A Simple Answer to the Question, Am I a Racist?

straight in the face

One question circulating in a lot of people’s minds now is,  Am I a racist? It’s a tough question to ask, especially for white people (and I am a white person, and as such, I’m speaking primarily to white people on this topic). But it’s really simple to answer. And you can start to answer it by following the example of Richard Wright.

In 1952, Richard Wright published Native Son. It launched Wright into being a major voice on race in America, yet when he tried to tackle the subject straight on, with a non-fiction book called White Man, Listen!, it didn’t sell well. Frustrated, and running out of money, in 1957, Wright wrote in a letter to his translator:

“Why should I go on writing books that folks will not read? I’m sorry to sound so depressing but one must look facts straight in the face.”

The Answer to the Question, ‘Am I a Racist?’

Part of looking a fact straight in the face is admitting how you are flawed. So let’s take this approach to finding an answer to the question, ‘Am I a racist?’

Let’s take a deep breath and look at the facts:

If you’ve grown up anywhere in the vast majority of the developed world, you’ve grown up in a racist society. We breathe racist air, drink racist water. This is true no matter your race or ethnicity. Just as women internalize sexism thanks to the patriarchy (why do you think we spend so much time worrying if our butts looks big or if that selfie is flattering? Because we’re attuned to pleasing the male gaze), black people can internalize racism. (Dr. Ibram X. Kendi writes about this very powerfully in his book, How to Be an Anti-Racist.) Let’s not spend any time wondering if we are overtly or secretly or implicitly racist. The answer is: We are. I am. You are.

Now that we’ve gotten THAT out of the way!, we can get down to the important work of being anti-racist—meaning, making an effort to dismantle the effects of racism through changing policies, practices, conversations, and our own hearts and minds so that we can change the hearts of minds of others and improve life for everyone.

As someone who wrote a book and hosts a podcast called How to Be a Better Person, I just can’t see my way around NOT talking about America’s treatment of black people. It’s not easy to confront your biases, or challenge your own thinking, or the thinking you grew up with, or talk about racism, or own up to racism, but it’s how we become better. Because you’re here, I know you care about being better and doing better, too.

If you feel afraid at this time, for any reason, know this: We can trust in this moment—despite the very understandable fears it brings up—that what’s happening is a proper reaction to pressures that have existed for at least 400 years being released. It’s a natural force, like an earthquake. Our tectonic plates need to re-arrange. We can survive this, together. We will ALL be better for it. There are enough resources, jobs, opportunities, and seats at the table for all of us, but it won’t happen on its own. We all need to do our part.

Regarding doing your part, here are some resources I’ve appreciated:

Must-watch video about how black parents teach their kids about the police

If you don’t know what to do, read Dear White People, This Is What We Want You to Do

Twitter thread that shows the protests happening in smaller cities across America—there truly is far-reaching support for the movement

19 Black-Owned Businesses to Support Right Now

19 Black-Owned Banks and How to Support Them

Twitter thread with thoughts on where to donate now


Want to be a better person, but don’t know where to start?

My new daily podcast, How to Be a Better Person, is here to help by sharing one simple thing you can do in the next 24 hours to rise. My mission? To help you live your best life.

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2 thoughts on “A Simple Answer to the Question, Am I a Racist?

  1. Thanks for putting this post out there. I just wanted to point out that while Richard Wright wrote White Man, Listen! He did not write The Invisible Man – that was Ralph Ellison.

    1. Thomas, thank you!! OMG, yes, total brain fart on my end. Richard Wright wrote Native Son! Off to change it now… thanks for writing in.

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