Telling People I’m a Racist

We are talking about racism in another class I am taking this semester as well as this one. The other day the professor asked us if anyone in the class considered themselves to be racist. I raised my hand because of the Tatum article we all read at the beginning of this class. As soon as I raised my hand I wished I hadn’t. No one else in the class had put their hands in the air (not that I expected them to) but I felt so embarrassed for admitting to them that I was a racist. I tried to explain why and I spoke about the Tatum article so I do not think anyone in the class considered me to be extremely prejudiced but I felt like I allowed twenty-five (0r so) people to see a part of me that I would rather keep hidden.

Part of me was glad that I raised my hand and said I was a racist because I was able to explain and hopefully further inform the people in the class on racism, but the other part of me wished I hadn’t said anything at all. This other class is nothing like our contemporary racism class. I don’t feel as safe saying what I think or how I feel in that class but at the same time I want to share the knowledge I have gained from our class readings and discussions. I think it’s really hard to know where to draw the line on what to say in each situation I encounter that deals with race and I think that is what makes talking about race and racism so uncomfortable for me.

6 thoughts on “Telling People I’m a Racist”

  1. I remember originally viewing this post last spring when I took this class and discussing throughout the semester how important it is that others take the same leap that Kristin so boldly did. Admitting to yourself that you could be or that you are a racist is difficult enough, let alone admitting something so damning in any type of social setting. On a personal level, it is difficult to admit to yourself that you could be capable of such thoughts or that you enjoy advantages because of your race and/or gender. On a social level…well you saw what Connie wrote in the previous comment. It is truly a horrible thing in our society to be called a racist, so to label yourself as such doesn’t seem to make much sense. It is important to remember, however, that it is OK to be racist. To admit you are racist is not admitting to being a hateful person, but rather admitting that you are an ignorant person. By admitting you are a racist and taking this class shows that you are willing to do something about your ignorance. Admission is merely one of many steps towards engaging in constructive and meaningful dialogue about racism. Without this initial acknowledgment of your own biases, the personal and intellectual growth necessary to begin truly understanding the issues at hand will simply not happen.

  2. I agree with the other commenters. I really applaud your sort of automatic response to the question. I think it is a good automatic response to have because Whites are all racists, because we (I am white too) are part of a racist system and receive unearned advantages based on our race. Thinking about the response you got, however, I’m disappointed. It seems like the professor shouldn’t have left you hanging. Perhaps he or she was taken aback, or maybe he or she did feel they had time in the lesson plan to stop and process your response. In any case, given the lack of follow-up, I wonder how effective a point was made to other people in the class. Most whites view being called a racist as something truly horrible (worse than a murderer – where did I read that?). So, I wonder what, specifically, other students in the class thought of your response and what they did or didn’t learn from it. What do others think?

  3. Good for you Kristin! This is exactly the kind of response we need to see in classes at Muhlenberg in order to get people more comfortable in taking about the issue of racism as it affects our lives on campus. If I were you I would consider talking to this professor privately to find out why he did not want to expand on this conversation.

  4. Hi Kristin! I am so excited that this happened because it clearly showed that you are becoming so much more comfortable with your understanding of racism – enough to speak up in class about it! The very situation in which you were the only person in the class to raise your hand speaks volumes about how effective this class has been, as well as how far there is still to go – as demonstrated by the lack of response from the rest of the class. I was very surprised to hear about the response from the professor, as I value [his/her discipline] as a discipline that engages in discussions such as these.

  5. go Kristin !! I think it is very important and very brave of you to do that. And I agree with Tennille it is very difficult to do but its a great opportunity for other students to follow and hopefully open up and start talking about this.

  6. I think it is important to remember that everyone is afraid to talk about race. It’s not comfortable for anyone; however, you stepping up and saying something to the class gives others a chance to open up, learn, and respond to any comments you made or discussions you provoked. If there is one thing that we as individuals can do to reduce racism and prejudice, it is to talk about it. You should be proud that you were willing to put yourself out there to expand your knowledge to your other classmates.

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