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.”