Apparently, there’s no such thing as racism in countries where it has merely been exposed to them! EXPOSED I TELL YOU!
Anyway, the situation I’m about to describe happened a few months ago. I’ll apologise now if anything I say after this point offends anyone, although, if it does, it says more about the offended than it does me. Plus, I doubt anyone is going to read this anyway.
Here’s what happened.
My (white) friend is from a European country and I caught wind of a racist incident that had happened there. I emailed them a link about it and sarcastically added, ‘not all publicity is good publicity‘ and some basic remarks condemning the situation+. This was probably mistake number one. I am not an overly patriotic person, but there’s nothing that riles people up more than suggesting their country is inherently racist (which I wasn’t, but apparently that’s how it came across). Just look at Bill O’Reilly. Or Nigel Farage. Or the man of the hour, Donald Trump.
After that happened, I think they were as dismayed as I was and I was relieved, I guess. And then it happened. They began to insist that their country wasn’t racist. At this point, I was kind of thinking, ‘Do I ignore this or do I keep going?’ because when it comes to racism, I do tend to avoid talking about it with people I know – either because they have no willingness to proceed when I bring it up or because I’d like to avoid conflict. The latter isn’t really a good excuse, so in this instance I put any reservations aside and responded to my friend. I explained that I wasn’t saying the country was racist and that at any rate, I think it was people that were racist and not entire countries.
That was the nice way of putting it.
Following that, I am not sure what happened. Even now I can’t make sense of it all. This is someone I’ve been friends with for almost ten years, and I’ve also been a person of colour for all of those years, so…I am not quite sure if maybe my friend was just ignorant or not aware of what they was saying. At one point they said that calling someone a black [insult] was the same as someone calling a white person a white [insult]. Yeah, because the latter actually happens. It was such a lazy response that I was more irritated than offended.
That was most likely the stage at which I should have bailed out, but I think some part of me wanted to see just how far they would go. After I said that it really wasn’t the same, they got back to me with, ‘No, of course not, but that’s what people think‘.
Yeah, and those people would be racist.
Or not, according to my friend. What do I care though? I’m having a conversation with you and not them. When the initial protests didn’t work, the conversation took an interesting tone. At this point, I had done my own research regarding their country and found that they do in fact have problems with racism – like every damn country on the planet. My friend had an answer for that too. Apparently they were justified in that [their racism] because that particular group of people were violent thugs who didn’t want jobs or to follow the rules!
I was honestly flummoxed. When I tried to explain that yes, that still counted as racism, my friend had an entire war chest of excuses. Apparently, they had no idea what racism was until they were exposed to it by the West. They didn’t understand it! Oh and apparently, racism was an invention of the West. Ergo, it wasn’t their fault if they happened to be racist but also they still weren’t racist. When I reasonably put it to them that what they was saying made little sense, they said that they couldn’t explain it, the same way…that I couldn’t explain how it feels to be called the N word.
They compared not being able to explain how their country is not responsible for racism to me (and, by extension, other black people) not being able to describe how it feels to be called the N word.Their lack of grasp on racism was like me not being able to explain how it feels to be racially abused. Excuse me?
I think it is safe to say that while I immediately called them out on that, I had a somewhat delayed reaction. How do you respond to that? I was kind of wondering what the fuck we were talking about at this point. There were some more offensive comments like, ‘why is it wrong to stare at ethnic minorities when we are just interested‘!! I responded to all of that in a much nicer way than I would if it had been any Tom, Dick or Harry. To my detriment it seems, because that was the end of that discussion.
So I wavered on saying anything else but eventually, I chose to email a bunch of my grievances. I’m pretty sure it was all very low key and calm. Ish. I did say that I have no idea what they expected me to care about whether or not it [the country] was racist when the conversation started with me pointing out an incident that happened in this supposedly racism-free place. I also said that I think it was pretty terrible that they gave no thought to how the person on the receiving end felt. Instead the focus was on absolving an entire country. They started the whole topic (despite the fact that I said NOTHING about the country being racist) because apparently that was the important part. And that kind of said it all. The main thing though, was that I was hurt by the N word comment. Not even for myself, but because this is what black people have to deal with. Ignorance, time and time again. It just made me feel pretty damn sad really. And I felt like it was my fault that this person felt no shame in making such a statement.
My ‘friend’ doesn’t seem to care though. The apology, when it came, was bullshit. They claimed they didn’t know it had upset me. I was honesty like, ARE YOU INSANE? I wrote back instantly and told them that shit was not okay. My so-called-friend ignored it. In previous emails, they basically admitted that they could never understand it [racism]. In essence, racism wasn’t their problem. They had other shit to deal with. That’s fine. White people have problems too, just without the whole extra layer of racism on top. Good for them. What angered me the most is that this person tried to lecture me on racism. If you don’t understand something, what the fuck do you have to say about it that isn’t bullshit?
Oh wait, they had time to bust out that fucking line — “I don’t see colour.”
Sorry. Still Bullshit.
Seriously. Educate yourselves. Having a black, Asian or Hispanic etc friend doesn’t mean you don’t have racist thoughts and tendencies. Ignorance is unacceptable, but I can understand it. That’s the sad part. My friend has only seen a handful of black people. I get that. Had they stopped at saying they didn’t understand, I could buy that. However, they hit me with that N word line so they must know something about racism. I can’t imagine the thinking behind saying it. I actually feel a wave of shame each time I think or talk about this person.
For now, the friendship is at a Code Red. I’ve been civil with them and I will continue to be, but until I get a genuine apology, the friendship will remain downgraded to ‘you’re the one that gets in touch with me.’
Sometimes, a line has to be drawn, and this is mine.