Am I Racist?
I’ve long said that we are all racist.
Nobody wants to own up to being a fully conscious, angry, attacking racist, but racism is much more than that. I can say that I am a racist because I’m sure there are ways I treat people of color differently than white people. I might like to pretend that I’m not aware of them. But I am aware of some habits (laughing at racial jokes, being more on guard around black men, avoiding “bad” areas). Because I’m a nice guy, I and other whites don’t call that racist.
Racism is a spectrum. It isn’t only evil acts of violence against people of color. It is a slight, a joke, a judgment you don’t even realize you made. It’s moving your wallet into a front pocket before nearing certain groups or halting a conversation until someone is out of earshot. It is insidious. If we aren’t willing to acknowledge it, to be more aware of it, it will never be gone.
For my podcast, Real Men Feel, I recently did an episode with Chris Miller called What Can White People Do About Racism? Perhaps naively, some comments surprised me.
A few of the first Facebook comments included:
“I find the suggestion that white men should do something about racism, highly offensive.”
“In the first country to abolish slavery within 150 years of existence?”
“I am pissed off with all this talk about white racism.”
There were many more mentioning the end of slavery, crimes against whites, and just being sick and tired of talking about racism. I’m pretty sure most of those initial dozen comments were from people only reacting to the title and who never listened to the show.
The feedback made me finally read, White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism. A book I’d heard mentioned many times and that my wife had encouraged me to read for months. Had I read this book before doing the podcast, I could have written most of the defensive comments ahead of time with tremendous accuracy.
By the end of White Fragility, it can feel like white people can’t and shouldn’t say anything ever again. Everything is offensive to somebody. Issues of race run deep and consist of many different layers. Reading White Fragility is discovering there is a Grand Canyon of racism in you.
The harsh, good/evil line defining racism makes us comfortable but also keeps us in it. Pointing to a solitary, violent act and calling it racism is easy. It is much more challenging to see the subtle ways I operate as a racist.
It is tough to say I liked reading White Fragility. I am glad I read it, but it is challenging and upsetting. I was, at times, defensive, dismissive, and in agreement. Everything besides agreeing is in alignment with the book’s premise, so any reaction you have can be seen as proving the point, or you can use it as fuel for your denial that it is all nonsense.
Ideally, over time perhaps, you’ll soften while reading it. I’m not even going to talk about the content of the book more, because it will most likely just trigger you and make you not want to read it.
I found reading this book is best as a solitary, private experience giving you time to pause and examine your own experiences, beliefs, and reactions to what you read.
The unconscious biases of white people have been enforced for centuries. Uncovering them is not pleasurable, but I do believe it can make a better world for all people. White Americans have been socialized to embrace so many ideologies that keep racism intact. Before you change anything, you have to become aware of it.
If you are willing to dig deep, be challenged, and be wrong about many of your thoughts and actions over the years, I recommend reading this.
I’m glad I didn’t read White Fragility when I first heard of it. I don’t believe I would have been as open to receiving it without first having been part of many public discussions about race on a variety of podcasts in the past few months.
As a coach and life-long student, I can’t pretend to guess how many times I’ve heard that to grow, we need to get out of our comfort zone. NOT talking about race is a huge comfort zone for white people. We all need to be willing to be uncomfortable but know that we are safe in doing so. It takes effort. Hopefully, we give becoming more aware of our conscious and unconscious racism effort. But our privilege as white people is that we don’t have to.
Photo by John Cameron on Unsplash
About The Author
Andy Grant is a best-selling author, award-winning speaker, Transformational Energy Coach, Healer, and suicide prevention activist. He holds certificates in Positive Psychology, the Enwaken Coaching System, Akashic Records, Infinite Possibilities, and Ritual Master with the Modern Mystery School.
Andy teaches workshops ranging from energy tools to ebook publishing. He is the founder of Real Men Feel, a movement encouraging men to come out of the emotional closet. He also facilitates monthly men’s groups and is a contributor to the GoodMenProject. As a survivor of multiple suicide attempts, Andy knows how low we as human beings can feel. He is committed to helping people realize how magnificent life is meant to be.