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Sep 09 2010

I’m flabbergasted

It’s not every day something shocks me in a good way, but I was floored when I read this:

It’s typical bullshit. So I’m responding in my own way. Because, you see, I am a racist. I’m not proud of that fact – but growing up in a deeply racist and sexist culture, you can’t avoid absorbing racist and sexist messages and attitudes into your worldview. And the blogger who inspired this is, like me, a member of the privileged elite. The difference between us is that I at least try to notice the effects of my privilege.

Mark Chu-Caroll is a blogger and computer scientist for Google. I am subscribing to my own set of prejudicial stereotypes here, but I have known very few computer programmers who are so socially aware as to recognize what are fairly black-belt-level concepts like systemic racism and privilege. He lists 10 reasons why he calls himself a racist:

  1. I am a racist – because I never noticed all of the unearned privileges that are given to me until someone pointed them out.
  2. I am a racist – because even after learning about the unearned privileges that I recieve (sic), I still don’t notice them.
  3. I am a racist, because I have grown up in a culture that, at every turn, teaches me that to be white is to be better, and smarter, and I have absorbed that lesson.
  4. I am a racist, because I instinctively react to members of minorities with fear.
  5. I am a racist, because I live in a sunset town.
  6. I am a racist, because I believe that I deserve the success I have, even though I know people who are more smart, capable, and talented than I am never had the chances that I did to be successful, because of the color of their skin.
  7. I am a racist – because I am a white man who has directly benefited from the unfair preferences that have been directed towards me all of my life.
  8. I am a racist – because every day, I benefit from the denial of basic privileges to other people.
  9. I am a racist, because I do not notice the things that are denied to people who are different from me.
  10. I am a racist, because I do not notice the advantages that I have over others.
  11. I am a racist, because even when I do manage to notice what is denied to people of different races and backgrounds, I don’t speak up.

I’ve said this from essentially day 1, but we are all racists. We were born into a system (with global reach) that has racial prejudice built into it. Some of us benefit from this system; others are on the losing end. The “secret” to changing this pattern is to recognize it exists, and to stay constantly vigilant in attempting to reduce its influence.

Mark hits the nail on the head when he says:

“People like me think of ourselves as the default – as “normal” people. We consider the incredible advantages that we receive to be normal, unremarkable. We don’t notice just how much we benefit from that assumption of our own normality – the benefits we receive fade into invisibility. We don’t even notice that they exist. And then when someone who doesn’t get those benefits has trouble, we naturally blame them for not being as successful as we are.”

I encourage you to read the article in its entirety – it’s a raw, honest and heartfelt exploration of one white man’s experience of race and racial prejudice. I think more people should be willing to speak up and throw their own stories into the mix.

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2 comments

  1. 1
    Vancouver Moose

    well, I guess my comment is going to obvious. I’m sure others will make it as well. In which case, FIRST!!!

    I think that all of those factors exist, and we should definitely talk about them.

    But to label them all as racism dilutes the definition of that word.

    “Being White = Racist” expands the meaning of ‘racism’ to the point where it doesn’t have any meaning at all.

  2. 2
    Crommunist

    Thanks for your comment, Moose. I’m not sure that’s what I took away from this piece at all though. As I’ve outlined in previous posts, I think the source of racism comes from the system, not from your position in it. And I don’t know that it ‘dilutes’ the word so much as it makes it more accurate, instead of describing a small subset of behaviours and attitudes.

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