St. Cloud State University’s Office of Equity and Affirmative Action created a 28 Common Racist Attitudes and Behaviors Guide in 2005. I had just discovered it and wanted to share it with you – it’s still so relevant! Here are a few great points taken from the guide – and you can download the full guide here! And don’t forget to check out our free Black History Issue! 3. Reverse Racism. A. “People of color are just as racist as white people.” B. “Affirmative action had a role years ago, but today it’s just reverse racism; now it’s discriminating against white men.” C. “The civil rights movement, when it began, was appropriate, valuable, needed. But it’s gone to the extreme. The playing field is now level. Now the civil rights movement is no longer working for equality but for revenge.” Or D. “Black pride, black power is dangerous. They just want power over white people.” (Include here any reference to pride and empowerment of any people of color.) REALITY CHECK + CONSEQUENCE: A. Let’s first define racism with this formula: Racism =racial prejudice + systemic, institutional power. To say people of color can be racist, denies the power imbalance inherent in racism. Certainly, people of color can be and are prejudiced against white people. That was a part of their societal conditioning. A person of color can act on prejudices to insult or hurt a white person. But there is a difference between being hurt and being oppressed. People of color, as a social group, do not have the societal, institutional power to oppress white people as a group. An individual person of color abusing a white person – while clearly wrong, (no person should be insulted, hurt, etc.) is acting out a personal racial prejudice, not racism. B. This form of denial is based on the false notion that the playing field is now level. When the people with privilege, historical access and advantage are expected to suddenly (in societal evolution time) share some of that power, it is often perceived as discrimination. C+D. C is a statement by Rush Limbaugh. Though, clearly he is no anti-racist, both c+d follow closely on the heels of “reverse racism” and are loaded with white people’s fear of people of color and what would happen if they gained “control.” Embedded here is also the assumption that to be “pro-black” (or any other color) is to be anti- white. (A similar illogical accusation is directed at women who work for an end to violence against women and girls. Women who work to better the lives of women are regularly accused of being “anti-male.”) 4. Blame the Victim. “It’s their fault they can’t get a job, or be manager.” Or “We have advertised everywhere, there just aren’t any qualified people of color for this job.” Or “If he only worked harder, applied himself more, or had a stronger work ethic.” Or “If she just felt better about herself – internalized racism is the real problem here.” OR “She uses racism as an excuse, to divert us from her incompetence.” “If he didn’t go looking for racism everywhere…” (As if racism is so hidden or difficult to uncover that people of color would have to search for it.) REALITY CHECK + CONSEQUENCE: All “blame the victim” behaviors have two things in common. First, they avoid the real problem: racism. Second, they takeaway from the picture the agents of racism, white people and institutions, who either intentionally perpetuate or unintentionally collude with racism. This is similar to agent deletion in discussions of rape. Statements referring to a woman being raped, many by focusing on her clothing or behavior at the time of the rape and delete the male rapist from the picture.) As long as the focus remains on people of color, white people can minimize or dismiss their reactions, and never have to look directly at racism and the whites’ own responsibility or collusion. 7. Don’t Blame Me. “I never owned slaves.” Or “I didn’t vote for David Duke.” Or “None of my family joined the Klan.” Or “I taught my children that racism is wrong.” REALITY CHECK + CONSEQUENCE: Often white people hear blame whenever the issue of racism is brought up, whether or not blame has been placed on whites. As beneficiaries of racism and white privilege, you sometimes take a defensive posture even when you are not being individually blamed. You may personalize the remarks, not directed personally at you. It is the arrogance of your privilege that drags the focus back to whites. When whites are being blamed or personally accused of racist behavior, this defensiveness and denial further alienate you and may preclude you from examining your possible racist behavior. 8. B.W.A.M. “But What About Me. Look how I’ve been hurt, oppressed, exploited…? REALITY CHECK + CONSEQUENCE: This diminishes the experience of people of color by telling our own story of hardship. We lose an opportunity to learn more about the experience of racism from a person of color, while we minimize their experience by trying to make it comparable or less painful than ours. 19. Bending Over Backwards. “Of course, I agree with you.” (Said to a person of color even when I disagree) or “I have to side with Jerome on this.” (Even when Jerome, a man of color, represents opinions counter to mine.) REALITY CHECK + CONSEQUENCE: Your white guilt shows up here as you defer to people of color. The person of color is always right, or you never criticize or challenge a person of color. You try not to notice that you notice they are black or native American or Latina or Asian. You don’t disagree, challenge or question a person of color the way we would a white person. And if you do disagree, you don’t do it with the same conviction or passion that you would display with a white person. Your racism plays out as a different standard for people of color than for white people. If this is your pattern, you can never have a genuine relationship with a person of color. People of color know when you are doing this. Your sincerity, commitment and courage will be rightly questioned. You cannot grow to a deeper level of trust and intimacy with people of color you treat this way.