Let me begin by saying I’m racist. I really only recognized it starting about ten years ago in college, slight glimmers of recognition, which I would inwardly deny, citing to myself various evidence—black friends from high school, playing soccer with Mexicans on the club team, writing philosophy papers on racial prejudice in novels and movies, etc. It wasn’t until an argument with my wife, Mallory, early in our relationship before we were married, that I fully accepted that I am, in fact, racist. And I don’t mean just that I’m merely a part of this larger system of institutionalized racism, though of course I acknowledge that’s a major problem in this country. But karma or whatever seemed to be pointing me constantly to the idea that my very own actions, my thoughts, my intentions, however externally unnoticeable as racist were actually inwardly racist, that race was constantly circling back as a factor in many major and minor moments of my living.
I wanted to get this general idea out of the way right away because otherwise I think it would seem like I was trying to tell this story—a story that revolves around how my racism both nearly ended and was central to reforming the most important relationship I’ve ever had—in a way that either denies or negates that racism, even as I try to present it openly through my actions and ways of treating people and my thoughts. I wonder sometimes if we’re not all in some way inherently racist. Not in the sense that we’re born feeling one race is superior to another or anything like that, but in the very simple, mundane sense that everyone has an inborn ability to recognize difference. Maybe the simplicity of recognizing difference eventually becomes complicated and leads people to do more than simply recognize, leads them to become prejudiced, to make assumptions based on ignorance or history of whatever, to become, on some level, essentially racist. In any case, I wanted to get out right away that I don’t like it about myself but I’m fully aware: I’m racist. . . .
Read “Did You Really Just Say That to Me?”
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