T Nation

'Only Whites Can Be Racist'


Tips for identifying a racist

I am a racist. Not because of racist jokes I do not say or acts of discrimination I do not commit. The reason: I am White. That was the message preached loud and clear at a forum I attended recently at the University of Colorado at Boulder. Titled â??Unveiling White Privilege,â?? the forumâ??s purpose was to examine â??the impact of our racism and colorism on the quality of our relationships,â?? while also addressing â??the barriers created by unacknowledged privilege.â??

According to the moderators, all whites are racist even if we donâ??t know we are. We have benefited from a system stacked against individuals of other races. We hold prejudices we may not even know exist. We have thrived in a nation built on the backs of hard-working and repressed â??people of color.â?? Never mind the millions of Irish, Italian, Russian, or Eastern European immigrants, all Whites, who suffered intense bigotry while working in the sweatshops and coal mines of this country to make a better life for their families.

After this was all made clear, we worked to define a variety of terms. Racism, according to the moderators, was â??prejudice plus power.â?? Confused? See, a black man can never be racist. He may hold prejudices against people of other races or his own race for that matter, but he has never held the power in society necessary to act upon that prejudice.

One of the moderators, herself white, acknowledged and embraced her self-identification as a racist. Interestingly, the other moderator, the daughter of an Irish mother and Mexican father, did not identify as half-racist. â??Iâ??m either Chicana or Latina and how I identify changes by the day. It just depends on how Iâ??m feeling,â?? she said. There was no mention of her Irish roots in this identification.

We then went around the room, saying what came to mind when the word â??racismâ?? was spoken. The first few responses were probably typical of what would be uttered on most college campuses: â??Attorney General John Ashcroft. . .the KKK. . .â?? And then I decided to speak up. â??Jesse Jackson,â?? I said politely. The moderators turned. The room fell silent. â??Why do you think that?â?? I was asked.

â??Well,â?? I responded. â??He holds prejudices against other blacks, as well as whites and other ethnic groups.â?? I gave the example of when Jackson called Conservative black activist Ward Connerly â??Strange Fruitâ?? the same term used by whites in the Old South to describe blacks who had been lynched.

â??Yes, but you see,â?? the moderator informed me, â??he canâ??t be racist because he holds no power.â?? â??No power?â?? I asked. â??He had the power to swindle millions of dollars out of American corporations by threatening them with consumer boycotts based on shoddy accusations of civil rights violations.â??

The moderator leading the exercise was clearly getting upset. â??But he holds no governmental power,â?? she corrected. As proof of this type of power, she did not accept my argument that the IRS has continually looked the other way regarding Jacksonâ??s creative accounting practices for his Rainbow Push Coalition.

It was not the factual basis of my claim she was disputing. It was the title I had assigned to Jackson she had a problem with. He is not a racist. Blacks cannot be racist. Even against other blacks. And especially not against whites.

Furthermore, this wasnâ??t about Jesse Jackson, I was informed. This was about me and my own racism. â??As a white person, itâ??s not your place to determine whether Jesse Jackson is a racist,â?? the other moderator added. â??This is a discussion that needs to take place within the communities of color.â??

I came away from the forum agreeing with the moderators on one key issue. Racism is alive and well in America. It infects our college campuses, our hiring decisions, even the communities we live in. This forum was proof of that.

We did not find consensus on just who is racist, however. I am not a racist. Yes, this nation has its past sins to grapple with, including slavery, which we may never recover from. But I will not nor should I take responsibility or feel guilt for the color of my skin or my ethnic heritage. To do so would dishonor all of those who have gone before me who fought endlessly to put an end to racism in all of its forms.


Wow, just wow...I love it. It's so liberating for me to now be able to freely be racist and exercise my power as a white man. All in all those attitudes are great for racists, because they seem to empower the minorities, but in actuality it's designed to very slowly and insidiously keep minorities in a "victim" trap. But they'll never see it. GOOD. That's what makes one culture dominate another. Whits.


I find Jesse Jackson a swindler of kinds I like, I would not bow down to his threats, but I have to admire his enthusiasm for his cause and his eye for opportunity. Although he goes along with the white agenda of keeping the black folk in repression. I do not agree with it, but however he found an opportunity to hustle people and make sure he stays a live. Amazingly, the people he hustles, support him all the way through. Corporate hustling at its black best.

  • Brother


While I don't agree with that, white privilege is real. As society progresses, it begins losing its power, but my generation and the ones before it certainly benefited from it.

I'm not saying that there's anything that can be done to fix it, but to deny that it exists is foolhardy.


My quick thought: You're a racist if you exhibit harmful thoughts or actions against a person of another race, without treating them based on that individuals character. You're also a racist if you don't take the time to understand the cultures of the people you interact with. As you grow to understand the cultures of the world and the people that make them up, you'll find yourself a more complete and understanding individual.

Not many people fulfill the first qualification, but too many people make up the second. Besides, i still see black and white tables in the caf, racism is still a major issue for blacks and whites alike.


