For a long time I thought I wasn’t a racist. I’d get immediately defensive as soon as my own racism was pointed out. “I have black nieces and nephews, I can’t be racist.” Or “I have black friends” Or “I grew up in the ghetto, I’m not racist” Or “I voted for Obama”
I thought I wasn’t racist because I didn’t automatically dislike black people. Because I honestly feel and believe that everyone in this society has a right to be treated equally and given equal chances and opportunities. I thought that was enough. Like everyone else around me, I felt like we no longer needed to talk about race because we had defeated racism.
I had a picture of racism and I didn’t fit it and neither did anyone else I know.
These things are over and we now understand that they weren’t right. So that means we are no longer a racist society? Right?
White middle class is the default. All others must assimilate into the white middle class to be considered normal. If you do not fit into this identity then you are not normal. If you are not normal, you should at least try to be as close to normal as possible. This is Racism.
I’m white. When people look at me they see white first and foremost. I have no idea what it is like to live and exist in anything other than white skin. I have no understanding of what it’s like to be black in our society.
But I do know what it’s like not to be the default. I know what it’s like to never feel welcome in my own society. I know what it’s like to always feel like an outsider. I know what it’s like to feel not normal compared to everyone else. I know what it’s like to have every opinion about me be based, first and foremost, on my non-default appearance. And I know what it’s like to feel like I have to change everything about myself in order to just barely be accepted. I know what it’s like to feel forced to assimilate against my will. This is how racism works.
Racism is like that one relative that you hate being around because they keep making remarks about you. They say things like, “Where are you going to get a job with purple hair?” or “Why do you always have to wear black?” or “Do you ever wear a bra?” Questions and comments designed to force you into conforming to the default against your will.
Racism is being forced into a default that you don’t want to, or can’t, conform to.
Racism is not seeing how we were built by a racist system where white is the default. The default white has been so normalized that we no longer even notice. So when it’s pointed out to us we can’t see it. Since we are used to the default, we don’t see ourselves as racists. Then we get defensive because we think calling out racism is a form of name-calling.
“But everyone has to change to conform to society. That’s how it works!” Only they don’t. We accept that this is the way things are supposed to be because we have accepted the white default as normal.
We don’t need to talk about slavery because that’s in the past…But let’s wave the same flag the KKK waves because it’s part of our history. And if you don’t like it, just change to the default and it will be fine. We don’t realize that flag is just like that one pissy aunt who always has to remind you that you don’t belong, and will never belong no matter how hard you try.
We don’t notice that every suggestion we have for black people, or brown people, or yellow people, or red people involves changing themselves to fit the white default. Change their clothes. Change their hair. Change their manner of speech. Change the words they use. Change their religion. Change the music that they make/listen to. Change how they listen to music. Change what they drive. Change what they watch. Change the way they act. Change the way they prioritize purchases. Change. Change. Change.
Our laws are designed to force everyone into the default. Our social structure is designed to push everyone into the default. Our schools teach conformity to the default. We refuse to accept or even acknowledge anything that is outside of the white default. The white default has become so normalized that we don’t even recognize that there is a white default.
We are racist because we were built that way. We can’t see it because we are used to it. A fish doesn’t know it’s wet. A fish knows that it exists in it’s environment, but does not understand that his environment is a wet environment. This is the racism that I’m talking about. It’s an entire system structured around a white default that punishes anyone who does not want to force themselves into that default.
We are racist because we have no idea how NOT to be racist. Trying to explain to the white default that they are racist is like trying to explain individualism to a Borg.
The first step towards fixing something is realizing that there is a problem in the first place. We are a racist because we have no idea how else to be. We are a racist because we have never been shown how to think outside of the white default. We stay racist because we continue to uphold the white default as the only possible normal. We stay racist because we choose not to listen when someone points out the white default.
Until we, the white default, learn to listen without thinking in terms of the normalized white default things will never change.
The first step is admitting you have a problem.
So I admit it. I was built by a system that glorifies a white default as the only option for normal within my society. I was built by a system that actively marginalizes or punishes anything that does not fit into the white default. I was built by a system that has taught me to be uncomfortable with anything that is not the normalized white default.
And if we all stopped being offended, and started being honest with ourselves instead, you’d realize that you had no choice in the matter. You were built to be a racist too.
I am a racist because I was built that way.
And so were you.
Let’s finally admit it so that we can finally fix it.