The Low Cost of Being Racist
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Hotel owner tells Hispanic workers to change names. You know, you’d think that at some point in this series of increasingly bad decisions it would have occurred to him that he was creating a public relations nightmare, if nothing else. But I guess this is one of those times where bigotry trumped any semblance of critical thinking skills. And it’s easy to say that being a bigot is a state of mind devoid of logic in the first place, but it’s more complex than that. I’m certain that this man (and all the people like him) are convinced that their behavior isn’t based in racism or is even problematic. They really believe that they are in the right and it’s other people who lack logic. And it’s not until there are real consequences that they begin to consider the possibility that maybe, possibly, perhaps their thought process is flawed. But that’s an uncomfortable thought pattern and not necessarily one they follow for long so real change is rare. Why? Because sooner or later other people who know them (or who just agree with them) start saying things like “So and so is a good man. He’s not a racist.” or “They are just a product of their times. You have to understand.” or even (and this one is my favorite) “That’s not real racism. Real racism is…” because some folks think that it takes a burning cross, rope, and a tree before it’s real racism.
Racism doesn’t work that way of course, but it might as well when you consider that other than the initial public censure someone like this hotel owner faces, there’s not much in the way of consequences for most racist behavior. And no, I’m not advocating time in the stocks or whatever horrible physical punishment someone wants to liken to being held accountable. All I’m saying is stop giving out those excuses and justifications and free passes because it’s not racist enough for whatever standard would make it difficult to look a POC in the eye while retaining a relationship with the person whose bad behavior you’re excusing. I won’t even get into whether or not someone should boycott businesses/books/other goods and services based on individual bigoted actions. That’s a personal decision. I just want the minimum cost for engaging in racist actions to be acknowledgment that the action is racist. Yes, there is no way to peek inside someone’s heart and know for sure that their motivation was conscious racism, but it’s not about the intent, it’s about the impact. So, regardless of what you know about your friend, relative, significant other, favorite comedian, other unnamed person connected to your life in some way…stop making excuses for their bad behavior. Personal accountability isn’t toxic even when it’s being taken for toxic behavior.