Noone benefited from nothing. For you to say that shows your political brainwashing. You should lash yourself 20 times to atone for the sins of your ancestors, then you can rest but still be a racist by the virtue of your skin.

I didn't benefit from anyone. My parents worked their fingers to the bone, wore salvation army clothing and bought used tires to keep junk cars running. EVERYONE has and has had it rough. We can thank the previous generations work that we can build on. But no matter what our family always strived for better and worked toward that goal through ANY adversity.

It's that kind of mindset that builds futures. A mindset does not come from bitching about racism. Minorities which buy into racism are falling for the trap set for them.


Just because a table is all black or all white does not mean it's because of racism. WTF? Why can;t people of the same color, black or white, gather together and enjoy that which brings them together with something in common.


Consider the source and file it in the circular file.


It is not a sin to say that I benefited from something that a black man my age did not; it's simply the truth.

A lot of white people's grandparents went to college back in the 40's. A lot of black folks back then weren't even close to having that opportunity. Until the late 50's, schools were segregated, and that absolutely set blacks back. There was nothing that guaranteed them the right to vote until 1964.

To say that these things didn't have an affect on the present day is proving that you are, as usual, a babbling idiot when it comes to politics and history.

So you come from West Virginia. Congratulations.

But really, NOT everyone has had it rough. SOME people can thank previous generations- other people's "previous generations" were lynched when they tried to vote and were shot for looking at white women wrong. How, exactly, is that similar to your upbringing, or to your problems?

Since its inception, this country has made a concerted effort to keep blacks in the lower class, whether it would like to admit it or not. That is, in the last 50 years, beginning to dissipate... but it takes longer than that for three hundred years of oppression to heal.

Completely wrong. The mindset, spoken from a white man, about minorities needing to stop bitching about racism even though he has no idea what it's like to be on the other side of the fence, is what puts this country back into the 1950s.


Of course they can, don't be ridiculous. But when someone NEVER goes outside of their comfortable boundaries, in this case a group table, their is obviously an underlying issue.

When I was invited to the table by a black/hispanic friend, the main man of the table ignored me and said to him "dude, why'd you bring his lame ass over here" or something like that. He judged me before I even spoke, and I could tell by the looks and stares at me that I was unwanted. I became friends with all of them later, after the black basketball players started a fight with the football team and I got involved. I think they found a way to respect me for my strength and unique personality that separated me from my ethnicity.


I agree that racism is certainly a problem.

I used to hear that argument in college- that blacks couldn't be "racist" because they were not "The Oppressor." I didn't believe it then and I don't believe it now, and I truly wish that the college I went to fired half of their commi English professors.

Anyway, it is, like poverty, a vicious cycle that individuals must try and break. We've made many strides in the past half-century- I want to see them continue.


Why should that signify an underlying issue though? I don't go places I'm not comfy in, regardless of what kind of uncomfortable population is at that place--could be hell's angels, gangbangers, jocks, whatever. Don't care.

By your logic I would have an "underlying issue" to address because I would never want to be at the table with a bunch of black guys in saggy jersey clothing with flat billed hats and heavy chains talking street slang. Well, I'd never want to be at a table with white people dressed in the same clothes and talking the same way either. I don't have anything in common with them. I don't want to talk about the things they want to talk about, I think speaking in absurdly improper english is stupid, and I think the sort of posturing and machismo that typically (necessary disclaimer--not always) goes with that crowd a huge pet peeve.

It has nothing to do with the color of skin, it has to do with culture, interests, and intelligence. You put a table of minority people together talking about books, or history, or science, and I'll sit right down with them and go to town. But that never (necessary disclaimer: it does sometimes) happens does it? I have a few black guys and girls that come into my bar that I love to talk to--they are intelligent and they like to talk about things I like to talk about.

I'm not going to sit down at a table full of people I'm uncomfortable with. But that doesn't mean I have some sort of "race superiority" complex. I just find stupid, posturing idiots, well....boring idiots.




Bottom line--for me it doesn't matter whether you're black, white, yellow, or polka-dotted: I don't want to talk about things that I'm not interested in, and subsequently I don't want to be around people who don't share any common ground with me. It's one thing to have a friend that has a several interests you find completely uninteresting, but it's quite another to voluntarily seek out and sit down with a group of people who don't share ANY of your interests. Call me provincial.


It's not that- it's that you don't know whether they share your interests or not.

Guys are guys... they like sports and drinkin' and fightin' and maybe liftin' and making money. That's kind of universal. To say that you won't like someone because of the way they dress or how they talk is not so much racist as it is close-minded.

Some of the best cats I know are hard ghetto fucks... once I fell in love with a smokin and rich blonde who had more money than god. If you looked at either of them, you'd think that I shouldn't be in the same room. But who knows.


Everyone is racist to a certain extent, unfortunately now a days the race card gets brought up everywhere and all the time. I hate (irony?) hearing about all these race issues, is it really that difficult to get along with another human being? So I guess this is where I tell you what I learned - my conclusion, right? Well, my conclusion is: Hate is baggage. Life's too short to be pissed off all the time. It's just not worth it. Derek says it's always good to end a paper with a quote. He says someone else has already said it best. So if you can't top it, steal from them and go out strong. So I picked a guy I thought you'd like. 'We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory will swell when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.'


