You might be acting like a bigot – and never mean to.

There’s a correlary to the “Nice White Guy” post I made a while back. It’s implied, but worth explicitly calling out.

Many of us are familiar with the problems that people with privilege have with understanding structural racism versus personal racism. The latter is easy to identify – they say things like this asshat.

But many people have a much harder time identifying structural racism, which is far, far more common and insiduous. It could be something like the way funding of classrooms from property taxes perpetuates the problems of redlining without any conscious effort, or how racial profiling of traffic stops creates the selection bias that creates the results that supposedly “justifying” racial profiling.

Because it’s a hard task to get white people (and it’s almost always white people) to accept that structural racism creates a system where people who aren’t personally racist can act in horribly racist ways. 1

A similar problem occurs when otherwise sympathetic (but still privilege-blinded) allies propose their suggestions for solving problems… which as I pointed out would work great for people with privilege, but would fail spectacuarly for those without privilege.

The problem is not just that it’s hard for privileged folks to see the problems, but a larger problem is that it becomes interpreted as a personal attack.

It is extremely difficult to understand that one’s privilege and/or structural racism can not only blind you to racism, but that you perpetuate it without meaning to.

And so any critique, any demonstration of the racist system, gets taken personally by the person with privilege.

I’ve not only seen this myself, but I’ve done it myself. It is a frustratingly difficult task to not only objectively evaluate oneself 2, but to even further be able to realize that your actions (and ideas) may produce results diametrically opposed to the ideals that you espouse.

But trust me.

It’s not personal.

Learning that racism is bad and you should do something about it is the first step.

Not taking it personally is the second.

1 This goes for sexism, homophobia, transphobia, and so on as well.
2 Lots of people claim to… emphasis once again on claim.