‘… but I swear I’m not a racist!’
I’m incredibly sheltered, being a sociology student; either racism just doesn’t happen or it is criticised and talked through to understand it. Race becomes politicised, so that it just isn’t an issue between students. In fact I’m a minority among the sociology department; there are far fewer white people than there are POC. Maybe we avoid a lot of racist gits because they all went to LSE, I can’t make those sorts of assumptions though.
A couple months ago I went home to my high school friends. This is a very diverse group, some more educated in social issues than others, but on the most part they’re all your average politics avoiding college students.
I was at dinner with a large group of friends one night and was relaying a story to a couple friends about something annoying my close friend Lauren*, who is from Southeast Asia, did a few days earlier. One of the women, Kate*, seemed really empathetic. Until she said, ‘Asians are so annoying, I hate them’.
I went from laughing about something else to feeling very uncomfortable. Kate obviously noticed. ‘I’m not racist though!’, and she began to try to explain away her racist comment.
I mean what do you even do when you don’t want to rock the boat too much but at the same time you feel the immense need to call bullshit? I tried not to make a huge deal about it but Kate seemed to know what I was thinking, considering she kept trying to justify herself for quite a few minute. This was so early into the night that I didn’t want to make it too awkward but at the same time she made me feel uncomfortable.
This is very similar to other experiences I’ve had when going back home. I have ‘friends’ who I found out started calling one of our black friends ‘Cotton Gin’. It’s dismissed as banter and our friend outwardly doesn’t seem to care, though he just might, and that is what especially bothers me. To be honest I haven’t transitioned well from non-political to political.
How does one balance friendship and calling out bullshit?
* Names changed
- Maximum Racist Aggression (cynicalafrikan.wordpress.com)