After the first statement was said, I would have walked out. I don't pigeon-hole people, and I don't like it done to me.


No, no, no! I should have clarified....I have in the past and continue in the present to hang out with many people who don't dress like I do or talk like I do.

I'm also in general not the type of person to just walk up and talk to strangers of ANY kind. It's a fault.

However, just about every time I am within hearing distance of a group such as the kind I mentioned, the conversations I overhear are so banal I just wouldn't be able to stomach sitting around a table talking about that shit. It doesn't exactly make me want to go up and join. It's one thing to have a buddy who has some interests that are totally not yours--and to humor him/her when they start yakking your ear off about it--but quite another to overhear conversations in which you have zero interest and then go and intentionally join that group of strangers solely for the sake of "getting out of your comfort zone" with an ethnic group or culture (ANY ethnic group, even my own). Zero interest = zero interest, not zero interest = underlying racial problems.

Guys are guys, and I like sports and drinking and lifting and money....but I don't want to talk about that sort of stuff ad nauseum. I am not a small talk person, and I think small talk is generally only good for avoiding being impolite....

Sports and lifting, maybe.... but I've had those types of "sports and drinkin' and fightin' etc" conversations you allude to times uncounted at both parties and bars, and I've pretty much hated it almost every time. Invariably after about 3 minutes I start looking for exits to get out of the situation and away from whatever person started it. I had a bunch of those kinds of conversations last night at work. Generally speaking, even most sports conversations I run into won't generally hold my interest after about 10 minutes.

I guess there's no way I can adequately explain what I'm getting at over the internet. Probably the only way to do it is in person, living the situation and pointing it out after the fact.


Nah I feel you. I know what you mean.

And I'm certainly not advocating just going up and sitting with a group of bangers just because they're different then you... I'm just saying that many times I have found things in common with those that I might not otherwise had I judged them off their looks. And I know you know that.

As for small talk, I used to be like that, but you can't be like that and do what I do. It forced me to become way more social than I ever was before, and now I've officially become the guy that I used to hate.


I do not see how two tables are considered racist because they do not have black people or they do not have white people. That would be like saying that a neighborhood is racist because no black people, but maybe it's because they live in the middle of Arizona in a town of a thousand and no black people want to live there.

The poster who said that he felt not welcomed at the table was most likely because they did not know, and put up their defenses. I do the same thing for lame ass white guys that seem shady, and I do the same thing for lame ass black people. Just because it's school doesn't mean that people do not want their circle to be private.

People categorize, and people who think, when people do this, it is unfair are ridiculous. Mostly because they are the same people that pull out stats. Categorizing is nature, that is how we survive. So, when I was eight months old I saw my first black person, I was immediately friends with them I had no prejudice towards black people (she was my care taker). Now, after that instance, I had prejudice, all black people are friendly and nice. Now, my prejudice has swung the other way depending on the situation towards black people.

I think the actual racists are the ones that refuse to do business with someone because of a prejudice of their race, even though they know the person enough to be able to do the business at hand and the person is fully capable to follow suit.

  • Brother


I do know it. And I take pains to try and not write people off based on looks--that's just stupid. However, it is generally undeniable that when in a fair to large sized group at lunch or in a bar, the overall "look" of the crowd has a generally accurate statement of how they will behave (NOT in terms of criminality or shit like that). Don't jump on me yet! Because there are lots of situations where it's not true, and I know that, and experience that. However, I can tell you exactly what group is going to tip well, and what group is going to be retarded, and what group is likely to start fights.

It's a lot different for say 8-10 guys than if just a couple guys who come in on their own looking any given way. There comes a critical mass above which, conversations always reflect the crowd you are around. It's most easily seen in bars, but happens at lunch tables in high school and college cafeterias all the time as well.

I'm not sure exactly what you do, but I do identify. I'm currently working as security at a bar (interim job), and I can say without a doubt I can small talk with the best of them now. I sucked at it before because I hated it and saw it as useless--and so didn't ever try to work at it--but many problems can be averted before they even start by being personable and talking with the people who come in. It's not that I didn't have social skills before, I did, but I didn't like to be around large groups of unfamiliar people (introverted) and it made me uncomfortable. It's different now, and I thank my job for that.

I also like to just generally make people feel at home and like people, not numbers (cue Bob Seger song). It's just different when I'm the guy that's off duty vs. when on duty. On duty I will sell you a fucking bridge. Off duty I don't have much patience for that--it's work. I haven't made that switch over completely yet--if that makes any sense.

But I'm rambling now, and have been for a while. This was all to try and respond to Schwarz's post that said there were underlying issues if you never got up out of your comfort zone. I just disagree with that--it COULD be question of personality, or patience, or interest in the conversations, not racial issues. Doesn't have to be an underlying "problematic" cause--maybe you just don't like it, ya dig?