I don’t mean you’re the sort of person who wants to live in a segregated area where only people who look like you are allowed and where “freedom of speech” is used to excuse all of the colourful words you’ve collected to use to describe the other races.
Maybe you are openly, unrepentantly racist, I don’t know, but if you are, this article isn’t for you.
I don’t mean you’re the sort of idiot to use the phrase “I’m not racist, but” and then act surprised when people suggest that yes, actually, you are. I also don’t mean that you’re actively, intentionally racist.
I’m talking to the well-meaning here; those individuals who are against racism, whoever it’s directed at. Honestly I’m not even saying you definitely, without a doubt are racist, I’m just saying that there’s a strong possibility.
And yes, before the angry rush to the comments section, I know white people are not the only people guilty of racism, and to assume they are is, in itself, racist.
I address white people because I am white, and also because, in recent history, it’s people of colour who have suffered from racism the most.
Generally speaking, we now, as a species, know racism is bad. This doesn’t mean it’s gone. We know racism is wrong. This doesn’t mean we’re never guilty of it. Racism used to be considered completely acceptable. Hell, in South Africa, it was even part of our legal system.
To assume there’s no remnants of that left in society today is frankly naïve.
Habits held by most of society don’t just die as soon as politics change, and yet, so many white people seem to think they do.
The reason why I am accusing an entire group of people I don’t know of racism, is because the default attitude of anyone who’s never had to challenge their perspectives is racist.
We’re oblivious to it, because we don’t feel its effects personally. When the world is catered to appeal to you, you don’t realize how much it’s not catered to appeal to other people.
I can see the comments already. “We’re all one human race.” “Why don’t we just stop talking about racism?” It’s so easy, from a position of white privilege, to ignore racism, because we’re practically unaffected.
We stand around at braais, deploring the fact that we’re constantly falsely accused of racism, while at the same time refusing to consider, for even a moment, that such an accusation might come from an intelligent, rational person who actually has a point.
We expect people of colour to just get over the apartheid already, and genuinely can’t seem to understand why they can’t, ignoring the fact that an institution like that has affected every inch of our society, and has particularly created an imbalance that benefits white people and hurts people of colour.
Whenever someone tries to explain what we’ve said or done that is inherently racist and therefore hurtful, we are almost always faster to defend and rationalize our actions than we are, to even for a moment, try to see them from someone else’s perspective.
The ironic thing is white people in South Africa have become experts at detecting even the slightest racism against us. If you want to see someone who feels racism is vile, be unfairly racist towards a white person.
So you’ve felt the barbs of “racism against white people”, now and then. Now imagine feeling racism like that every day. Imagine it affecting every aspect of your life.
Imagine it being the reason why your ancestors were treated like cattle, and why even your children are treated with thoughtless contempt, and try, for a moment, to understand why people of colour feel so strongly about racism, why they bring it up a lot, and why they can’t “let it go”.
Really, fellow white people, until the traces of the widely accepted racism of the past stop affecting the world today, we have no business telling people of colour to get over it. We should stop this pathetic, self-satisfied, smug habit of whitesplaining.
“I don’t see the racism, therefore it doesn’t exist.” “I’m not racist, you’re just stupid and over-sensitive because you’re black.” Just try to see, for a moment, how arrogant and, yes, racist these attitudes are.
So what’s my point? Believe it or not, discussions about racism and white privilege don’t exist to try “make you feel guilty for being white”. It’s not all about you. These discussions exist purely to try encourage everyone to open their eyes, and their minds, a little more, so that we can get rid of this habit of racism that still plagues our world.
Maybe the next time people of colour are calling something racist, try to listen to them with an open mind before producing your knee-jerk reaction of sticking your fingers in your ears and loudly denying all accusations. We need to be done expecting people of colour to molly-coddle us.
We need to be done expecting people to understand our sometimes blatant racism isn’t intentional. We need to take responsibility for our perspectives, and begin to change them.
Seriously, you might be surprised, horrified and embarrassed at your own thoughtless racism.
Or you could rush to the comments and declare that you’re NOT A RACIST NOT AT ALL HOW DARE ANYONE EVEN SUGGEST IT, because it’s more important for you feel happy and guilt-free than it is for you to take a moment to examine thoughtless and unnecessary habits that may be hurting your fellow human beings.
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