Ten Responses to Difficult Questions About Race

Arguing with close family members or friends is uncomfortable at the best of times, but a highly charged topic like race can cause a lot of tension in a household. Sometimes when the person you’re arguing with sees you becoming emotional or flustered, they take this as a sign of defeat. This can be extremely frustrating, and make you question yourself and your beliefs. A lot of young people are deciding to confront their loved ones about racial issues for the first time, so here are ten ways of responding to those really difficult questions:

 

  1. ‘Why are we protesting in the UK? Racism isn’t as bad here as it is in the US.’

Racism manifests itself in less overt ways here than in America, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t still a huge issue that needs addressing. Quite often we tell ourselves that racism isn’t as bad here to feel a sense of relief: well done us for not being as bad as the US. But to fail to acknowledge both the systemic and individual racism that happens in the UK is to deny the experiences of millions of people.

https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2018/dec/02/revealed-the-stark-evidence-of-everyday-racial-bias-in-britain

https://graziadaily.co.uk/life/real-life/racism-uk/

  1. ‘I don’t see colour/race. I’m colour blind. How can I say racist things if I don’t see colour? And I have black friends!’

To be ‘colour blind’ when it comes to race is to, A) dismiss the unique experiences of people of colour, and B) fail to acknowledge that, although you aren’t deliberately racist, racism is so embedded in our society that we all have unconscious biases. By saying you can’t see race, you’re giving yourself a ‘get out of jail free card’ to not address your own biases. And having minority ethnic friends does NOT make you anti-racist!

https://www.forbes.com/sites/janicegassam/2019/02/15/why-the-i-dont-see-color-mantra-is-hurting-diversity-and-inclusion-efforts/#72a4189a2c8d

  1. ‘What even is white privilege? And how can I be privileged if I’ve faced hardships in my life?’

It’s sometimes easier to define white privilege as what it is not. White privilege isn’t suggesting that no white person faces struggle, or that the accomplishments of white people are undeserved. It is not about inciting white guilt. White privilege has moved on from white people having certain legal advantages, to mean the psychological and systemic privileges that can be hard to understand. It is the idea that white people have certain privileges that POC don’t, just because they are white. A very common example is “flesh-coloured” plasters that only match the skin colour of white people.

https://www.tolerance.org/magazine/fall-2018/what-is-white-privilege-really

  1. ‘Why can’t you be racist towards white people? Reverse racism is a real thing.’

Discrimination towards white people because of their race can happen, and it is undeniably a terrible thing. But this discrimination is not systemic – it happens on an individual basis. People can often see racism in a fairly one-dimensional way – it is simply discrimination based on skin colour. However, discrimination against white people does not have the power to affect the white person’s privileges as a white person or their economic/social/political status and is therefore not considered racist.

http://www.aclrc.com/myth-of-reverse-racism

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/feb/16/white-fragility-racism-interview-robin-diangelo

  1. ‘Why are people attacking the police? Most police officers are good people, it’s just a few bad apples.’

Saying that racist acts by individual police officers should not reflect the overall police force fails to acknowledge institutional racism. It also allows those ‘good’ police officers who see their colleagues discriminate against POC and do nothing to get away with not raising these issues with the higher-ups. Also, congratulating police officers for not getting violent with protestors is undermining to the anti-police brutality movement. It is not something the police should be congratulated for, it is something they should just do.

https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2019/feb/22/institutional-racism-britain-stephen-lawrence-inquiry-20-years

  1. ‘I support people protesting peacefully, but I don’t understand why people are looting and vandalising property? And don’t even get me started on the lack of social distancing!’

Looting is uncomfortable for everyone to see. And it is likely that many people are doing it for their own selfish reasons. But try to understand why it is happening. Black people have tried time after time to peacefully protest against police brutality but have been ignored or abused for doing so. Take Colin Kaepernick, for example, who took a knee to protest police brutality in the US at the NFL and was met with an onslaught of abuse. So, can you blame black people for getting tired of this and wanting to take a different approach? The people out there protesting obviously don’t want to spread coronavirus. No one is going out there for a laugh. They’re doing this to kickstart a change that is desperately needed. Ask yourself if you’re more uncomfortable with destruction of property or the loss of black lives.

https://www.latimes.com/opinion/story/2020-05-30/dont-understand-the-protests-what-youre-seeing-is-people-pushed-to-the-edge

  1. ‘Why can’t we just go back to normal? This is just a big fuss over nothing!’

This is not an overreaction. It is uncomfortable to witness, but this is reality. If you’re silent or choose to pretend these things aren’t happening, you are complicit in racism. Discomfort has to be pushed to the side, and it must be realised that the incidences of racism that we are hearing about more and more often happen every day to POC. And so, while this might not be normal for you, the fight has been ongoing for POC.

https://www.instagram.com/p/CA6A3Usl5c4/

  1. ‘Isn’t the term ‘Black Lives Matter’ discriminatory? Surely all lives matter?’

If I said ‘I love cookies’, would that mean I didn’t love cake? Of course not. Saying ‘black lives matter’ isn’t saying that other lives don’t matter. It is obvious that all lives matter, and so saying it undermines the cause of the BLM movement. Right now, as those most affected by racial inequalities, we’re drawing attention to black lives in particular.

  1. ‘Is this really what George Floyd would have wanted? Didn’t Martin Luther King disapprove of violence?’

Don’t put words into the mouths of black people who have died at the hands of the violence that BLM are protesting against. Yes, MLK did prefer peaceful protests, but any way black people protest will produce violent and angry reactions, whether it’s peaceful or not. Don’t speak for these people when we have no idea how they would respond to what is happening right now.

https://www.instagram.com/p/CBAXPQ6lGAS/

  1. ‘George Floyd was on drugs, and he had previous criminal charges. Why are we making him into a martyr?’

There are accusations that George Floyd had been drinking or had consumed drugs before he died. Some people are bringing up previous instances of criminality. But there is no justification for the amount of force Derek Chauvin used on George Floyd’s neck. Coroners have revealed that the reason George Floyd died was because of asphyxiation. We remember George Floyd and all other black people who have been murdered by police officers to stop these deaths happening to any other black people in the future.

https://merryjane.com/news/george-floyds-death-ruled-a-homicide-and-drug-use-had-nothing-to-do-with-it

 

It’s not an exhaustive list (and you might not completely agree with all of it), but hopefully that provides some responses to difficult questions you might be faced with. Clarify both stances to get rid of any chances of miscommunication and listen to their perspective the way you would want them to listen to yours. Don’t back down when things start to get uncomfortable. You’ve got this!

 

Words By: Hannah Martin 

Edited By: Charlotte Watt