We heard it before

Commonly expressed but boring responses to various posts. If you use a version of one of these responses, the administrators at resist racism may tag you with the number. Or we might just mock you.

1. I am not a racist.

variant a.  But I’m not like those others!

variant b.  But not all white people are like that!

variant c. But I’m a good person!

2. I have a black friend.

variant a. I have an Asian child.

variant b. I have a non-white boyfriend/girlfriend.

3. You’re the real racists.

variant a.  Talking about race is what causes divisions in our society.

variant b.  You’re racist against white people.

variant c. Black people do that all the time.

variant d. Everybody knows Asians are racist against blacks.

4. You’re bitter/angry/oversensitive/whatever.

variant a. You have a chip on your shoulder.

variant b. You’re so mean! And now my feelings are hurt.

5. Ventriloquy (“I have a black friend who says …”)

6. I lived in [fill-in-the-blank-country] for [length of time].

7. What about all those black men who rape white women?

8. That’s just political correctness.

9. What about all the racism in [insert name of predominantly brown country here] against whites?

variant a.  What about the ethnic strife in [name of country]?

10. Why aren’t you worried about child abuse/world hunger/something else that’s important?

variant a.  Why don’t you worry about real racism?

11. Do you have to be so aggressive when you talk about racism? Can’t you frame your message in a nicer way?

12. I’m not like those other people.

variant a.  I am doing a good thing and have good intentions.

variant b.  I don’t see race at all.

variant c. Reference to Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “content of our character.”

13. According to you we can’t do anything right, so why bother trying?

14. I’m a person of color myself and …

variant a. I’m white, but I’m a member of a minority group and have faced discrimination …

15. It wasn’t racist; you just don’t understand the context/are misinterpreting it/it was meant to be a compliment.

16. That happens to white people too.  It has nothing to do with racism.

variant a.  This is about class, not about race.

17. Everyone is racist.

18. It’s satire/humor/don’t you get the joke?

variant a. You don’t have a sense of humor.

variant b. Lighten up!

variant c. You don’t understand the context.

19.  The Dictionary Defense™, otherwise known as The Last Bastion of Idiots™.

variant a.  It’s the rule! And if the rule applies to everybody, that’s fair.

variant b.  I don’t think you understand the concept of …

20.  General random stupidity, evidencing a lack of reason and critical thought.

21. Everybody is offended by something.

22. Racial divisions are caused by you people bringing up racism all the time.

23. Gratuitous disparaging reference to Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton or the NAACP.

24. Stereotypes are mostly true.

31 thoughts on “We heard it before

  1. Pingback: ok yall…a lil piece on white feminists « revolution of the lilies

  2. #18. “If everyone just married outside of their race/had interracial relationships and had kids, that would end racism!” Don’t know if that’s come up on your blog, but I’ve heard that one many times before.

  3. May I suggest a #19?

    I don’t benefit from white privilege since I’m discriminated against because I’m ____________ (fill in the blank with any number of things…LGBT, Jewish, Muslim, differently-abled, an immigrant, etc.).

  4. I am hosting a carnival addressing white privilege amongst the Muslims, could I please cross post this on my blog?

  5. I was just re-reading this list and realized that I’m pretty darn guilty of #11.
    Recently, I’ve experiences a variant or perhaps a merging of #1 and #7. “I’m not racist against all black people, just the ones that ____[insert racist stereotype here]____.”

  6. What would be super helpful would be a rebuttal for each of these points. This would be helpful both for me, as I try to better detect my white lens, but even more so for my discussions with friends. When they pull one of these out in a discussion, it’s not really helpful for me to respond with “Heard It All Before #17.” I need to say something like, “Sure, lots of people have racial biases. That doesn’t change the fact that . . . .” No one here has an obligation to give me these, of course (cf. Racism 101), but it would help me to have framework on which to hang my further education.

  7. Thom
    I was thinking the same thing last week when a discussion about the film “Qallunaat: Why White People are Funny” turned into a “those drunk natives are reverse racists” discussion. It was excruciatingly upsetting to not have the words on hand to explain their faulty racist thinking. So, I did some googling over the weekend and learned lots of beneficial stuffs that won’t exactly arm me with canned rebuttals, but hopefully will enable me to better address the issues next time. You can do this too. Start with “reverse racism” and maybe some Kamau Bell Curve on youtube for some starters.

