Not all white people are racist.
True. Also irrelevant. Not all white people are racist but we all benefit from being white because we live in a world that is structured to give white people advantages and that makes whiteness the default.
#notallwhitepeople is also an attempt to change the subject from people of colour and racism to how most white people are good and why are talking about racism anyway?
Sexism is much worse than racism.
Unknowable. However, we do know that being a white woman is easier than being a woman who is not white. The funny thing about oppression is that it operates on multiple axes, you can be black AND a woman. You can be black and a woman and disabled and a lesbian. These are not separate categories, which is why intersectionality is so important. Thank you Kimberlé Crenshaw for giving us a way to talk about oppression in a more nuanced way.
Some white women bring up sexism in conversations about racism with women of colour. We change the subject to sexism because it is something we can talk about with authority, unlike race, where we often feel uncomfortable because we have a vague feeling that it’s somehow our fault. Quick! Let’s talk about something else! We white women need to remember that WoC know as much, if not more, about sexism as we do. They do not need to have sexism explained to them. They are aware. So. Very. Aware.
We white women also need to remember that feminism does not have an entirely unracist history. Some of the suffragettes in the USA were also members of the Klu Klux Klan and fought for the vote for women because they were outraged that black men could vote and they couldn’t. Even though in practise many black men were prevented from voting. Always know your history.
I don’t see colour.
Get your eyes checked.
When white people say they don’t see colour what they’re saying is that they don’t notice what race someone is. Let’s just say that’s possible and you really can’t tell what race anyone is—how is that contributing to a discussion about racism? You’re making the conversation about you and your perceptions of the world. The people who experience racism see the world differently. We’re talking about them, not you.
Why aren’t we talking about class? Lots of white people are poor, you know. Capitalism is the root cause of all suffering. Discrimination against the working class is worse than racism.
Unknowable. Once again instead of talking about racism the subject is changed. Let’s not talk about race, let’s talk about class! Let’s not.
And once again with forgetting that people of colour can also be working class and thus suffer the double whammy. Or triple whammy if they’re a woman. Or quadruple if they’re disabled. Etc.
Let’s not forget that rich, famous POC still suffer racism. Oprah has been discriminated against because she’s black. More recently tennis star James Blake was attacked by the New York Police. There are endless examples.
Me? Privileged? My parents worked in a coal mine! My mum was murdered! I have no legs! I live in a hole on the side of the road!
I’m sorry for your suffering but you’re changing the subject. We’re talking about racism not about how you have suffered. Everyone has suffered. Most of us have been discriminated against in one way or the other. But that’s not what this conversation about. We’re talking about race.
I’m not racist. My ancestors didn’t own slaves. This is not my fault.
Congratulations. Also irrelevant. White supremacy gives all whites an advantage PoC don’t have regardless of their individual actions. Systemic racism is not about individuals being good or bad. It’s about whole systems discriminating. Those systems need to be torn down.
White is a broad category. You can’t put wealthy USians in the same category as poor Romanians.
White is indeed a broad category. So are statements that can be used to change the topic from talking about racism like this one.
Whiteness is also a changing category. It used to be that Jews and the Irish and Italians weren’t included as white.1 But now they are. Talking about past constructions of white when we’re trying to talk about racism here and now is changing the subject. Don’t.
You know what else is a broad category? People of colour. Think about how many different peoples are encompassed by that term in the USA. Many of them with little else in common other than being discriminated against because they’re not white.
Why do we have to keep talking about racism? Obama is in the white house.
Because racism still rules our lives. Mango is a fruit.
In case you don’t get it that’s me sarcastically pointing out that there is little connection between those two statements. There have always been exceptional PoC—Harriet Tubman, Sojourner Truth—who’ve managed to succeed despite the overwhelming odds against them. It says little about systemic racism.
Slavery was ages ago. Blacks people should stop using it as an excuse.
Long-term institutional oppression is not an “excuse”. Read this. No, really, you need to read Ta-Nehisi Coates explaining the systemic reasons black people in the USA are worse off than whites. It was true in the past and it is true today.
Asian people earn more than whites in the USA! They’re not oppressed.
How many Asian actors are there playing leads in Hollywood movies? How often do you see Asians on your tv screen? How many books are there by Asians on bestseller lists? And this is a problem even in Asian countries like Singapore.
Yes, racism is terrible I’m going to fix it by writing novels with more POC characters even though I know very few POC.
We absolutely need more books with PoC characters but we also need those books to be written by PoC. Sometimes write what you know is good advice. If you only know white people stick to writing white people. Right now in YA publishing there are more PoC characters written by whites than by PoC. That’s part of the problem.
Also, while I agree that representation is hugely important, better representation won’t automatically fix everything. If only . . .
My great great great great grandmother was Comanche so I understand.
*head desk* Okay, yes, if you go far enough back we all have mixed backgrounds. I’m a descendent of Genghis Khan. But so is a 0.5% of the world’s population. In my day to day life no one is looking at my epicanthic fold and thinking I’m anything but white. There are, obviously, many white passing PoC. I am not one of them. Nor are you with your great great great great grandmother. We were both raised white by white parents. Every day we benefit from our white privilege. We are white.
We white people need to stop trying to make everything about us. Every one of these strategies is about changing the subject to make us the centre of the conversation. Enough already. Often the best strategy is to sit and listen and read and learn.
TL;DR We white people need to stop changing the subject so that we talk about anything other than racism.
Note: While much of what I’m saying here applies more broadly, I’m largely talking about the USA because that is the country whose history I know the best. And, yes, before you say anything, I am a US citizen. I am an Australian-USian.
There are many many more examples of what not to say. Please add them to the comments. Thank you!
- Of course some Jews and Irish and Italians aren’t white. Once again this is why intersectionality is so important. See for example the African diaspora Jews in Israel and the discrimination against them there.Thanks to @sarahrhamburg for reminding me of this. [↩]
- I couldn’t find the stats for Asian-Australians. [↩]