I can’t be racist: My best friend is black

Or, the black kid who sits next to you in English class does not consider you her friend, and you are racist

There is this phenomenon of people thinking and articulating that their associations absolve them from having to examine any of their behavior.

A few months ago, one of my classmates deleted a comment I made on her Facebook page because she said she didn’t want to discourage her friend from commenting after I responded to a dense comment that she made. It’s not my Facebook page, and clearly my friend is free to delete my comments as she pleases. What really surprised me was that she told me that her friend wasn’t racist at all- and was even married to a Liberian man!

The idea that a white woman’s fucking a black man means that it is impossible for her to be racist is flawed. I mean, it’s certainly not like white people-including women– have a history of sexualizing and dehumanizing black men, after all.

(Or, you know, white men doing the same to black women. Or Asian women.)

An acquaintance once told me that there was no possible way that she could be a bigot because her brother was gay. Clippers owner Donald caused a media firestorm week for saying things like “It bothers me a lot that you want to broadcast that you’re associating with black people” and “You can sleep with [black people]. You can bring them in, you can do whatever you want. The little I ask you is not to promote it on that … and not to bring them to my games.” His defenders are arguing that he’s not racist because his girlfriend is black.

Huh???

He (rather explicitly) demonstrated his racism. The simple fact of having a relationship, sexual or otherwise, with someone of a different race does not someone preclude the possibility of you harboring bigoted beliefs. A colleague said “I am definitely tired of the ‘I have a _____ who is ____’ thing. That doesn’t make you above bigotry. It’s pretty fucked up. It just washes away all responsibility and basically says ‘I don’t have to think. I did my one charitable thing by knowing someone who is lesser than me.’”

Lindsay Yoo at The Filthy Freedom Project says:

The truth? Your unrivaled collection of Tribe Called Quest and Fugees albums does not make you an ally. Your Asian girlfriends and proudly hoisted set of “authentic” Japanese samurai swords above your fireplace does not make you an “honorary Asian.” Your “deep” friendship with the Dominican man who makes your toasted-bagel-and-cream-cheese breakfast every morning does not suddenly make you color blind and should not excuse you from deeper conversations about our respective roles in perpetuating race and gender hierarchies in American society.

And the fact that you married a Liberian guy does not make you down. The simple fact that you have a neighbor/family member/acquaintance that possesses one trait or another doesn’t mean that you can’t exhibit problematic behavior. By this logic, a man who is married to a woman can’t be a misogynist because he married a woman. Several thousand years of human history would beg to differ.

Just because you’ve said something offensive, and someone calls you out on it, that doesn’t mean that we’ve condemned you as a human being and that your entire being is tainted with bigotry. Jay Smooth talked about this– years ago- if you say something and you get called out on it, that doesn’t mean that the entirety of your being is racist any more than someone who tells you have spinach between your teeth is telling you that you’re an unclean. If you’re really not racist (or sexist or homophobic or transphobic), then your behavior should reflect that. If you’re really not racist, you shouldn’t have to hold up your association with other human beings as examples of your exemplary, tolerant character.

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