(Originally Published on Medium)
I really don’t.
Let’s be clear, I have no issue with you being a racist. I’m also not saying I’m going to sit here and accept it either. If you want to sit around making racist jokes among your bigoted friends and family who won’t call you out, go ahead. If you find joy in being a hateful bastard behind closed doors, feel free. But the second you publicly attack or harass any person of color, that’s when we in civil society begin to take issue with your repugnant beliefs.
I write about systemic racism a lot. From environmental racism to disparities in healthcare to the lack of economic opportunities for communities of color. Aside from climate change, systemic inequality and racial injustice are the most important issues of our time. The purposeful use of race and ethnicity as a control to deny access to resources is as pervasive as ever. They are issues that have impacted every aspect of American society for centuries and still do today.
Much of my work focuses on political rhetoric that is often used to drive racial inequality through policy; how the history of American policing and the criminal justice system is used to oppress underserved communities; how systemic racism is used to deny people of color the same economic opportunities as whites; how racial inequality leads to crimes of desperation; how environmental racism is used against minority communities.
Racial and ethnic oppression in America is far from binary. We live in an economy that is largely based on ideas that we’re all in a race to the proverbial top. These views often leave majority populations feeling as though providing equal footing for minorities threatens their economic advantages. It’s one of many fears that conservative policy agendas have immortalized — driving hate using dog-whistle politics. Far-right campaigns of division are easy to sell and easy to win.
While all of the systemic issues mentioned here are certainly worth discussing, what I really don’t care about is an individual’s racist beliefs. Your personal views are of no concern to me. If you want to walk around and think you’re better than everyone because you’re white (or whatever), fine. It doesn’t make you right. We all know that those prejudices represent a fear of participating in an inclusive society.
Members of civil society, such as myself, serve as constant reminders of just how wrong you are. Your freedom of speech does not grant you freedom from consequences (as many of you are learning by sharing your hateful beliefs online). Look, you can think what you want. I’m not here to be the thought police. The fact is, you know your beliefs are wrong on every level yet you choose to believe as you do. You don’t care. It’s called willful ignorance and you’re clearly fine with being labeled as such because you refuse to do the work that proves you wrong.
We Don’t Care
I don’t give a damn if you’re sitting in your trailer, in your La-Z-Boy, screaming “god-damn Mexicans!” But when you start verbally or physically attacking Latinos in public, or in a public forum such as Facebook, then we have problems. When you start harassing Black people for being Black and calling the cops on them for nothing, we’re all are going to take exception to that.
Similarly, if you hold discriminatory beliefs and run a business, and as a result, you’re paying minorities less because you believe they’re lesser than you, that’s going to be an issue. Also, owning a business while holding bigoted beliefs almost always results in people of color being treated as ‘lesser-than’ your other patrons. Your beliefs are reflected in your work, whether you know it or not. Civil society sees it and that’s why so many people are calling it out.
If you find it harder and harder to keep your mouth shut as Black folks and Latinos speak up about oppressive policing in America, then you should expect the repercussions of expressing those views just as anyone else should. Newton’s third law reminds us: For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. Buddhism views this as cause and effect. When you apply both of those to the real world, you shouldn’t act surprised when you get called out for your hateful beliefs.
If you find it difficult to stay quiet as America speaks out on the atrocities at the U.S./Mexico border, expect backlash based in truth. Much of the arguments coming from the far-right about migrants are based on xenophobic tropes that have been in use for centuries. You’re not expressing anything new. We’ve heard and debunked all of this before. You folks constantly repeating those tropes don’t make them any truer now than they were back then.
If you can’t keep your thoughts about fears of extinction… Sorry, but we’re going to laugh at that one. Thoughts on white extinction have existed for over a century. One of the biggest proponents of that idea is David Duke, the neo-Klansmen himself. Clearly, even that association with him doesn’t bother many of you. He’s been promoting the idea since the 1960s, yet here you are.
If you find yourself referring to COVID-19 as the “China Virus” just to own the libs or trigger Asian folks in America, you should also expect some backlash. That same language, that you copy from your dear leader, is causing real harm in the Asian community. Asians are being assaulted, harassed, and their businesses are facing constant attacks from bigots all over the country. But go ahead, keep using bigoted language while trying to explain how it isn’t racist.
