Racism 101

Posted by Sara Spector
(@Sara Spector)

The world held its breath as Korea beat Germany in a stunning World Cup upset – sending both themselves and Mexico on to the next round of games. But what truly shocked viewers was the response of bystanders in Mexico, who celebrated Korea’s feat by pulling down on the corners of their eyes as if mocking the physical appearance of Eastern Asians. This racist display was made without poor intentions, and what started as the celebration of a underdog team quickly turned into an uncomfortable tone-deaf display, which inspired this very article.

Below we unpack some aspects of covert racism which are typically disregarded as innocent banter, but actually present more like obvious microaggressions.

1. No, You Can’t Touch My Hair

I know you may think that my thick, curly locks are beautiful, but asking to touch it is just weird. It makes me feel like some kind of petting zoo animal; a weird, exotic thing that “normal people” just want to touch and gawk at. So no, you can’t touch my hair, just like you can’t feed me seeds and grain out of the palm of your hand.

2. No, You Can’t Wear My Cultural Garb

Wouldn’t it be fun to take a trip to Japan and get to dress up like a real geisha? Of course it would! As long as your definition of “fun” means stupidly racist and wildly offensive. We all agree that dressing up in blackface is not okay, right? So then why do we think it’s okay to put on a kimono and cake yourself in white powder and red lipstick while pouting your lips and squinting your eyes? When you wear traditional clothing from a culture that is not your own, you’re choosing to embrace one small, purely physical aspect of that culture rather than embrace the history and experience of an entire group of people. Let’s be real, you didn’t dress up as a geisha or a maiko to immerse yourself Japanese culture; you did it for the Instagram likes.

3. Yes, You Can Celebrate My Culture if You Give Credit Where Credit is Due

We all know Cinco de Mayo is a super fun day of shameless partying where you’re supposed to down as much tequila as physically possible. But did you also know that the holiday is meant to commemorate the Mexican victory over the French Empire at the Battle of Puebla under the leadership of renowned general Ignacio Zaragoza? No? Maybe you did know that, but you forgot about it after the 5th shot of Patron. Celebrating another culture’s holiday without showing respect for the true meaning behind it is just another example of how people are constantly embracing the “fun” aspects of a race, ethnicity, or religion, without appreciating the full picture. Not to get too gruesome, but it’s kind of like if the only thing I liked about you was the color of your eyes, so I plucked them out of your head and tossed the rest of your body to the side. Just saying.

4. No, I’m Not the Spokesperson for All Things Black, Asian, Hispanic, etc.

Okay, so like, just because I’m black doesn’t mean I’m MLK. Yeah, I definitely know more about my culture’s or race’s experience than you do, but just because I’ve lived my life as (x-race) doesn’t mean I know everything there is to know about every single (x-raced person’s) life story. It sucks that you don’t know more people of color, but don’t come to me with all of your questions and concerns. I’m not here to be the spokesperson for my race. I’m just here to live my life, hang with my friends, and hopefully get rich enough one day to buy myself a mansion on some remote island, far away from all of this ignorant bullshit.

5. Stop Guessing My Race

Just… stop. Seriously. If you don’t know what kind of brown I am, or which of the 3 Asian countries you actually know about my family is from, keep your mouth shut. Thanks.

6. No, I don’t know every other Black person

“Oh! You’re from Texas? You must know my cousin’s college roommate Tyrone! He’s-uh-African American, too.” No way! That’s so cool about your cousin’s former roommate being black! Unfortunately, there’s about 28.3 million people living in Texas, and about 4 million of them are black, so it’ll probably be a while before I meet him. Thanks for asking though! (Not).

7. Stop Referring to Africa as a Country

I honestly don’t know where to draw the line between stupid and ignorant on this one. 3rd graders can get this, you guys. Come on. Just be better.

8. How do you say “Hello” in Chinese?

I don’t know, how do you say “Stop being such an idiot” in English?

9. “The most qualified person should get the job,” “Anyone can succeed if they work hard enough,” or anything else that implies that affirmative action is unfair or that there is equal opportunity for people of color.

I’m just gonna respond to this one with this cartoon:

10. “I don’t see color,” “There’s only one race: the human race,” or anything else implying color blindness.

I am a person of color. Despite all of the pity you may feel toward me because of this fact, I love my race. I love the culture, tradition, and unique experience that comes as a part of being who I am. You know what I don’t love? Being thought of only as a member of my race, or even worse, having people pretend that my racial identity doesn’t matter. I don’t want you to constantly focus on the color of my skin, but I especially don’t want you to act like it’s not even there. We are people of color. See us. Hear us. Respect us.

Note: I am a white, female writer. The first person in this article is meant to create a more personalized voice and to reach readers on an individual, emotional level. I do not pretend to have experienced any of the racial microaggressions outlined in this article, nor am I able to personally identify with the experiences of people of color.


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