I’m not racist, but I like candy.
That title looks ridiculous, even though grammatically it’s correct. Saying it out loud it almost sounds like the start of a Seussian rhyme, as though the second line should be “I like beaches because they’re sandy” followed by a picture of a mammal in ridiculous headgear. Normally when we hear “I’m not racist, but…” a mind mentally readies itself to hear something awful. “… Filipino call centres are the worst, they never know what they’re talking about,” or “Indian cab drivers are terrible, they never know where they’re going”. Ultimately, these statements are blanket statements, insulting a whole race based on their job. They’re undeniably racist, and for a long time I’ve wondered why people bothered prefacing it “”I’m Not Racist, But” (INRB) in the first place.
The truth of the matter is, we’re not bad people. We don’t consider ourselves to be racist, or prejudiced, and we are perfectly non-racist people if *other* group would stop being so darn *prejudice we have*. So we use INRB as a way to exclude ourselves from the real racists, whoever they are. We don’t wear pillow cases on our heads, we don’t burn crosses, we aren’t a member of a hate group. We just really hate having to deal with a people of a certain country in a certain situation.
To me, using INRB is like telling someone “I need to tell you something, but first you have to promise that you won’t get mad”. If someone gets offended by what we then say, then it’s their fault since you’re not racist/ they promised not to get mad. It shifts the responsibility for the offense entirely on the person being offended, rather than accepting it for ourselves.
The part we really need to get over is including a whole country as part of the issue that we dislike. Having worked at a call centre myself, I can tell you that there is nothing worse than being unable to make decisions or help people outside of a set script. This, however, is something that can be located all over the world. Shopping in some particular stores will very quickly show that poor customer service can be found in Australia just like anywhere else. If a call centre is located in Russia and still can’t help me with my complaint, I’m not happy. If I find out a call centre is located around the corner from my house and they’re rude, I don’t suddenly invite them to dinner since they’re not from the Philippines. The problem is the company and how they empower and train their staff, and not where they are physically located. The source of your pain is the company you’re trying to deal with, not the country their centre is located in, and through your purchasing decisions is something that you can change.
Since we are using language as a way of distancing ourselves from our own prejudice, part of the solution will have to include changing how and what we say. My suggested solution is this: next time you try to say “I’m not racist, but…” use “I don’t consider myself to be racist, but”. It’s a small change, and I promise it won’t hurt, but it might start to change how you perceive other people, and what we need to do to change the situation.
Written by Editior-in-Chief
Dan is the Editor-in-Chief for The Two Chairs. He is a first generation migrant, where my parents migrated to Australia from Chile only a couple of years before he was born. He believe that there have been some great victories for equality, but more needs to be done at a grass roots level in order to help others change their behaviour. He wants son to grow up in a world where it’s normal to treat others as people instead of according to their gender, race, religion or sexual alignment, and he has joined The Two Chairs to help make that a reality. He looks forward to hearing your contributions to the project.
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