Being the only person of colour in any environment is an isolating experience, especially if you’re around people who have never experienced any culture outside of their own. In some cases you meet lovely amazing people who actually want to talk to you, learn about your culture and you both can have really adult and informative conversations about important issues.
In most cases however you’re just left as an ‘other’ and even though you can assimilate and be a part of a group, you’ll never really be one of them. At some point in your experience as the outside something will happen, maybe a massive international crisis, or news event.. it’s usually something controversial and then it will happen. The moment when your heart sinks, when the white person says ‘I’m not racist but <insert racist statement”.
How do you react in that moment? Do you play it cool, laugh it off, or call them out. Each choice has a consequence and honestly none of it’s good.
Both playing it cool and laughing it off have very similar consequences and they’re not good. Sometimes allowing this kind of behaviour allows people think that it’s ok to do it, and then they’ll continue saying these racist remarks because you’re now seen as someone who will allow it. What’s worse is that they remarks will get worse, and they’ll start to say the things they only say in private, and you’ll lose faith in humanity. It’ll sort of teach you about how everyones racist behind closed doors, and even if they have POC as friends or even lovers, the unconscious bias is real, and it won’t go until they face it (which rarely happens).
So, calling them out on their nonsense doesn’t end well either. There is that rare case where you’re able to have an adult conversation about racism and how their statement bleeds discrimination, and those times are few and far between, but they do exist. In most cases, that doesn’t happen and it sucks. You’ll usually face one of three scenarios:
- You’ll be laughed at by the group for being too sensitive to these issues and told to ‘lighten up’.
- The person who says the statement will be very offended that you dare even imply they’re racist, and this might come with them saying that they have many Black and Asian friends and could never be racist. As they only associate racism with aggressively trying to lynch someone.
- You’ll be told that racism isn’t a thing anymore and that things are so much better now. They’ll also imply that you’re making this an issue out of nothing and may even make comments about how POC pulling the ‘race card’ are in the wrong as they can’t see ‘how good they have it now’.
If you think any of those three responses are an over exaggeration, believe me when I say I’ve had all three multiple times and it’s gotten to the point that I’m exhausted. People get so hurt when you imply they’re racist, but will do nothing to actually help those affected by racism. They’ll continue their apathy, their biases and their prejudices because it doesn’t hurt them in any way shape of form. They don’t understand how these statements hurt us, and continue this cycle of racial discrimination.
It’s a lose – lose situation when it comes to dealing with these situations and it doesn’t have to be. If you allow it, you’ll hear it more and more, but if you fight it, you’ll be seen as an overly emotional and sensitive wreck who makes an issue out of nothing. There are people out there who truly think we live in a post racial society, and those people are in the majority.