I am racist. I am a progressive, white, Jewish guy who lives in San Francisco and I am still racist. This is partially due to the fact that we all have preconceived notions of race imprinted on us just by living in the United States. Nearly everything we’ve ever learned has taught us that African Americans are a certain way, that Latinos are a certain way, that Jews are a certain way, and so on. It takes work to deprogram ourselves — a work that each of us needs to be doing to make a better world.
I’m also racist because of life experiences. For example: I think that pretty much all Filipinos are the nicest people ever. Sure, as far as generalizations go, that’s a great one, but it’s still racist to ascribe any attribute to an entire group of people. There has to be at least a few Filipinos who are assholes. (But I mean, really, have you met any? I haven’t.)
Most importantly, I’m racist simply because my white skin allows me freedoms and privileges that not everyone in this country is afforded. If a system is set up to benefit racists, and you benefit from it, that makes you racist.
Think about it like this: Even if you don’t pay for Netflix but you still get 100 percent access to it simply because someone let you use their password, you’re still a Netflix user. You get all the wonderful shows and movies that someone who pays for it does, without the hassle of giving Netflix your money.
If you’re a white person in America, white supremacists have been paying your Netflix bill for a long time, just so you can watch the past 500 seasons of great shows like “Not Being Denied Home Loans Because of Your Skin Color,” “Not Being Paid Less Because of Your Country of Origin” and, my personal favorite, “Not Getting Shot When Reaching for Your Wallet.”
Being born with white skin doesn’t make you a bad person. What you do with the privilege that comes along with it decides that. This country was founded on the premise that white Christian people (especially men) were better than everyone else, and all its institutions have been set up to keep it that way. People of color are arrested more often and stay in the prison system longer than white people. The practice of redlining made it so that black people would only be allowed to live in certain areas of cities, and discriminatory lending practices made it nearly impossible for them to own their homes.
The victories in recent years that have made these systems slightly more equitable have been achieved by people of color organizing and demanding more, while also having white allies who understood their privilege and felt the responsibility to use it for good.
This is where we come in, fellow whiteys. We are all benefiting from a racist system just by breathing its air. Even if you stay neutral, you’re still complicit in white supremacy because you’re not doing anything to change it.
As we’ve seen since Donnie began running for president, white supremacists have taken this moment as their cue to come out of their hidey-holes. They think they are acting in your name and, to be honest, they are. If you don’t want that on your conscience, now is the time to let them know they don’t speak for you.
It’s time to have hard conversations with the people in your life who support this presidency and the hateful things it not only represents but encourages. It’s time to publicly stand up against hate speech and denounce the people doing it. It’s time to show up and stand next to people of color while they fight for the rights and privileges that you get enjoy simply because you were born white.
A lot of us who’ve already been involved in the struggle for equality and equity feel like we’re doing the best we can. But we can always do more. I can do more. You can do more. And this is the time to do it.
I am racist because I benefit from a racist system. But I’m going to work my ass off to change that. Will you?
Stuart Schuffman, aka Broke-Ass Stuart, is a travel writer, TV host and poet. Follow him at BrokeAssStuart.com. Broke-Ass City runs Thursdays in the San Francisco Examiner.