Christmas is undoubtedly a time to spend with family. I’m sure many of you, like myself, spent Christmas day in the presence of numerous cousins, aunties, uncles and grandparents. You end up in a food coma after consuming your body weight in pigs in blankets roasted parsnips and yule log (my FAV), along with copious amounts of alcohol. Yet, Christmas can also be a stressful time; the roast potatoes get burnt, your dad gets too drunk and starts embarrassing himself, or… that one relative won’t stop making racist ‘jokes’ or offensive comments making everyone feel uncomfortable. We come to expect it – there’s even the ‘take a shot every time a distant relative says something racist and try not to die’ Christmas drinking game.
Now, what annoys me is when people come to me with stories of their racist relative. The message / conversation usually goes: ‘Omg you’ll never guess what *relative* said at Christmas…’ and then they’ll proceed to explain whatever the comment was and how angry and upset it made them. Yet when asked if they confronted / challenged the person, 9 times out of 10 the answer will be no. Here is where I have a problem. I don’t want to hear about your racist relative if you’ve chosen to bite your tongue and not confront them. Choosing to say nothing is a valid response, I understand that not everyone feels comfortable speaking out and not everyone wants to risk causing an argument, especially on Christmas day. However, telling me about your racist relative, while it might make you feel more ‘woke’ or boost your sense of morality, it just reminds me of the workings of everyday racism in our society, something I’m already well aware of.
While open racism from older generations may seem shocking to some, these are experiences that POC, like myself, live through on a daily basis. I’m pretty sure that your anecdote will come as no shock to any black person. It will be nothing new and won’t shed light on or help the situation. It might actually cause more emotional upset or distress. There’s also the underlying hypocrisy; you can’t have been that outraged and upset if you literally did nothing. In my eyes, passivity aligns with complicity. By refusing to speak out, you are aligning yourself with the perpetrator. By choosing to remain silent, you are allowing the system to continue. Racist comments are unacceptable however old someone may be and challenging someone’s views does not always have to end in confrontation. I agree that we must all choose our battles; I don’t expect everyone to feel as strongly as me about the same issues. It’s great that we’re all different and are all passionate about different things. However, when people tell me about their racist relative who they failed to confront / challenge / try and educate, it feels like they’re trying to transfer the emotional burden of tackling racism onto POC themselves, who are the victims.
This situation doesn’t just apply over the festive period. I feel the same way when white people tell me about how shocked / appalled / angry / sad they were when they saw a white person with dreadlocks / witnessed someone touch my hair in the street / heard their friend casually singing the n-word. Yet, these same people, when faced with the opportunity to call out or stand up to racism in these situations, remained silent and ultimately did nothing. This is white privilege. This is white passivity. This is what I have no time for.
I am a strong advocate of education and discussion on race issues (which is quite obvious from this blog), but I have no time for passivity. Racism isn’t a problem that needs to be tackled solely by the black community. White people can educate others on racism and actively stand up against it without claiming the experiences of black people, or delegitimizing their voices. So…. if you wanna tell me about how you actively confronted your racist relative over Christmas IM ALL EARS! But if you just want to remind me about everyday racism or macroaggressions then don’t worry I’m already well aware.