A Guide to Racism for White People

Oh sure – excuse me while I just dive right into this controversy – as though, I, a white woman, has anything useful to say about the issue. Maybe not but I’ll try.

First, I just want to say that I believe (everything I’m saying here is just my opinion and mine alone) that it is virtually impossible for a white person, especially a white male, to have a clue about what racism means, is or feels like. I’ve recently heard white men  bandying terms about like “reverse racism” – sorry, there is no such thing.

We white people don’t have a clue. Let me tell you something: I came to Canada from Germany in 1951. I was a wee little kid. Within weeks of arriving, a bunch of neighbourhood kids threw rocks at me (cutting open my forehead) and called me a “dirty Nazi.” I didn’t know what a Nazi was. My mother had to explain it to me. For decades, I was ashamed of being German. And I STILL don’t have a clue what racism is.

In my late teens and early twenties I had a black boyfriend. This was long before it was politically correct to date interracially. We were frowned upon. My brother threatened to beat me up. My parents were heartbroken.

And I STILL don’t have a clue what racism is.

I’m a woman. I have been raped. I have been sexually harassed in the workplace and I have been paid less than men who weren’t doing nearly as good a job as I was.

So – maybe I’m a little closer to this than white men BUT…

I STILL don’t have a clue what racism is.

And let me be clear here: when I say I don’t have a clue what racism is, I mean that I don’t know how it feels deep inside to be discriminated against because of my race.

You see, the German thing was temporary. Germans are very much in vogue these days. Germans are white. The “bad German” concept was a passing thing.

And now we come to the tricky distinction between what is freedom of speech and what is hate speech. There’s a fine line that white people have a hard time seeing.

Here’s my test: let’s say someone writes a letter to the newspaper and I, as the editor wonder if this is hate speech. Should I publish it? Well, try substituting the race the letter is ranting about (say it’s First Nations) with a race that we really really really feel PC about (like Jews). My guess is that two things will happen. One, I won’t print the letter because no one – but no one – will tolerate a rant about Jews forgetting the holocaust and getting on with their lives.

Two – the exercise will demonstrate to me where my racism lurks. And, in the best of all possible worlds, it will open my eyes and allow me to apologize, to reconcile – and most importantly, to change.

Belittling and putting down another race or group of people is not freedom of speech – it is hate speech. Aiding and abetting that speech serves no constructive purpose.

And white people just don’t know how it feels.

About goodyniosi

Writer, avid(!!!) hiker - living life to the fullest. Love, life, bliss - getting high on getting high (in the alpine that is)
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4 Responses to A Guide to Racism for White People

  1. Lynn Welburn says:

    It’s true Goody that most of us white folks don’t really understand how racism feels but, as women, you and I can both know what bigotry feels like. Even the almighty white male might have been shrimpy growing up, worn glasses, been bad at sports, been gay, been not too bright, been too bright …. the list goes on… and suffered for that simple act of being different.
    Humans have a tendency (no doubt it once served a protective purpose) of not liking what is different, of fearing it and, as is usually the case with fear, masking it with anger and aggression. Not a defence of any of that behaviour, but if we don’t examine it, nothing ever changes.
    And while I will say clearly that I do not agree with the thoughts or the conclusions McRitchie drew in his letter, I have no option but to say that I’d rather it was printed and talked about and argued about, than hidden. It was an objectionable letter. True. It wasn’t even all that well written. But if no newspaper ever printed any letters that were objectionable to someone or badly written, well we might as well not have a letters section at all.
    And that letter spawned dozens of letters arguing with McRitchie, clearing the air, cutting down his arguments and showing just how many people find these kinds of opinions to be bad things. That to me is the good news. One nitwit expresses stupid ideas, a bunch of other people point out what’s wrong with those ideas. And so on and so forth.
    I don’t like that people’s feelings were hurt. That’s clearly a bad thing. But when the defenders stepped up to the plate, that must have felt good.
    Maybe I’ve just been in this biz too damn long and become hardened to reading stupid people’s opinions. And if the biz wasn’t enough, I spend enough time on Facebook to see even more of the same.
    But I will take public statements of stupidity any day over hidden ones that never see the light, never get defended and are allowed to fester and grow.
    Jus’ sayin’

    • goodyniosi says:

