It seems like a patterned narrative that plays on a loop: a white celebrity says or does something overtly racially offensive on a TV show/social media platform/news outlet; someone notices and calls them out; celebrity then profusely apologizes and says, “I’m not racist.” Unfortunately, this pattern is not just for celebrities.
A woman in Central Park recently called the police in a racial tirade, falsely accusing a black man of “attacking” her and her dog. During later interviews she said she was scared and followed up her statement with “I’m not racist.”
As tensions rise, protesters line the streets, and black human beings continue to be persecuted for the color of their skin, white people continue to stand up and say, “Not me…they’re not talking about me. I’m not racist.”
Whether we call ourselves “allies” and march in protest or we post a black square on our social media platforms, we are missing a fundamental narrative hidden deep within our white privilege.
We are all racist.
How can we not be? We were raised by white people in white communities by parents who were raised, almost certainly by racist white parents. Most of us are perhaps only one or two generations away from overtly racist family members. Do we really naively believe these ingrained generational narratives simply disappear after a few years?
There is a common phrase that says, “Time heals all wounds.” This statement is categorically false. It is not time that heals, but what we do with the time. Until we change the narrative and look into the darkest corners of ourselves, there will be no change. There will be no change while we all continue to say, “They’re not talking about me. I’m not racist, I don’t need to change.” We will continue to point fingers at the loudest offenders of racism while allowing the insidious seed of unconscious bias to work unchecked within the deep recesses of our collective psyche.
What would change within ourselves if we admitted the unsavory truth? What would change in our communities? I am racist. I don’t want to be. I work at self-awareness and educating myself on the racial disparities in our world. I have friends and loved ones who are Black, Hispanic, Israeli, and Iranian. I am open to communicating and collaborating and I do not consciously believe that one race is less-than or more-than another.
The oppression of Black people throughout history and into the present time causes a visceral pain in my core. And…I am racist.
Just a month or so ago, I was standing in line at the self-check-out at the grocery store. As I stood there waiting for my turn, I was lazily scanning the area, not really focusing on anything in particular. Out of the corner of my eye, I cued in to a young black man as he was scanning his groceries. At the moment my eyes passed over him, he placed something in his pocket. What do you think my first thought was? What was your first thought? Yes, I immediately thought he had stolen something. Why on earth would I think that???
It’s called unconscious bias. Unconscious biases are social stereotypes about certain groups of people that individuals form outside their own conscious awareness. According to the University of California, everyone holds unconscious beliefs about various social and identity groups, and these biases stem from one’s tendency to organize social worlds by categorizing. I don’t like it, but it is true. I don’t want it to be true, but there it is.
Until we can have an honest, painful, and continuous assessment of self, we will stay in the patterned narrative loop that has continued to plague our world. The truth is…
It’s not them.
Harvard University has created an interesting series of online tests called Project Implicit. These tests measure unconscious bias toward specific categories of race, sexuality, religion, etc. It is an interesting start to the introspection journey. Check it out at HERE.
Written by Guest Writer: Bree A. Allmon – Fort Collins, CO