I have something of a reputation of being a woke scold, but I honestly believe (deep down) that people usually don’t intend to be jerks when they offend marginalized groups. Many people simply don’t know any better, and that’s especially true for white women, who have never encountered a problem in their pampered and privileged existences.
The greater problem arises when, instead of learning that using such and such word is offensive or that calling your friend this kind of name is effed up — the person comes up with every excuse ever to defend themselves.
Look, I know it’s a pain in the butt to acknowledge when we’re wrong about something. We all have some pride we want to preserve and it’s a rough blow when someone says, “UM, ACTUALLY YOU SHOULDN’T SAY THAT AS A WHITE WOMAN” when we only had good intentions.
But here’s the deal: We all screw up and we need to know when we screw up. So here are 11 things you are often caught saying or doing that you didn’t realize are actually super offensive. Do NOT come into the comment section and flap your lips about being innocent of these microaggressions.
#1. “As long as you’re healthy!”
You’re probably wondering how caring about your friend’s health is so offensive. Well, think of it this way: Overweight people are constantly being told that they way they look is wrong, the way they eat is wrong and they way they do everything is wrong…and it’s all on them.
So when that overweight friend of yours falls into something like fat-positivity, you might be inclined to support their positive body image with one exception: Be healthy.
Listen, health doesn’t have a certain look. And it aint Black folks pulling this ignorant shit. It’s affluent white women.
There are overweight people who have “healthier” lifestyles than skinny people, but nobody is making sure to tell a skinny person to be healthy! Plus, this comes across as super condescending.
#2. Saying protected Black words like “nigga” or “yo yo” just because you’re quoting a rap song/[insert excuse]
There are some of us who are totally down with their non-white friends throwing around N-words or yo-yos like it’s the most chill thing in the world…but that doesn’t apply to everyone. And certainly not white women.
So that new Black person you met through a friend? Yeah, might not be down with you using it around them. If you feel the urge to quote a rap song because you’re in proximity of a diverse person, stop that shit dead.
Oh, and just because you’re dating someone Black doesn’t mean that you have the license to use “nigga” as you please either. If you think that it’s no big deal, don’t be surprised when you say it around the wrong person and get a brutal call out…or worse.
#3. “I don’t see race” or “I don’t care what color you are”
This is a really common one — it’s white women’s go-to response whenever someone points out how we’re being racist. Look, I get where you’re coming from. You’re trying to show that you don’t judge people by their skin color and that you’re not racist.
But the thing is, you can’t not see color. It’s literally impossible. You see color because you’re human. And while you may not think of yourself as racist, you are. All white folks are. We’re raised in a racist society and that inevitably rubs off on us.
When you say “I don’t see race,” what you’re really saying is that you’re colorblind, which is an integral part of white supremacy. You’re erasing marginalized folks’ culture and identity by pretending it doesn’t exist. You’re saying that their culture and experiences are completely invisible to you, which is (hopefully) the opposite of what you intended.
The reality is that race definitely matters. It’s a huge part of our identity and should be respected as such. So instead of denying it, why not try to learn about your racism and what you can do to combat it?
#4. Calling someone a “tranny,” even if you have nothing against transgender people
This word needs to die forever. I’m looking at you, rednecks who claim you meant your car’s gear shifting system or whatever.
Stop dehumanizing transgender people. The transgender community is subjected to so much violence, especially transgender women, and especially transgender women of color.
Transgender women are people who deserve respect, period. You might not mean to sound like a jerk but, guess what, you did.
#5. “We’re all the same, we’re all human.”
The thing is, we already know we’re all human. We’re not trying to act like we’re not. But the point is, we experience the world in different ways because we are not all the same. What you’re effectively saying is that you think race is unimportant and that you don’t see it as a factor, which is a core belief sustaining white supremacy (see #3).
#6. “You’re pretty for a [insert backhanded compliment here]”
This is definitely a commonly heard “compliment” for young Black women, especially ones with dark skin. Saying that someone is pretty for a dark girl or pretty for a fat girl or pretty for an anything is the ultimate backhanded compliment.
This one guarantees that someone will leave feeling insulted — not beautiful — even if they don’t show any offense. Why can’t white women understand this?
#7. “Why do you have to make everything about race?”
This is a form of gaslighting, where you try to make someone feel like they’re being unreasonable for bringing up race. You’re telling a marginalized folk that the very real experiences they have of racism are not valid and that they’re just making stuff up.
The thing is, race is always a factor and always will be in a white supremacist system, whether you want to acknowledge it or not. It’s baked into the very fabric of reality, and you can’t just sweep it under the rug and pretend it doesn’t exist.
#8. “Of course you got that kind of attention, look at you!”
Marginalized girls often get a lot of unwanted cat-calls and experience other acts of sexual harassment in public. Unfortunately, I’ve witnessed girls complaining about this only to receive a laugh and a shrug from white women, blaming their body, their outfit, etc for this unwanted attention.
Uh, complimenting the way your friend’s butt looks in a pair of shorts won’t make them feel better after their butt was just grabbed by a stranger. You might mean it as a compliment, and you might just be trying to say that your friend is hot, but this same mentality plays into rape culture in a really icky way. So let’s…not.
#9. Offensive costumes for Halloween or other events
This is a big one in that almost every white woman in existence are trampling all over every dignity ever thought to exist — yearly! No, you can’t appropriate drag and Black culture for your “slutty” outfit. No, it’s not cool to adorn yourself in sacred Native American relics and do a tribal dance. Stop.
#10. “I’m not racist, I have black friends!”
When someone calls you out on your racism/homophobia/transphobia/etc, your first instinct is to find someone in that marginalized group that you can point to and say, “See? I’m not racist/homophobic/transphobic/etc because I have a Black friend/gay friend/trans friend!” This is what’s known as the “not racist” defense, and it’s one of the weakest ones out there. It’s like saying “I’m not sexist, I have several female friends.”
This is one of the most common microaggressions white women commit against marginalized folks, especially people of color. The truth is, you are racist even if you have Black friends. In fact, sometimes it’s even more difficult to see your own racism when you have black friends because you think, “Well, I couldn’t be racist…I have Black friends.”
You can have black friends and still be racist. Just because you like or even love someone of a different race doesn’t mean you don’t hold racist beliefs. Racism is inherent to all white folks, like gravity.
#11. Saying that something is gay or calling yourself a fag hag
Yes, cool, your BFF is a gay dude and you are all about LGBTQ rights. Nice. It’s still pretty sus to call things gay or casually throw around the F-word. Not a good look.
Also, just because your one friend is down with you calling yourself a fag hag (or the fact that some insensitive jerk created a fag hag pageant) doesn’t mean that every other gay person on the planet does, nor does it man that they should be cool with it. Your friend =/= every gay person ever.
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