social skills white people need to learn

matsuda-misa-mikami:

: Something white people need to stop doing

realsocialskills:

A lot of times, white people call things or people racist as a joke or a generic insult. For instance:

  • In response to someone expressing a preference for white shoes over black shoes
  • In response to someone saying something that offends them for some unrelated reason
  • In…

matsuda-misa-mikami said:

However, there are people of a different ethnicity who do that too… Yet this gives the impression it’s only white people who should stop…

realsocialskills said:

Everyone should stop. But there is a reason that I mentioned white people specifically.

In the US, and I’m sure in other places as well, it’s really common for white people to base their self-image on seeing themselves as Good People Who Aren’t Racist. That racism comes from bad people, but we’re ~not that kind of people~.

Or, in other words: many, many white people care much more about seeing themselves as not-racist than they do about not doing racist things. This is considered normal and socially acceptable.

And it’s a problem, because our culture is founded on centuries of racist violence. (It’s also founded on many other things, many of them good and important. But racism is a major element, and that matters). Seeing yourself as above being racist doesn’t undo that. It takes actual work. Telling jokes like that trivializes the work that is needed.

Something white people need to stop doing

A lot of times, white people call things or people racist as a joke or a generic insult. For instance:

  • In response to someone expressing a preference for white shoes over black shoes
  • In response to someone saying something that offends them for some unrelated reason
  • In response to expressing connection to a particular ethnicity
  • In response to mentioning that white people are white and it matters

It’s not ok to do this because:

  • Jokes like that work by assuming that calling someone or something racist is inherently absurd
  • Which rests on the assumption that there is never a *real* need to call someone or something racist, because it rests on the assumption that real racism is over except for a few fringe groups with no power
  • But racism is still a problem, and it still does tremendous harm to people of color

Using “racist” as a joke or generic insult sends the message that you refuse to acknowledge that racism is still a problem. It sends the message that you have contempt for people who point out racism. Don’t do that.

"Just pretend I'm purple"

If you want to talk about racism, you have to acknowledge that racism exists.

And that people of different races are affected by it differently.

Everyone is equal, and that’s an important starting point. But not everyone is treated equally, and that affects everything.

Including what it’s like for people to listen to you talk about racism. When you talk about racism, it matters what race you are. If you want to say worthwhile things, it’s important to acknowledge that. Don’t try to pretend that you can just decide that it doesn’t matter for the purposes of the conversation you want to have.

In particular, if you say “just pretend I’m purple,” that will usually be understood to mean “I’m white and I’m not interested in thinking about how my white privilege affects other people.”