn’t solve the systemic racism faced by black people in employment, in housing, in …read more


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