“I forget they’re black, they act white!”
I’m sure we’ve all heard this said by someone in our lifetime, or at least some variation. Unfortunately, a lot of people don’t see anything wrong with a comment such as this one. I know that I used to say it when I was younger, and it fills me with so much regret. Since then, I’ve learned a lot and opened my mind and I realize that it is such a harmful statement that reinforces racist stereotypes.
When you say this sentence to a black person, there are two implications being made. 1) Black people are inherently wrong or roudy or any other negative stereotype you can come up with
2)White people behave better, and are better in general.
Both of those implications are horrid and wrong and make my skin crawl. Now, I know a lot of people would say “that’s not how I mean it!! I really like this person!!” but they are unwilling to look past their own comfort level to see what is really being said. The same goes for phrases such as “Wow, you’re so well spoken!” Is that supposed to be a compliment? Being surprised that a black person can be well spoken? It’s racist. And insulting.
Please step back and take a look at what you are saying before you say it. Really evaluate the meaning behind the phrase, and if it isn’t what you are trying to convey then change what you say. If someone tells you that your phrasing or comments or words you use are insulting or racist or hurtful, you don’t get to decide that they aren’t.
*Being a white girl, I can never come close to understanding exactly the effects that these phrases have. I go by what people of color tell me, research, and my gut. I am not writing this to speak over those not being heard, it is just my goal to amplify what I have been hearing in hopes that it reaches ears it wouldn’t have before. If anyone is offended or has any suggestions as to how I can be a better ally, please come forward. I want to learn as much as I can and be as thoughtful as I can.*