Your INTENTION may not have been racist but the IMPACT might have been. If you step on someone’s toe, does your INTENTION not to hurt make it hurt any less? Of course not! So have a think for a minute why, with racism, we think that we can pretend the hurt (or IMPACT) didn’t happen?
The world we have all grown up in makes it impossible to be free of racism. We are all learning about it and figuring out how to stop participating in racism.
Saying or doing something that participates in racism does not automatically make you a bad person.
Refusing to reflect on it and try to change makes the situation much worse.
Dr Robin DiAngelo describes prioritising INTENTION over IMPACT as a key symptom of ‘white fragility’.
We will often hear things like ‘people are over sensitive’. But think about how much people of colour have to think about their race, be made to feel ‘other’ or accept racist comments or actions (see personal experiences). This is called ‘racial stress’. If you have had the experience of growing up white and haven’t learned about this subject you probably haven’t realised it exists. You may even feel like it’s something small that’s ok to have to deal with. It is not.
If you are white and you have been accused of saying or doing something racist, the outrage and embarrassment you feel also comes from racial stress. Really sit and feel it. It’s horrible, right? Having to think about your race and how you might affect others when you have been trying to be a good person. You shouldn’t have to deal with this or ANY racial stress, right? Now who is being over sensitive?...
In comparison to the everyday racial stress people of colour have to deal with (and 99% of the time keep quiet about), is it really too much for you to consider this?: Although your INTENTION wasn’t to be offensive, you might just not understand the IMPACT because you haven’t walked in the other person’s shoes?
In the words of an expert:
"In my workshops, I often ask people of colour ‘How often have you given white people feedback on our unaware but inevitable racism? How often has that gone well for you?’. Eye rolling, head shaking and outright laughter follow, along with the consensus of ‘rarely, if ever’. I then ask ‘What would it be like if you could simply give us feedback, have us graciously receive it, reflect, and work to change the behaviour? Recently, a man of colour sighed and said ‘It would be revolutionary’.
I ask my fellow whites to consider the profundity of that response. It would be revolutionary if we could receive, reflect, and work to change the behaviour. On the one hand, the man’s response points to how difficult and fragile we are. But on the other hand, it indicates how simple it can be to take responsibility for our racism. However, we are unlikely to get there if we are operating from the dominant world view that only intentionally mean people can participate in racism”
* This is an affiliate smile link. The price will be the same as on Amazon, but rather than all of the money going to Amazon a small percentage will be given to charity and Lost for Words will receive a small percentage to support the running of the website.