An important message
sometimes i think there are way too many people who mostly understand "racist" as something like:
1) Racism is bad.
2) I am not a bad person.
3) Therefore, I'm not racist.
4) Lather, rinse, repeat.
I wonder, sometimes, what it is that makes people think that being a generally good person is a magical shield against being racist (and/or sexist, homophobic, or otherwise *ist). I mean, I know a bunch of people, myself included, who would think of themselves as good people - yet admit that they have major flaws such as a short temper or the inability to keep deadlines. Doing so doesn't trigger some debilitating cognitive dissonance as we try to wonder, How can I still be a worthwhile person if I needed an extension on my term paper!?
And yet. Pointing out a *ist behavior to a person is like sticking a pig with a needle. A narcissistic, defensive pig, who thinks that self-proclamations of being a "good person" are enough. Regardless of the arguments or evidence presented to them, the metaphorical pigs are determined to persist in their self-image as a good - and non-prejudiced!!1! - person. (Yeah, a man insisting he can determine what is or isn't sexist? A straight person attempting to define homophobia? Is the ridiculousness of this somehow not apparent?)
And, okay, *isms are more serious flaws in character than, say, being late on an assignment. It's natural that the thought of being *ist would be more troubling. But not to the point of denial, and the implication that the member of the oppressed group is somehow wrong in identifying your behavior. On the contrary, being on the bottom of an oppressive system means that someone is more likely to have greater and more intimate knowledge of the oppression. Privilege begets blindness.
Privilege is also pervasive. It's much, much harder to recognize and extinguish it than to accept and ignore it.
I am a part of the interlocking systems of oppression. I dedicate myself to feminism, anti-racism, and everything else that fights oppression - but I still live and function in society, and society is steeped in *isms. Have I internalized sexism against myself and other women? Of course. Have I internalized racism against my race? Ho-boy yeah. Against other non-white races? You betcha. And am I full to the brim of privilege due to being a straight person, a wealthy person, an educated person, a U.S. citizen? Yes, yes, yes, and yes.
And yet. Do I still think I'm a good person? Yes.
But that means it's my duty to educate myself about the privileges and oppressions I experience, so I can really earn that label.