Common White Misconceptions about Racism

Common White Misconceptions about Racism

We have worked to address many of the common misconceptions about racism. However, given their tenacity, we end by revisiting many of the most common arguments we hear. Regardless of intentions, these


arguments (some seemingly innocent and others seemingly progressive) serve dominant interests and ultimately function to protect rather than to challenge racism. In this way they can be conceptualized as ideologies of White supremacy.

“Why can’t we all just be human? Isn’t it this focus on race that

divides us?” In Chapter 8 we discussed the discourse of individualism and how it functions to obscure the reality of racism and White privilege. While individualism asks, “Why can’t we all just be different?” the “just human” discourse asks, “Why can’t we all just be the same (after all, everyone’s blood is red under the skin)?” Remember that a key dimension of White socialization is a sense of oneself as existing outside of race. Of course on the biological level we are all humans, but when applied to the social level, insisting that we just see each other as human has similar effects as individualism. Once again the significance of race and the advantages of being White are denied. Further, this discourse assumes that Whites and peoples of Color have the same reality, the same experiences in the same context, and that the same doors are open. Whites invoke these seemingly contradictory discourses—we are either all unique or we are all the same—interchangeably. Both discourses deny White privilege and the significance of race. Further, on the cultural level, being an individual or being a human outside of a racial group is a social position only afforded to White people. Someday, if and when racism is overcome, this discourse will make sense, but to pretend that day has already arrived is a form of willful ignorance that works to deny the reality of racism.

As for the claim that focusing on race divides us, evidence shows that we are already divided by race on every measure of demographics and outcomes. We would argue that it is the refusal to take an honest account of the power of race as a social construct that keeps us divided.

“I have a friend who is a person of Color, which shows that I’m not

racist.” First, keep in mind that we are not defining racism as something that only some people are, but as a system that impacts everyone. All Whites who swim in the cultural water of Canada and the United States are socialized into psychological, institutional, and economic investments in upholding the racial system that privileges them. This socialization is not something we had a choice about nor is it something we can avoid. At the same time, this does not mean that we can’t challenge our socialization and work to overcome it, although this takes a lifetime of commitment. Having peoples of Color in your life is of profound importance but does not in and of itself end White supremacy in the wider culture that shapes


you, them, and your relationship.

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