How to counter the “you’re racist for calling me racist” thing white people do

Posted on August 31, 2011


*Update: As a general rule, I Don’t advocate for anyone to run around calling people racists.. I don’t think that will solve anything (even if it’s true).  I think it makes much more sense to understand and address the issue in all of its complexities.

article: Whites Deny Racism Continues to Exist | LA Progressive. This is the best breakdown of the “you’re racist for saying anything about white people” argument (which I for one, hear a lot).  I wouldn’t expect anything less from Tim Wise:

Not long ago, after I had written an article in which I discussed white denial–the tendency for most white folks to reject the notion that racism is still a significant obstacle for people of color in the U.S.–I received an e-mail from a white man who insisted that my argument was itself racist.

His reason? According to his message, simply by stating that most white folks remain in denial about the extent of racism and discrimination against people of color, I had engaged in anti-white bigotry, since I had made a generalization about a racial group: in this case, the one that both he and I share.

He went on to offer an analogy that he felt proved my argument to be racist. “What if I were to write an article where I said ‘most black people are criminals’?” he asked. “Wouldn’t that be racist against blacks?” In other words, he argued, to make any comments about racial groups is inherently racist, and so my saying that most whites were in denial was every bit as bad as saying that most blacks are criminals.

Of course, and as I explained to him at the time, such an argument makes no sense at all. The reason it is racist to say that “most blacks are criminals,” is because such a position is based on racial stereotypes rather than factual information: it casts aspersions upon an entire group of people, based not on truth, but on the basis of ignorant prejudice. Most blacks are not criminals; indeed, the vast majority are not. There are about 28 million African Americans over the age of 12 in the U.S. (and thus eligible for inclusion in crime data), and only a small number of these (fewer than five percent) will commit a crime in a given year.

So while it would not be racist to note that black folks have a higher official crime rate than whites–this is a fact borne out by evidence, and which doesn’t necessarily cast a characterological judgment upon those it mentions–saying that most blacks are criminals is simply a lie, and to the extent it casts aspersions upon a racial group that can lead to their continued stereotyping, a racist lie at that.

To say that “most white folks are in denial” is not racist, because such a belief is not based on stereotypes about whites; rather, the claim is supported by what white folks actually say when asked if we believe racism to be a significant problem: the vast majority, in poll after poll answer that it is not, irrespective of the evidence to the contrary. And we have long believed that, so even in the early 1960s, at a time when in retrospect all would agree the nation was profoundly unequal in its treatment of people of color, whites told pollsters in overwhelming numbers (anywhere from sixty-five to nearly ninety percent) that blacks had equal opportunities in employment and education. White denial has been a hallmark of the nation’s racial history. Saying that is not racist, it is an incontrovertible fact.

smackdown.  Here’s a couple more of my favorite parts:

Interestingly, outrage over Obama’s remarks has manifested, despite how easy it is to confirm the utter accuracy of his comment–accuracy which itself disproves the notion that the statement about “typical” white people was racist. The fact is, if by “typical” one means the norm, the average (and what else, after all, could be meant by it?), then whites indeed, by our own admission, hold any number of negative, prejudiced, and ultimately racist beliefs about black people.

Evidence of this basic truth can be gleaned from any number of sources: opinion surveys, psychological tests like the Implicit Association Test, and several experiments that one can do (and I have done) time and again with white audiences, all with the same result: namely, confirmation that the “typical” white person (and I include myself in that by the way) does harbor internalized notions of white racial superiority or “betterness,” vis-a-vis African Americans.

and this little doozy:

And according to a 2001 survey, sixty percent of whites, approximately, admit that they believe at least one negative and racist stereotype of blacks: for example, that they are generally lazy, generally aggressive or violent, or prefer to live on welfare rather than work for a living (2). In fact, the belief in black preference for welfare over work is typically the most commonly believed of the stereotypes; this, despite the fact that only a very small percentage of African Americans–and for that matter, a minority of even poor African Americans–receive benefits from programs typically considered “welfare.”

yet one hundred percent of the white people i know swear they’re not racist.  I’m starting to wonder what people think of when they hear the word “racist” or if they think at all and instead have a negative knee-jerk reaction to it because of the denotation of the word “racist”.  Oh, wait.. he talks about that disassociation too:

Interestingly, whites often deny the importance of racism in determining the life chances of blacks, even as they give voice to beliefs that are themselves evidence of the very racial prejudice they deny. So, for instance, in one of the more respected opinion surveys from the 1990s, six in ten whites said that discrimination was less important in determining the position of blacks in society, than the “fact” that blacks “just don’t have the motivation or will power to pull themselves up out of poverty.”

But if most whites believe that blacks as a group are unmotivated or lazy, that is itself a racial generalization amounting to racism: ascribing a negative characterological trait to blacks as a group. Of course the irony should be apparent to all: on the one hand, whites are saying that blacks are lazy, but on the other they insist that racism–including the kind that holds African Americans in this low regard–would be of very little consequence to their ability to succeed; as if people imbued with that kind of bias would be able to fairly evaluate job applicants or students who were members of the presumed defective group!