A Twitter conversation about racism got me thinking about how many white people do racist things and say racist things and then get really offended when they're called racist. I think there is a spectrum of racism. Each flavour is icky, but it varies from "icky like olives" (ICK! If you like them, think of something you can just barely choke down. And also, WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU?!) to icky like a shit and staples sandwich with elephant mucus pie on the side. Okay. So it's NOT okay to be on the olives end of it. It's nasty, and it fosters an environment where it's okay to be served the shit and staples sandwich. Clear? No? Okay, then allow me to define the classes, as I see them:
Olives: These are people who are genuinely working on their racism. Any stupid racist thing they say is out of genuine ignorance, and if called on it, they will apologise, not do it again, and try to make it right. They might ask questions to figure out why what they said was racist. This is me. I'm working on it!
Pickled beets fished out of the garbage can: These are people who make stupid racist "jokes". They may have friends in the group they're joking about. They may genuinely like these people. They have no idea that their racism is harmful. They have been told, but refuse to believe it. They cannot figure out why it is not okay to retell the racist joke that their black friend told them, but they're not going to refuse to hire someone based on their colour. I used to be this person. I had friends who were Indians (as aboriginal people were called at the time). They told me Indian jokes. I retold them. Icky. Fortunately, I finally listened to reason. If you call these people racist, they will be offended and call you stupid.
Mouldy cheese: These people do not like most $race people, but they're willing to make exceptions. They blame them for their own problems. They blame them for society's problems. High jobless rate? Their fault. High crime rate? Their fault. They look at statistics in a vacuum. There are more aboriginal people in jail because there is a higher per capita rate of criminals. Houses are run down on reserves because aboriginal people can't be bothered to keep up their homes. 80% of the children in foster care are aboriginal because they don't look after their children. Etc., ad nauseum. Only rarely can these people be educated. If you point out systemic racism, the history of residential schools, poverty, etc., you'll be told that "those people need to get over it and stop blaming white people for their problems!" And "I know Kara Stonechild* and she was raised in a terrible family, and she's got a great job and doesn't blame white people. She got an education and a job! If she can do it, anyone can!"
I've never been this person. I know a lot of these people. Many of them related to me. :( If you call these people racist, they will say something racist like, "I'm not racist. I don't hate them because they're $race. I hate them because they're criminals. I hate white criminals too! Look at the stats!"
Recalled Hot Pockets: They are afraid of people of $race. They're dangerous under pressure. They are snide. They make racist jokes in the company of friends, and often in the earshot of strangers. And not the more Pickled Beets kinds of jokes that play on stereotypes, but the really mean ones. They are also resentful of the benefits that $race people get. No exceptions are made. If someone has made something of themselves in the white world, they probably did it by freeloading and special treatment, according to these people. If you call these people racist, they'll probably laugh and say, "Yeah. So?"
Shit and Staples Sandwich with Elephant Mucus Pie: This is the KKK and the like. White supremacist garbage. These people are not only dangerous under pressure, they're plain dangerous. These people want to round up the $race people and murder them all. If you call these people racist, they'll call you a race traitor and pontificate about the evils of $race, explaining why you should be a racist too. Or worse, they'll hate you too for being a $race-lover.
So again. It's not okay to be racist at any flavour of the spectrum of ick. Ignoring the grottiness of something olive-like only fosters the environment where shit and staples sandwiches are on the menu. So call it out when you see it, and fucking listen if someone tells you you're being a racist asshole. And if the person calling you out is a member of $race shut your olive-hole and take them at their word. If you don't understand why what you've said is wrong, that's okay. Don't do it again, and find a way to ask someone with a clue. I recommend, "OK. I said X. Person Y called me out. Obviously, I screwed up, but I'm not sure exactly how. I'd like to avoid being an asshole, and learn from this. Would you mind telling me what I've done?"