By Brian Cubbage
Never mind, of course, that the people who do these bad things are responsible for what they say, think, and do, too. Never mind, of course, that the people who actually do racist, sexist things are emboldened and enabled by the way that good folks who would never, ever in a million years think of doing such things continually blame their victims and not them. No, racists and rapists are just a fact of life in your worldview, like severe weather; women and people of color have to dodge them, take cover, be on the lookout, but we certainly can’t think that there’s something we might do about them.
Some of you get angry when I talk like this. You protest that you would never do racist things or commit rape. You are just making an observation. You don’t mean to say anything racist or sexist. Then I point out to you the difference between intent and impact. You might not mean to say racist things, but the things you are saying just are racist. The very fact that you have to appeal to the purity of your intentions to cleanse your words should provide you with a hint. Neither your good intentions or mine have magical powers. If you said something that was racist, your good intentions, assuming they are good, mean at best that you need to be far more careful in what you say and think. Learn from it in all humility and try to do better next time. Trust me, I’ve been there many times.
Some of you get even angrier at being told this. How unfair, you protest! Isn’t it a free country anymore? Now I have to police what I say and think? Yes, of course you do! I was raised in rural Kentucky to believe that people are supposed to think carefully before they say things and consider the impact my words have on others. This is just what good people do. However hard it is in practice, it isn’t all that complicated a concept. Why is this somehow forgotten, though, when the others aren’t other white people? Do you really want or need me to answer that question out loud?