      I hear you, Lynn. I thought long and hard about writing what I did – because I understand your point of view – of putting it out there. And I thought about writing or not writing it because I knew some people would disagree with me, perhaps even vehemently. And I hate that. I’m an approval suck and I want people to like me, especially you, someone whose intelligence and integrity I admire – and Mark, who I have worked with for so long and who I love – and I know his heart is in the right place. And I decided to just be brave and write it anyway. Because I may not be right, but it’s how I feel. So I thought some more and, here’s the thing. The letter was based on a generality. McRitchie did not name names as in, “Woody Allen is dumb” Instead, he said, “Jews are dumb.” And that’s the problem. That generality is racism. And does it help to put it out in the open? You know, at first I was inclined to think, “Well, maybe so.” But I look back on all the racism that was out in the open in the US back in the day (and even now) and I’m inclined to say, maybe not so good. I know there were intelligent, well-thought-out letters in the paper today but online, the letter seemed to have given voice to all those who agreed with McRitchie. I surely do appreciate the dialogue with you on this subject.

  2. Brad Nelson says:

    Hi Goody. I have to respectfully disagree with you on one point. Everyone can experience racism. In Jamaica I was seen as an “easy mark” or a rich white tourist (of which only one thing was true. I was neither a tourist, nor rich).

    In Thailand, I was an outsider, a tourist this time, and someone who people smiled at to my face, but when they thought I didn’t understand Thai (I only knew a few words, but I got the gist of some of the things that were said…and many of them weren’t nice), they’d express their true sentiments.

    In Richmond there are shops that will charge “gwai lo” (Cantonese slang meaning “ghost person”) extra. There are no signs in English, many of the shopkeepers either don’t speak English or refuse to. If you greet them with a simple “neh ho”, you’ll find that your reception gets warmer, and you’ll probably not hear the term “gwai lo” during your visit.

    I’m a white male, and I’ve experienced racism. It’s not pleasant…and it’s the sign of a very limited intellect.

  3. lynn says:

    I would love to know what the true definition of “white man” is in today’s society. We have become a society of mixed/blended cultures and ethnic backgrounds. I find that term “white man” rather offensive to be honest. The issues are much more global and there are many cultures that have suffered similar atrocities from a global perspective if (one is to take it from a historical view point). Jews, Scottish, Middle East, African Americans. There are people all over this global village being targeted because of their ethnicity; we are just horrified that as Canadians it would ever happen in our history. It is the sad truth of history that countries more often than have been created by means of force and violence against other groups. The Treaty Negotiations are very political and these chiefs are in the midst of negotiating there settlements. The last thing they want is someone writing letters to the editor planting seeds of discontentment to non first nation’s people. “White Man” doesn’t get? Really? BC has one of the highest percentages of children living in the poverty in Canada; I believe the average is over 50%. When you see an anti poverty groups promotional ads of women deciding to choose food or a roof over her head for her family because a person’s wage simply does not keep up with the current cost of living. I did not get the editorial as racism, but rather the day to day average person’s frustration around fiscal inequity. With economy as it is, this is a hard time to be negotiated treaties because chiefs are trying to engage the average audience who themselves can barley met their own fiscal means.
    These treaties need to be sorted out so that all Canadians (which are inclusive in the term of first nation’s people) can move forward. All Canadians who have suffered at the hands of government or private organizations should have the opportunity to be represented in a legal forum review of monetary and possible supports to assist where ever possible in the healing process.
    When you separate or group citizens by category or ethnicity/culture in the end you will only divide and create further animosity. This does not create a forum of partnership or an environment to mediate a long outstanding issue that needs to me remediated.
    The article that everyone is in a fury over is a letter to the editor. It was of opinion, on an issue which I think many Canadians are struggling with. I did not perceive it as a hate letter or call to violence against a group of people. It was a point of view as to what has been transpiring from this persons perspective on what has happened in history. I am a history major and what I can say is there are facts in what he says; however that being said much of what has happened in the past has had long term impacts and I don’t think that any amount of money or land can make up what is or how to compensate the many first nations people that have been impacted generationally. There is going to need to be a balance which includes supports, monetary awards and land settlements that may take several generations before signs of true healing.
    I would like to further note from an anthological perspective we consider one race, the human race. We are made up of many cultures and have different ethnicity, but we are all one race.

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