‘I’m not racist but … ‘ and other phrases that mean you’re about to say something kinda racist

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PETE MAVIS / Flickr Donald Trump Most Funny amp Idiot...
PETE MAVIS / Flickr

Very frequently people find themselves in the murky and toxic waters of America’s discourse on race and racism. The subject of race and racism in America is as American as apple pie and slavery. It is arguably the reason our current president is transparently a white supremacist. But, for many people, the emotions and defensiveness that arises in political discussions about race can be too much to compute and dumb things are said, and people find themselves called racists, even though they do not feel racist or think they are. We are all subject to a white supremacist system and society in our country, and that has always been true. Our Constitution has it baked into it, and much of our country’s long legacy is marked with battles to right the original sin inside of that document.

Words and phrases are malleable and miscommunication between humans is the basis of one of the oldest stories on the books.* Here’s a list of phrases that usually lead to a super problematic statement. If they are coming out of your mouth, or your pen so to speak, you might want to pause and reconsider.

  • I’m not racist but …
  • My black friend said …
  • This [black] person said something similar …
  • Any use of the term “reverse racism”
  • Not everything is about race.
  • I don’t want to sound racist …
  • I’m dating a [fill in the race] and …
  • I work with black people …
  • Why can [fill in the race] say [some kind of word or make some kind of joke] but I can’t?
  • Well, if [insert racist view] makes me racist, then I guess I am.
  • Referring to any kind of minority rights as a “fringe issue.”
  • I don’t want to seem politically incorrect but …
  • I don’t see color.
  • But the cop was black.
  • I’m the least racist …
  • I’m not a racist.

To be clear, being racist or having racist ideas or feelings does not mean you are forever damned. It means you have things to work on. We all do. As a white guy, Jewish, agnostic, in his forties who grew up in New York City, I have all kinds of biases that have at times been disabused and at other times supported, throughout my life. But even the ones that have been supported at times need to be analyzed when challenged.

I think about these issues and believe they need to be worked on because I like people. In fact I love people and need people for my well-being. And I want to be a part of a community of people, from all walks of life, who want me to be a part of their community. Life is a tough and painful experience. It is glorious and beautiful, too, but it is at its best, a difficult one and if there is something we are all supposed to do during our time here, it is to help one another and try to treat one another with the full respect we ourselves want to be treated with.

*Tower of Babel, y’all.

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4 Comments on "‘I’m not racist but … ‘ and other phrases that mean you’re about to say something kinda racist"

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Rutokin
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Rutokin

This administration has brought to light in a bigly way of the white nationalist. Damn, it seems like half of them are posting things on right winged conspiracy theoried sites on the interwebs. Miller is prime example. Over 900 posts to places like breightbart and not one word from the republitards, pretty sad to think that this is the norm

J.M.
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J.M.

The white national/supremacist groups scare me, and I’m white.

Johnnie Dorman
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Johnnie Dorman

Completely and totally agree. What’s wrong with helping each other? As long as everyone involved gives, there will be no need to take.

Sue
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There’s a meme out there that says, If a person has to begin a sentence
with “I’m not a racist, but…” it’s a distinct possibility that the person is, in fact, a racist butt.