Diet Racism and How Little Actions are Still Racist
A few months ago, I saw a video from College Humor called “Diet Racism”, in which micro-aggressions and implicit racial biases from white people are satirically marketed as not full out racism but diet racism. I love this video because in my opinion, it comically points out the racism in many actions that many of my fellow white people don’t see as racist. The video uses satire to highlight the fact that racism is no longer just explicit prejudice based on skin color but also involves implicit biases and micro-aggressions. (Although it is important to acknowledge that the acts of diet racism explained in the video are still racist acts.)
It took me several years to realize that the microaggressive acts described in the video are still acts of racism and that there’s this incredible societal pressure for many white people (myself included) to not acknowledge race and the implications of a “post racial society”. I believed that good people weren’t racist and racism was something that ended in the 1960s (which is so beyond false). Rachel Shadoan makes the better point of what I’m trying to say with her post that “I am racist and so are you”, saying that:
Here’s the deal. Racism isn’t just guys in white robes and Paula Deen shouting racial slurs. Racism is subtle, racism is insidious, and our culture is so deeply steeped in it that it’s impossible to grow up in the US and not be racist. It’s a kind of brainwashing: a set of default configuration files that come with the culture. It’s a filter, built up from birth, that alters our perception of the world. (Literally–racial bias makes people see weapons that aren’t there.) Racism isn’t just conscious actions; it’s judgements that happen so fast that we may not even be aware of them. Even people who are horrified by the idea of racism see through this lens, have this default programming.
I’ve definitely noticed a trend in many of the fellow white people in my life to differentiate between “true racism” and microaggressive acts based on race. I had an argument over Facebook with two fellow white people a few months ago, particularly over the fact that racism is not the explicit KKK behavior that we learn about in history books. I held this problematic view for so much of my life and as white people, we’re conditioned to be willfully accepting of the problematic view of racism. The micro and macro aggressive acts that white people as a whole have not seen as racism is in fact racism whether we like it or not. There’s no such thing as “true racism” and as Travis Alabanza argues, we should start dropping the word subtle when talking about racism.
New York City’s Stop and Frisk program also involves racism, whether the police officers intentionally do so or not. Recently, the director of the FBI, James Comey, acknowledged the racial bias that everyone (particularly police officers) experiences. It is incredibly important that we start acknowledging the fact that there are unconscious racial biases that exist within the US today and that the microaggressive acts of stereotyping are still prevalent and harmful.
Michelle Alexander wrote an entire book titled “The New Jim Crow”, arguing that the mass incarceration of people of color (particularly black men) is the new Jim Crow system within the US. There is so much wrong with the prison industrial complex (including that many industries profit from people being locked up) but one of the biggest is that there is a significant disparity between people of color and white people within prisons. One in seventeen white men will be imprisoned at some point in their life, compared to the one in three for black men and one in six for Latino men. (A similar situation is happening in the UK, where a disparity in prison populations is also occurring.)
My entire point with this is that the racism we tend to believe in as white people isn’t what racism is today and whether we like it or not (or even acknowledge it), racial biases influence so many different actions in everyday life. People of color are significantly more likely to be imprisoned; one study found that resumes with black sounding names were more likely to not get callbacks or interviews than white sounding names (despite being equally qualified). I agree with Ron Lester Whyte when he argued that mandatory anti-racism education needs to be implemented here in the US and I’ll leave you with some of what he wrote:
A recent article by Rachel Shadoan entitled, “I am racist, and so are you” is a perfect illustration of the problem we’re facing. According to Shadoan, the health, well being, and prosperity of people of color are almost entirely dependent upon the goodwill and soul searching capacities of white people. Unfortunately, laws meant to protect fundamental human rights of Black people, for example, never translated into any meaningful anti-racist cultural renaissance for white Americans. Self reflection and self examination are wonderful, but many people simply choose not to do it.