I Hate Being Racist

July 23, 2013

Yes, even with all these other white people coming out of the woodwork to voice their opinions on the Zimmerman verdict, I feel compelled to write something. Actually, that’s not entirely accurate; what I have to say wasn’t really prompted by Trayvon Martin’s murder.

Surprise, surprise: I actually encounter black people in my daily life. At work, promoting organic foods. On the street, as I’m walking or running. Maybe even sleeping on the top bunk as I’m camped out in the hostel. This should come as no shock to anyone living in America. What I have to say next, however, a few might rebuke.

I am completely racist. Not because I’m outwardly racist, but simply because I can’t control my gut reactions when seeing an unknown black person in different situations. And the fact that I’m inwardly suspicious of them – for no reason whatever – disgusts me. Absolutely makes me hate myself, my race, my upbringing, my family, and brings to mind nearly every time I’ve felt that way.

For those who actually know me, this might be very surprising. After all, I make friends from different countries and I’m definitely not an angry or spiteful person. But I am a Texan. I grew up in the South. Even if it was the big city, I was exposed to my fair share of hate: the Boy Scout who thought telling an n-word joke would be a good icebreaker for our first day staffing leadership camp; sentiments from my father, who strongly supports profiling. The mystery is: I have hated seeing this kind of behavior for as long as I can remember (camp was when I was 13), and yet somehow, some trace of equating black people with suspicious behavior was engrained into my mind. From movies? TV? Conversations overheard by relatives I simply don’t remember?

I honestly don’t know. But for us as a nation to have an honest discussion about race, people like me need to be honest. Without trying to maintain modesty, I consider myself a good person. In terms of actions. That’s not to say I haven’t done stupid downright ignorant things. But I regretted them, and tried to change. Nevertheless, if someone like me can still hold racist subconscious inclinations, even if he NEVER acts on them, then no, we’re not living in a post-racial world. I may never tell anyone how I feel, but some may be intuitive, and be influenced by my behavior, however subtle.

As much as I hate exposing myself in this way, I’d better give a few examples. I was walking across Balboa Park in San Diego. Middle of the day, a few people about. White people pass by me. I don’t give them a second glance. One black person passes by. I feel the need to turn around, to “check” on him. I don’t, of course, but I feel like I should. Why?

I’m staying in a hostel. A variety of people from different countries are around. One black man is sleeping on the bunk over mine. When I wake up and unlock the locker to get my computer in the morning, I usually just leave it unlocked, as I’m pretty close (in the next room, and everyone here is a traveler). My bunkmate is still sleeping. If he had been white, I don’t think I would have hesitated to just walk out the door, leaving the locker open. But I did hesitate. I still left it unlocked, but I hesitated. Why?

As I’ve been aware of this behavior for over twenty years, I had thought I could simply get rid of these racist impulses with time and decent behavior. But I haven’t, and it hurts me.

One Response to I Hate Being Racist

  1. TCF on August 20, 2013 at 6:31 pm

    Hi. I’m a black guy (lived in Tokyo for Five years Teaching English. . .and may go back soon heh)

    I think that you really shouldn’t worry about it.

    It’s hard to put this into words but, most black folk kind of expect all of that from white people. . .hell I even get the same feelings myself sometimes. See I don’t dress in a way that would draw suspicion. . .you know, the “urban clothing” etc etc. . .

    but really, don’t hate your self for that, just realized that you were raised that way. . . being black growing up in America, then going to college in basically and all white area and dealing with racist stuff, while getting to know those people, then traveling to Japan and living there for years really just made me realize that its all not that big of a deal.

    I’d just just relax and go easy on yourself. . .just don’t say anything stupid out loud hehe.

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