Eight things racists say to try and convince people they're not being racist

Incredibly, there are a lot of white people who think it's more legitimate for them to take offence at being called ...

Incredibly, there are a lot of white people who think it's more legitimate for them to take offence at being called 'racist' than it is for an Aboriginal man to take offence when he's called an 'ape'. Photo: Getty Images

Racism is an ever-present undercurrent in the Australian national debate, but over the past few weeks it feels like it's been boiling over - in multiple directions. We've had the Reclaim Australia rallies openly professing their anti-Islamic xenophobia, we've seen Labor submit to the Coalition's policy to turn back desperate asylum seekers, we've seen union ads using anti-Chinese sentiment to advertise opposition to the FTA, we've sat through three nights of Kim on SBS's Go Back To Where You Came From, and we've had to listen to a whole lot of bigoted white people using their platform to excuse the racist booing of Adam Goodes, who's been driven from the football field by the controversy. 

Of course, everyone agrees racism is bad. So much so that to call someone a racist these days is considered by many racists to be a worse insult than calling someone a racist slur. Go figure. 

Because people being racist really, really hate to be called racist, we're seeing them increasingly deploy completely twisted logic to make the case that their racism is not racism. Here are eight common arguments racist use to try and water down what they're saying and make it sound reasonable. Don't fall for it, will you? 
 

1. 'It's political correctness gone mad'

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Let's just stop for a second and remind ourselves why "political correctness" exists. It exists because of a recognition that language and behaviour is impactful - and that if we are to remove discriminatory practices then having guidelines for language and behaviour that does not add to a discriminatory environment is essential. But that's when we're talking about the official version of PC. Most of the time when people talk about PC, it's not about official language and codes of conduct. It's just about people calling you out for being a bigot.

PC has gotten a bad rap for being anti- free speech - but it is rarely about censorship outside of official, organisational contexts. Funnily enough, what racists describe as 'censorship' in most cases is its opposite. It's just people openly disagreeing with bigotry, in a way that might make a bigot feel a bit of pressure to rethink his or her behaviour.

Every time anyone says something is "political correctness gone mad" what they usually mean is "a bunch of people reckon I said or did the wrong thing, and I don't like it". Boo hoo.

2. 'It's not about race, I just hate your religion and/or culture...'

How many times has a pro-booing commentator come out this week saying the booing isn't racist because people are just fed up with Goodes "displaying his Indigenous heritage" and they find his "war dance" confronting? It's incredible. And it's exactly the same as the 'culture, not race' argument that Islamophobes constantly use to pretend their beef is merely with religion and not the brown people they are afraid will come here and turn our white Australian privilege upside-down.

Most of us in 2015 have evolved beyond seeing 'race' as merely genetic. Science tells us that if we're just going by genes, race doesn't really exist. So what is it? It's about family, culture, history, beliefs, a sense of place and belonging with others who share those same or similar things. Hating and fearing other people because of their culture or religion and claiming that is different to racism shows a totally elementary and outdated notion of what race means. 

It seems that the only element of cultural difference Australians can agree to tolerate is food (as long as it's not Halal) - all else must be erased and replaced with white, Christian Aussie values and practices. Well sorry, but that's just racist. 

3. "I'm not white, my friends are not white, and/or non-whites agree with me."

White people don't have a monopoly on racism, despite the fact that in most parts of the world white people are the overwhelming beneficiaries of it. Racism and xenophobia exist to protect the interests of privileged groups. It's more complex than just skin colour. It's also about class, culture, beliefs, and assimilation. Racism, like sexism and classism, is often internalised by members of oppressed groups, because the message of white (and male, and upper-class) supremacy and the need to submit and assimilate is powerful; and Australia is saturated with it.

As Ruby Hamad articulated recently, the mere existence of non-white people amongst Reclaim Australia rallies, for example, does not negate the racism of its agenda.

4. 'I'll decide if it's racist or not, thanks (and I say it's not)."

White people like to define racism even though it by-and-large doesn't affect them (in a negative way, anyway), because it means they can excuse racist stuff they're doing as "not racist" and therefore keep doing it. So it's easy enough for people to say "racism is Nazis and KKKs and I think that stuff is bad, so I'm not racist", and sure, people who define it like that probably don't believe in actually sending other ethnic groups to the gas chambers by the millions or having lynching parties.

But then again, if you complain about the genocide of your culture and the colonisation of your ancestral lands and the effect both of those things are having on you and your family now, shut the hell up! That stuff is water under the bridge, because white people said so, OK?

A note on "maybe some of the people booing Adam Goodes are doing it because they're racist, but I'm not." Well, mate. Here's the thing. You're well aware by now that there is a significant racial element to the booing. Whether it was 100 per cent racial to start with or not, it now - unambiguously - is. If you choose to join in knowing this, you're aligning yourself with that element. Pure and simple. Got it, Warney?

5. 'Not all white people'

Why should the racist choices of a few have any bearing on me? And while we're on the topic, why should I feel bad because a whole lot of white people before me made things easier for me and harder for others?

Sorry, friend. You don't get to decide whether other people's racism, systemic racism in our society, affects you. It just does. And if the only negative effects you notice are when people with less racial privilege than you point out how it's hurting them? Consider yourself damn lucky. You have two choices: be complicit or take a stand against it.

If all you can think of to say when you hear about racist stuff white people do is "hold up - we don't ALL do that," you're basically admitting you care more about protecting your privileged group's reputation than about righting injustice. G'day, complicit racist!

6. 'You're playing the victim'

People who victimise others just love pulling out this card. Oh, you don't like being victimised? Well maybe if you stop crying about it, I'll stop beating you up! Keep crying and you'll keep getting hit - simple!

Anyone who's been bullied, physically or emotionally, in any context, has probably been told at some stage that if they just cop it and stop complaining it will go away. And maybe that'd work if it's just a school bully, providing he or she conveniently finds another victim. But when you're bullied because of your identity - race, gender, sexuality, religion, disability - keeping quiet will never be a long-term solution to being hurt by systematic injustice. Nor should we demand it be so.

When Alan Jones said Adam Goodes "always plays the victim" this week, he showed his cards as nothing but a schoolyard bully with an oversized microphone. But we already knew that, didn't we?

7. 'I'm offended that you're calling me racist. That makes YOU racist.'

Ah yes, the old "calling out racism makes you the real bigot" line. This one's a real doozy. Firstly, you're not allowed to be offended by the racist thing I said or did. Secondly, and despite the fact that I simply hate oversensitive whingers (brown ones anyway), I'm allowed to be offended at the fact that you took offence. The real racial slur is the word 'racist', not 'ape'. Stop causing so much division with your bigotry!


 

This kind of logical acrobatics takes some serious double standards, put-yourself-on-a-huge-pedestal arrogance and absolute blissful ignorance to pull off. Luckily, Australia is a nation of arrogant-as-hell ignoramuses so we get to hear this sort of thing all the time.

8. If you lose your cool it proves me right

You know how annoyed you get when you're forced to hear people complain about the fact that they've been systematically punished their entire lives because of their skin colour? Imagine how mad you'd be if you were born on the wrong side of the playing field and were actually treated like a second-class citizen every day of your life, for generations upon generations? You'd be pretty mad.

But unlike privileged racists who are allowed to mouth off about upstarts getting all uppity, if people who actually have something to be pissed off about lose their cool and show their emotions then, well, they've just lost the argument haven't they? ~smug face emoji~