“But I’m not racist.”

In this series, I share what I have learned about racism in my journey of understanding my white privilege and the story of race in this country. I address this mostly within the framework of what I have learned about Black people’s experiences in the USA because it is the story of our headlines currenlty (and for the sake of focus in writing), but that doesn’t mean my desire to understand and humility towards the subject doesn’t stretch to the stories of all people of color. To all people of color reading this—please correct me, my language, and my insights and points of view when I get it wrong. I am still learning.

I’ve said it.

Have you?

“But I’m not racist.”

That sentence trying to absolve ourselves of any guilt or connection to the racial problems of our country (these days, ‘problems’ is too soft a word). That sentence trying to make sure we position ourselves as innocent in the face of a history and present day of violence, segregation, privilege, and inequality.

The rest of the thought often goes something like this: “Sure, I believe racism exists. But I don’t hate Black people. I know better.”

Take a breath with me, and see if you can be willing to open your mind and heart as we explore this together. Because I need us white people to know something:

I am racist.

And I need to confront that. Over and over again.

And so do most of us.

Not so many years ago I used to claim I wasn’t racist, I had all kids of excuses, that sounded something like this:

  • “But I don’t think poorly of Black people.”
  • “I don’t see color.”
  • “I would never treat someone different from me in a way that was demeaning.”
  • “I don’t support how Black people have been treated historically. I believe in civil rights and equality.”
  • “I have good friends who are black, and close colleagues! I respect them.”

On and on the list went. All the excuses to make sure I distanced myself from that ugly, scary term that I didn’t want to have anywhere near me.

I’m grateful to say in recent years I’ve been undergoing a learning and humbling process. I’ve had friends and mentors who led me through seeing what the bigger picture of racism is, of understanding my white privilege, what it means to have implicit bias or racist attitudes, and how owning these terms as a white person is necessary to be truthful and to help with healing.

In this series of posts, I humbly ask you to listen. It’s easy to rear up in anger and feel insulted—how dare I talk about this and imply white people are racist? An excuse that often rises is, “But you don’t know my heart, don’t tell me what I think about Black people.” I get it. I get the reactions. I’m going to ask you to go on a journey with me to understand what racism really is and to see it for the big problem it is in our society, with troublingly deep roots in our system and with horrific outcomes for those affected by it.

So, if you are willing, walk with me for a few posts as I share what I’ve learned. I ask that—as a white woman who used to say, “But I’m not racist,” who is now willing to say, “Yes, I am racist, and I repent, please teach me.”

“But I’m not racist” Series
Part 1: Responding to Protests and Riots
Part 2: Choose Empathy for Change
Part 3: Definitions of Racism (forthcoming)
Part 4: Confessions of Racism (forthcoming)
Part 5: Recognizing the System (forthcoming)
Part 6: White Privilege (forthcoming)
Part 7: Thoughts on the American Church (forthcoming)
Part 8: Humility, Repentance, and Listening (forthcoming)
Part 9: Resources

Photo Credit: Jeremy Bishop on Unsplash

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