Overt or Covert – it’s all racism, and it’s in all our corners


We have a lot of covert racism where I live. Not because I live in the the worst city ever, but because racism is everywhere. We have a lot of overt racism, too – even by long time TV anchors – who exhibit blatant racist thinking and benevolent racist thinking.

The above linked news story has created a lot of conversation in social media. On FB people are coming out of the woodwork to defend or rail against the TV anchor. Many of the defenders are trying to be aware and clued in, and still end up being wrong, deluded, and/or engaging in racist thinking. This is particularly evident when they take up along geographical lines.

So many want to believe that their area of choice to live, or their birth city, or their adopted city is so much better than [where they used to live/everywhere else]. And you know what? Your favourite place isn’t spared from being racist because it exists within a country that has systemic racism. You are not spared from being racist even if you’re an aware, clued in white person. You can mitigate the effects, you can consciously choose appropriate words and actions, but we live in a racist society, built on white supremacy, and nobody gets a pass.

You see folks from the North and South making generalizations about those who live on the other side of the Mason-Dixon line. Those generalizations are mostly unfavourable to the other. We love to engage in othering people we perceive as lesser than. And we’re all a bunch of deluded liars because white privilege and racism are institutionalized. I live in the North – being on “the right side of the Civil War” was a big thing in elementary school. The North was on the winning side, not morally superior side. In the South they taught it was only about state’s rights and who doesn’t want that in a Republic? The South was on the losing side, not the indignantly altruistic side. As if one side was more or less than racist than the other. Not so, as evidenced by the prevalence of racism today. Divisive stone throwing hurts the cause of dismantling the system of racism. It is a distraction, used to either center the assumed “good alliness” of a city or region over those other people who are racist, or to derail the conversation entirely. Again racism is everywhere. You cannot escape, only mitigate.

Overt versus covert racism, which is better? The obvious answer is neither, but folks who engage in the covert variety like to think they are less racist. Overt racism such as using racial and ethnic slurs and crossing the street when you see a brown or black person walking toward you is pretty easy to spot. Covert racism, where you don’t use use the slurs because it isn’t polite and you don’t cross the street but you do pull your bag in closer (even if you realize what you’re doing and release your grip) is harder to detect, but it is still rooted in racist thinking. And it isn’t “better racism”, or “less racist”. It is not non-racist behaviour.

Covert racism holds in its grasp the polite racist, too. My dad was the ultimate polite racist, abstaining from using racist and ethnic slurs in conversation. We didn’t “use those words” because it wasn’t polite, not because they weren’t true. In private he certainly believed they were true, even without using the slurs, but he didn’t say them because manners. Manners were the most important thing. And my dad was considered a nice guy, friendly, would help you out of a jam regardless of race, but still he was a racist. Period. He just was. I fight the racist thinking I was raised with. I try to mitigate the effects of the society I live in every day. That doesn’t mean I’ve eradicated it all and can easy-breeze through all of my days. If I ever think that then I’m lying to myself. I’d like for white people to stop lying to themselves about racism.

The difference one sees from city to city and region to region is generally a difference in covert and overt racism. That isn’t to say that some places aren’t better than others. They absolutely are. But in pockets not swaths. And nowhere in this country is it free of racism. Maybe folks could keep that in mind when they get on their geographical high horses. That would be nice.

 

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