  8. does anyone else notice that when people say I don’t care what color someone is even if they are _____? that more often than not people use the color purple?

    “I don’t care if some one is purple! I treat them all the same!”

  9. Have you done a post on #11 (Do you have to be so aggressive when you talk about racism? Can’t you frame your message in a nicer way?)? If you have I would like to read it.

  10. @nakedthoughts: Hey, for me, it’s always been “blue” they used. Kinda sucks cause blue’s my fav. color and it creates rather negative associations.

    Also, how about this one:

    “Now, I’m not racist, but I’ve met a lot [insert ethnicity] who were [thieves, stupid, poor, criminals, intelligent, from the moon, etc.].”

    or how about this one:

    “Discrimination is evolutionarily beneficial!” Do not even get me started on this racist assholes using science to try and justify their idiocy.

  11. To clarify about the last one: A lot of people try to justify having biases because being able to group people together as one thing [i.e. stereotyping] is “beneficial” because it helps us to make snap judgments and enable us to survive.

    Does this sound like bull shit science from Ignorant University? It is. It is just stupid beyond belief.

  12. Over Thankgiving, my mother (who is 65 and raised by a southerner) made a comment about the town she grew up in and how they lived on the edge of town near “the blacks”. My eyes got big, and I exclaimed loudly, “MOM! That is SO racist!”. To which she and my father began invoking the “I have a friend who is black… and they said they don’t care if they are called Black vs. African American” defense. I tried to no avail to explain that it isn’t the term, but all that the conversation evoked that was bothersome to me. That racial distinctions bother me. That, even though this was in the 60’s, continuing to talk in that way makes it feel like we still live that way. That you can say all you want that you are not racist, but the fact that you would differentiate the area of town as good or bad by the fact that people of color lived there is in and of itself an incredibly racist comment. But my dad emailed me today asking if I would apologize to my mother because I came down on her so hard. I don’t know how to respond. I love them dearly, and I don’t want to hurt them, and I do believe in their deepest hearts they do not intend to be racist, but that is how it sounds. I don’t know how to entreat them to be more sensitive, to try to hear how what they say might sound. I am just the impertinent kid who lives in the city, who criticizes what the old people say. Who has to always be politically correct. Any suggestions?

  13. I’m a white girl who just found this website and I’ve spent the better part of the last hour reading it and laughing my ass off. Great stuff. I wanted to make a slight addition to #6 on your list. While I agree that living as a racial minority in a foreign country cannot remotely compare with living as a racial minority in your own country, I think that it can help to open your eyes. I lived in mostly white neighborhoods and went to a mostly white college. I never experienced walking into a room and being a different race than everyone else in there. I lived in India for two years and currently live in Kenya. It’s really opened my eyes to the more subtle forms of racism I never noticed in my own society. Let me stress, I’m not comparing the two situations. But living in a foreign country has sure taught me a lot!

  14. DSue, I might be deemed incorrect on this, but I personally don’t think it’s inherently racist to say that someone lived in the part of town where “the blacks” were. I would agree that the terminology could be addressed more sensitively, but you say it’s not the terminology that bothered you per se. I personally think it might actually be, and you might not be completely aware of it.

    Try this… Compare these two paragraphs, both of which are simple statements of fact:

    I live in El Paso, TX, a town that’s about 80% Hispanic. Because we’re so close to the US/Mexico border, almost all of our Hispanic residents can trace their ancestry to Mexico. Lots of people still have family in Mexico, and frequently help their relatives in Mexico who want to apply for US citizenship. Out of 20-some houses on my street, only one other family (that I’m aware of) is white. In my department at work, out of 19 employees there is only one other non-Hispanic person (she’s African-American).


    My town is on the Mexican border. Most people here are Mexicans, and we also have a lot of Mexican immigrants. There are only two white families in my neighborhood; everybody else is Mexican. And where I work, I’m the only white person around – there’s one black lady, but everyone else is, you guessed it, Mexican.

    See how different those two paragraphs sound? And the second one is conveying the same information as the first… but the WAY it’s conveyed, with the phrases like “Mexican” (instead of “Hispanic” or “Mexican-American”) and “immigrants” (instead of “recently naturalized citizens” or “people who are going through naturalization”) and “everyone around here” (instead of “my neighbors” or “my co-workers”) evokes the abusive and distancing, us-vs.-them type of language that racism so often uses.

