If you are a raging liberal like myself and want to understand how it feels to be a racist, there is an easy way. In fact, I would argue you, like the rest of us, are likely to do it regularly yourself.
Here’s what I want you to do. Imagine yourself hearing someone use the N-word toward someone who’s black.
What is your instinct here? What have you decided about them? Do you see them as human like you are? Would you listen to anything they might have to say about race issues, much less practically anything at all? Have you created an entire narrative about who they are and what they are worth?
Now stop and think about this again – isn’t the fundamental issue of racism the idea of unfairly putting people in boxes, of stereotyping them, of writing them off as not being human?
Racism is wrong, but how do we expect to end racism when we approve of dehumanization when it’s convenient to our worldview? How is labelling someone a racist more constructive than labeling someone with the N-word?
Same applies to “sexist”, “homophobe”, “fascist” etc.
They label and it is wrong, however if we label them and that’s ok, how do we ever hope to end the cycle of labeling?
Don’t get me wrong – there’s nuance to be had here and I’m not suggesting that we accept racism, or sexism, or homophobia. However I truly believe it’s something to think about, if nothing else in how we approach working to end these “isms”. Maybe labeling is part of the problem, maybe we need to see them as human too and think of more constructive ways to actually engage the sources of the “isms”.
God knows, that’s how we want them to engage the targets of the “isms”.