Just Because I’m White

How many times do you see this complaint online?

“I’m sick of being called racist just because I’m white.”

Wherever there’s an article, blog post, tweet, or video discussing racism, I find about twenty examples of that exact comment (assuming that I dare read the comments). It might actually be the most common phrase uttered in defiance of political correctness (even more common than “I identify as an attack helicopter”). Its cousin, “I’m sick of being called sexist just because I’m a man,” is almost as prevalent. It seems to be a widespread belief among disgruntled white men on the web, that progressives hold them personally responsible for all the injustice in the world.

That would certainly explain why they seem to hate progressives so much. Why there is such anger directed at the social justice movement, feminism especially. Yes, this simple misconception could be the root to all of that. The spark that’s led to a wildfire of online antagonism in recent years. So, today I’m going to try and refute it:

No one is asking you to hate yourself for your privilege. No one is calling you a racist, a sexist, a homophobe, or a transphobe simply because you’re not black, female, gay or trans. Okay, I’m sure some people do that, but they’re in a minority. Most progressives are merely asking you to listen to those who are less fortunate than you. To make an effort to understand their problems and not be part of them. To educate yourself about the structures within society that benefit you at their expense. To counteract those structures. That’s the message you should take with you, when you read a column about the issue of manspreading, or an article about ethnic discrimination in the workplace. It’s not a personal attack.

You’re not racist because you’re white. You’re not sexist because you’re a man. You are, however, in a position of relative power, and those who lack that power are urging you to use it wisely. So, the next time you read an angry tweet about stupid white men who do racist and sexist things, remember: you get to decide whether or not they are talking about you.

4 comments

  1. Damn straight! One could add class perspective too, both globally and locally. But that kind of effort requires thinking, reflexion and humility. Not really encouraged or rewarded in today’s hateful climate on social media…

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  2. As they always do, this SJW text got me thinking, reflecting on my own stance in this context and trying to understand other people’s. A tentative result of these reflections:
    I think that most of those who really feel the need to utter complaints like “I am not racist just because I am white” or, for that matter, “feminists hate every single man on Earth” – that these persons actually have, in some measure, racist or misogynic views, never analyzed or even verbalized, simply as a part of their perception of existence. The “complaints” may be a response to the very first challenge that this unconscious attitude has been subjected to – the first time it was targeted, as it were – which triggers a huge defensiveness. Attitudes and acts that are hitherto seen as simple, unproblematic and self-evident are suddenly judged immoral and unjust by others. Predictably there is a general and quite sincere note of injured innocence and outrage in the remarks. Rather as if someone emerged from av very primitive and isolated place where it was taken for granted that we live on a vast, flat place surrounded by oceans, and then would be met with ridicule and accusations of belonging to a crazy flat-earth-group of complete nutters. “How is it that you call me a basket case when I simply use my common sense??”
    Or, in this case, “How can you denounce me as morally deficient when I simply use my common sense”.
    The next step is of course to answer the crucial question – in what situations, exactly, do I myself react with similar feelings of injury and outrage, and argue with similar words?

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