    If your mom was merely saying that she lived in a poor part of town and most of her neighbors were black, and wasn’t saying “we lived in a bad part of town BECAUSE it was where all the black people lived,” then yeah, I personally think you over-reacted.

    Of course, I might have this opinion because I had a falling out with my family when my father – also in his 60s – recently quoted whoever it was, Dr. Laura or whoever, who used racial slurs in a radio show when a caller complained that her boyfriend’s friends used terms she found derogatory – the host’s argument was #3c (“have you listened to rap music? It’s n—this and n—that”), and my father quoted her at the dinner table. Loudly. In the restaurant. Where the family at the table next to us us were African-American. And so was our server. Then argued with me loudly, continuing to use the word, when I asked him to stop. And still hasn’t forgiven me, because he “was just QUOTING.”

    So from where I’m sitting, if your mom was just making a statement of fact, suggest to her that it wouldn’t sound so offensive if she identified people as people, instead of “blacks” (which makes them sound like objects), and be thankful for what you’ve got. If she WAS making a cause-effect statement (“it was the bad part of town because of all the black people there”) then remind her that correlation is not necessarily causation, and point out that crime levels equal out across ethnic or racial lines when adjusted for poverty. The problem is poverty, NOT race – although certain segments of society are more likely to be trapped in poverty cycles BECAUSE of racism.

    Last: At the risk of invoking #5, this phrase from your post – “racial distinctions bother me” – reminded me of a time I was chided by a (African-American) friend (who identifies herself as “black” but doesn’t mind “Af-Am”) when I expressed a wistful desire for a “color-blind world.” She told me, “Sounds to me like you want everyone to be the same – you don’t want there to be differences based on race or culture. In other words, you want to live in a world where everyone’s *just like you*.” I asked if it doesn’t bother her when people see her and immediately categorize her as “black” – wouldn’t she prefer to live in a world without racial distinctions? And she said no, she’s proud of her heritage and her history – what she wants is for *distinction* to replace discrimination. A world where “she’s black” wouldn’t mean anything more sinister or negative than “she’s tall” or “she has small feet” or “she’s wearing a red shirt.”

  15. @ elayne–saying someone is Mexican if they are actually from Mexico is not “abusive and distancing, us-vs-them type of language.” It strikes me as odd you think saying “Hispanic” or “Mexican-American” is somehow better than saying Mexican. The term “hispanic” is not great and there are plenty of people who don’t like it…it makes it sound like all the people grouped that way have origins in Spain. And America, by the way, is a continent, so Mexicans are Americans. Mexican-American is redundant. Interesting comment about your friend. In my experience, people who have talked about being “color blind” or wishing for a “color blind world” have been white. This wish seems to be based on the belief or assumption that people should be, and even *really want to be* like them. It isn’t a malicious statement, but it comes from a “head up ass” sort of place.

  16. Here’s another one: Whites who use the term “Afro-American.” That is so ’70s. I heard that a lot when the term “African-American” came into general use, so my question to them was: Too many syllables for you?

  17. About number 16: If a white person reads something by a black person saying “white people do this bad thing to me” and realizes that white people do that same bad thing to them, are they automatically wrong? More importantly, how is a black person supposed to know how white people treat other white people any more than a white person is supposed to know how white people treat black people? I think the author should at least address the concern of the commenter when he brings up #16 (if, you know, he’s polite and stuff), rather than dismissing him.

    (These are honest questions, not snarky rhetorical ones. I imagine this thought crossed your mind while you were making this list, and I’m legitimately interested in hearing how you resolved it.)

  18. heard it before – have been told by numerous people my english isn’t great, that they can’t understand me, or to repeat things. In the end I took a degree level english course, there’s nothing wrong with my english, actually it showed how bad theirs is fairly quickly

    this continues at work with people insisting they rewrite my letters, only to write something that doesn’t make sense or is of no use with regard to the situation. It belittles

    other comments- people speak of you, in front of you, as if you are not there and you have no comeback to it

  19. Alright so what do YOU want? What aren’t YOU getting as an individual? What angers, hurts, wbragws, etc you?

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