We’re all familiar with racists. They’re usually pretty easy to pick out of a crowd, what with their pointy hoods, swastikas and loose use of words that rhyme with animals (chigger, tick, donkey, mink…). In fact, some people would argue that it’s only these people that truly fall into the category of racist.
But, just so we’re sure that we know who’s racist and who’s not, many people find it useful to remind us how not racist they are before they say something racist. For example, using a phrase like, “I’m not racist, but…” before saying something racist reminds the listener that, though they are hearing something racist that the speaker believes, it’s okay, because the speaker has assured him or her that he or she is not, in fact, racist.
I’ll use an example to help clarify. In this example, Ralph is telling Ted about his neighborhood:
Ralph: I live in a really loud neighborhood.
Ted: What color are your neighbors?
Ralph: Uh…I guess most of them are black?
Ted: I’m not racist, but black people are really loud.
See, what Ted has said here is okay, because he has assured Ralph that he is not, in fact, racist. Had he not prefaced his racist statement with, “I’m not racist, but…,” Ralph might have mistaken someone who says something racist for someone who is racist.
Another useful phrase, though usually put after something racist rather than before it, is, “I have lots of (offended race) friends,” or “My best friend is (offended race).” Clearly, someone who has friends of the race that they are insulting can’t possibly be racist.
In this example, Fred is telling John about his boss:
Fred: My boss didn’t pay me for working overtime like he said he would.
John: What color is he?
Fred: He’s white. Why?
John: You just can’t trust white people.
John: I mean, I don’t have anything against white people. I have lots of white friends. In fact, my best friend is white.
In this scenario, John manages to use both of our example quotes, to hammer home the point that he is not racist.
These racist escape clauses can be very useful to people who wish to be racist but don’t want to be racist. As a general rule, though, they tend to be said in the presence of people who are not members of the race being criticized. This is understandable, of course, because if a member of the offended race was around, he or she might mistake something racist for being something racist.
So, what do you do if you want to say something racist to a member of the race you are offending? How can you convince him or her that you’re just saying something racist and that you’re not actually being racist?
At first glance, this seems like a difficult problem, but it can actually be solved with three simple words: “No offense, but…” Because, it’s okay to criticize an entire race, as long as the person you are talking to doesn’t get offended. That way, you have managed not only to convince someone else that you are not racist – you have managed to convince someone of the race you offended that you are not racist.
Let’s use one more example. Here, we have Kim, who is Asian, and Carol, who is not:
Carol: No offense, but Asians all look alike.
Here, Carol has performed a masterstroke – she has managed to say something racist to a person of the very race she is offending, without being racist.
There are, of course, many other racist escape clauses, including, but not limited to:
– “I’m not being racist, because I know this (offended race) person who does that.”
– “There are two types of (offended race) – (derogatory term) and (offended
I hope this primer on non-racist racism has been helpful. As you can see, there are countless ways to be racist without actually being racist…