See? Most of us don’t care about your personal beliefs. It’s when you use those bigoted ideals to attack, dehumanize, and target minority communities that civil society speaks up. More and more Americans every day are refusing to tolerate bigoted and racist behavior. This is no more about freedom of speech than it is about protecting disadvantaged communities from the hateful language coming from a specific contingent of the white delegation.
With Exception, of Course
Obviously, there are many positions of power within American society where your personal beliefs become problematic. Just look at Donald Trump. His bigoted, xenophobic beliefs, driven by the neo-Klansmen Stephen Miller, are having a drastically negative impact on communities of color across the country. In modern history, Asians, Latinos, Black folks, and Indigenous people are suffering much more than they have under various presidents directly because of Trump.
Similarly, if you’re a cop with racist beliefs you’re not convincing anyone that the ideology of superiority doesn’t affect your job on the street. In fact, many cops join the police for the specific purpose of oppressing historically underrepresented communities. Add to that the protection offered by the mafia-like police unions across the country and you’ll begin to see where your bigotry shows itself to the public in general. Again, you may not see it, but we sure as hell do.
Even worse than racist cops are the superiors in police departments with those same views. We’ve seen time and again policies put in place by officers in supervisory positions that disproportionately impact communities of color. We saw it with stop-and-frisk just as we did with the enforcement of mask-wearing policies across the country. As people of color were being brutalized for not wearing masks, white folks were being handed masks by police.
As we continue to move up the line, a person with racist and xenophobic ideologies becomes more problematic. A prosecutor who brings people of color up on serious charges that won’t stick, rather than set them free, they convince them to take a plea deal that incarcerates them and criminalizes them for their entire lives. That is more problematic than the cop who arrested them on bogus charges. When a racist has someone’s life in their hands, their punishment represents that person’s beliefs. We already know how common this problem is in criminal justice.
Add-in to the process a bigoted judge, then the problem becomes even bigger. Judges who hold these views are likely to take sides with a prosecutor, advise them on how to secure a plea deal, and even work with cops on what to say to secure a conviction. When the job is more about rates of conviction than it is about justice, then it behooves bigots to target people of color.
When it comes to doctors, lawyers, educators, school administrators, etc., being a racist becomes problematic as well. Are we expected to sit quietly as we are treated as ‘lesser-than’ at the doctor’s office? Do you want us to be silent in the face of oppression against our children? I have news for you: we won’t. I know I didn’t when I went to war with my kids’ school district and their racist legal team. I didn’t stay silent when doctors blew me off after having a stroke either. No, you won’t catch us being quiet while facing down racists. Neither should anyone.
I’ve always been a proponent of calling out hate. I urge Americans to do so every chance they get. Just know, that while you’re sweating being called out for being racist, maybe about to lose your job over something you said or posted online, I’m cheering those calling you out. Chances are, you’re in a position where your bigotry negatively impacts people of color around you anyway.
Are you mad you lost your job? Maybe your wife (or husband) is divorcing you because of your beliefs. Maybe your friends are turning their backs on you for it. If any of these are bothering you, look no further than the closest mirror. You could argue, to no avail, that those who called you out are the reason for your demise, but reality dictates that it’s you. You’re the reason.
In this modern society, we’re supposed to be so much further ahead than we actually are. The main reason for that is because of racist people like you. Politicians who think as you do drive policy agendas that specifically target underserved and underrepresented communities. In fact, those politicians — and people like you who support them — are the two most important factors in keeping communities of color underserved and underrepresented.
You participate in the oppression of minority communities then turn around and talk about these communities seeking handouts, not lifting themselves up by their bootstraps, and not having a better life in the land of opportunity. It’s a privilege only afforded to the majority population. It’s what you believe you have a right to do. You actually enjoy tripping-up Black and Brown people, stepping on their necks, and howling about how they are animals.
No, I don’t care if you’re racist. But as soon as you try to use it to attack and oppress people of color because of your bullshit superiority complex, civil society is going to have an issue with that. What we are fighting for today is no different than what this nation fought for 60 years ago, 100 years ago, or 150 years ago. The reason we are still fighting is because of people like you.
Arturo is an anti-racist political nerd. He is an upcoming author, journalist, advocate for social justice, and a married father of three. He is a top writer on Medium and a regular contributor to several news media outlets. He writes educational and informative material about systemic racism, white supremacy, and racial injustice. He collaborates with many in Academia in discussing the issues mentioned here. If you’d like to learn more, follow him on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. You can also support his work here.