A Beginner's Guide to Navigating Race for White People (Part 1: Slightly Updated for 2020)
Ralph Northam, Virginia's Blackface wearing Governor, has me thinking. I want to help white folks navigate the not so complex terrain of race in a white supremacist society. The following should be self-evident. It is just a beginners list of the most obvious. And, next time someone points out a racial (or other kind of) misstep, think about the picture below. It will put you in the right frame of mind to hear the feedback.
Don't use the "N" word in any form, in any context, for any reason (See Damon Young's Very Smart Brothers discussion and Ta-Nehisi Coats discussion here).
If someone says they've experienced racism, don't minimize their experience. They've had a lifetime to know what they are experiencing and 90% of the time don't say anything.
If someone says you did something racist don't get defensive. Instead:
2. Ask why what you did was racist.
3. Do not tell them they are wrong.
4. Try to do better next time.
(That's what I try to do when called out in my sexism, homophobia, classism, etc. because I'm trying to grow as a person rather then get caught up in my feelings).
Do not wear blackface, brownface, yellowface, redface etc. for any reason. Not even for Halloween or a theme party. This should be really easy as doing any of these things takes a lot of effort and forethought.
Don't argue in favor of racist mascots. The pain these mascots inflict on people who have experienced mass murder, attempted genocide, and settler colonialism is greater (and more important) than your sentimental attachment to them. (This also applies to folks of color who wear racist logos representing their favorite sports teams).
Don't claim reverse racism. Racism (white supremacy) is a system constructed over centuries that institutionalizes white advantage in virtually all economic, political, social, and interpersonal interactions. People of color (who are not advantaged by this system) can't simply decide to undue it on a whim and then victimize white people. It doesn't work that way. (It could work this way though according to Aamer Rahman). But really just stop.
Ok. This should get folks started on their successful navigation.
John B. Diamond
John B. Diamond