I’m not racist but…

“I’m not racist but…” I can’t tell you how many times I have heard this phrase since being here. “I’m not racist but I don’t like aggressive muslims”, “I’m not racist but watch out for the perverts… you know, black people”, “I’m not racist but I have a problem with Arabs”, “I’m not racist but if I were to be sat next to an Arab on a plane I would complain”, “I’m not racist but be careful of the Mexicans as they are all in gangs”, I’m not racist but it’s the blacks killing the blacks – at least they are slowly killing each other off”, “I’m not racist but I’ll leave America if we can’t get rid of that idiotic black president”.

These are not phrases I’ve made up, these have been said to me, openly, honestly, to my face. Often I’m in a position where the person talking is doing me a kind deed; helping me with my bike, buying me a coffee, giving me directions or stopping to wish me well on my trip. It’s a difficult position to be in, when you are indebted to someone while every fibre of your being is against what they are saying. How do you deal with it? Smile sweetly and nod along until you can get away? Disagree and potentially cause offence? Say nothing? My morals are being tested!

I have loved America so far. I have loved the people, I have loved the scenery, I have loved the hospitality, the food, the generosity. I have been continually surprised by people and repeatedly humbled. I have had to constantly remind myself not to judge people and been made oh so very aware of many of my own shortcomings that perhaps I have sometimes ignored. I have tried to learn something from every person that I have met and I have been inspired by more people than ever before. However, there is also this grim, inescapable undertone of racism and discrimination seeping through my experience of the South and I’m finding it tricky to reconcile this in my mind.

Now please don’t think that I have a rosy impression of Britain and think that across the pond we are above such things. Racism is alive and kicking in the UK as much as anywhere else but I have personally never been exposed to it as openly and blatantly as I have here over the last few months. Naive…? Yes, perhaps. We all have a long way to go it seems…

So next time, what do I do when someone warns me of “those dangerous n***ers” whilst buying my groceries and insuring I have somewhere safe to sleep? Honestly, I still haven’t quite figured that out yet…

5 thoughts on “I’m not racist but…

  1. love your journal Tori. Hang in there is the Ausie expression we use when you just have to believe in your instincts. Staying quiet is OK in the situations you describe.
    xxx

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  2. Wow Tori you are traveling through all of the southern states where racism is deep rooted. There are many people that have risen above it and are working to bring/educate the others and therefore I think the phrase is used for their own preservation. there are many people in the south that believe that we should still be as we were in the 1800’s and those that are scared that somehow we might actually return to those times, but with each new generation we move closer to a time when race will become a thing of the past.the crimes against man will be looked at as crimes of individuals not those of a whole race. Unfortunately, I don’t think it will come in our life times! This is a very touchy subject and never one that is easily discussed by writing as things are so easily misinterpreted when read.

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    1. Sadly I think you are right Alan… we have a good few more generations to go yet! It’s been an eye opener for me although don’t get me wrong, I have been touched by people’s kindnesses again and again regardless of some of their opinions!

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  3. This is a brave and well articulated post. I am sympathetic to your predicament. I am sure you are already going down this route… But, never compromise on your own morals. You can still be courteous, yet firm on your stance. If all else fails read/ reread To Kill A Mockingbird and base all of life on Atticus Finch xxxxxxxx

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  4. ….and never be afraid to say something when someone says ‘ni**er’. It is not ok any more, no matter where you live or how complicated the history is…I can imagine how frustrated you must feel xxxx lots of love xxxxxx

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