Calling out racism is where you point out that something is racist. It might not seem like a big deal, but it is an important part of fighting racism. It can even stop genocide, as crazy as that sounds.
Genocide: Genocides unfold in eight stages. Stopping it at any one stage, stops the genocide from going forward. The second to last stage before the mass killings is this:
- Polarization: The first people killed in any genocide are not the pariahs themselves but those in the mainstream who speak up for them. The voices in the middle are silenced through threats, arrests or even killings. Now the message of hate goes unchallenged.
What applies to genocide applies to racism more generally. Racism grows and feeds off a culture of silence. The point of calling out racism is to break down that silence. It does not matter if you persuade anyone, it does not matter if you “win the argument”. It is very unlikely you will. What matters is that you were heard and planted that seed in people’s minds of, “Hey, maybe this is not right.”
Elizabeth Eckford was one of the first nine black students to go to Little Rock Central High School in the American South. That school was a racist hell for her – because the 90% who were not giving her hell would not stand up to the 10% who were. She could not even enter the school till the president of the nation grew a pair and stood up to the governor of the state.
The American civil rights movement succeeded when people stopped being cowed by fear of standing up to racists.
White people calling out racism: One of the best thing white people can do at the personal level to fight racism is to call it out when they see it. If not to the racist person’s face, then to family and friends. If not to family and friends, then at least inside their own head. Anything is better than nothing.
In America calling out racism matters more when it comes from whites. That is because of the Rules of Racial Standing – that thing where white people think others whites are way more objective and neutral about racism than blacks. The Tim Wise Effect.
Black people calling out racism: White Americans discount what blacks say, it is part of their cultural conditioning, but they still hear it. They hear what they say and, just as important, what they do not say. If something racist goes down and blacks say nothing, whites will assume that it is “okay” or “not so bad”. Especially since many whites assume blacks are “oversensitive”.
That is part of why I post on, say, Quvenzhané Wallis, but not Don Imus or the racist outcry over the Cheerios ad – because those two were roundly condemned even by white people.
Warning: Calling out racism does require judgement and sometimes courage. This post is not about that.