Breaking Down Racism (Life Lessons - Part 9)

"You're the only black person I like."

Breaking Down Racism (Life Lessons - Part 9)
Photo by Matteo Paganelli on Unsplash

Want to read the other parts? Find them on my Blog!


Lesson Learned: Racism is nuanced. Find the source of your compassion, and you find the end of racism and hate.

“You’re the only black guy I like.” It seems like a simple set of words, doesn’t it? However, the weight of these seven words is immense. For the longest time, it remained as one of the complex sentences ever said to me. At the moment, the guards of my cognitive dissonance set off ALL of the alarms. I didn’t understand it at the time, but I did know one thing – I have to make sense of this complicated racism thing. It’s not just black and white.

Yes, the pun was intended.

*Waits for a second to make sure you get the second meaning because both meanings are salient. Just to make sure…*

1. It not just black and white when it comes to skin color.

2. It’s not just black and white when it comes to being morally wrong or right.

The black kid who grew up in small-town, rural America says what? Racists aren’t bad people?!

NOPE. But it sure would be easier if that were true.

The Nuances

Now the idea racists aren’t all bad. I will defend my point as entire communities riot in outrage – if only I were that controversial.

In all the cases that I’ve encountered, no one who was racist towards me or in my vicinity was what so many of us define as racism. My skin color was something I was forced to be aware of because of all the subtleties that I had to face. I was always different - different but not bad.

Different but not bad - this is a factor I like to use in deciphering between racism and Neo-Nazi racism. This leads us to my next point and the two types of prejudice.

Implicit vs. Explicit Prejudice

In a social psychology class that focused on prejudice, one of the concepts I learned about was implicit and explicit prejudice.

Explicit prejudice is that old guy yelling profanity at the young black for merely walking. It’s the bias that is known to the world. It’s overt and forward.

Implicit prejudice is more refined and acceptable in the modern world. It’s the joke that is too heavily based on race issues, it’s the person playing rap for you even though they like country music – it’s the extra attention you get.

Just remember, this can go in both directions, I’m just relating to what I know. We pay attention to things that we consider different because, on some level, we equate it as potentially dangerous. Implicit racism is often unacknowledged by everyone – especially the person who’s saying or doing the act in question.

That should be it? Explicit racism is terrible, and implicit racism is very much grey…Right?

Lack of Exposure and Society

That’s a negative ghost rider. It is less forgivable for an explicit act, yes, but STILL forgivable.

I disregarded this idea until I watched a momentous documentary called White Right: Meeting The Enemy. Deeykah Khan, a Muslim woman, met with several leaders of the current neo-nazi movement in the US. Through time and patience, she proved how fragile racism is – even at such an exploited level.

What she proved is this one point – those who hate others in mass, do it blindly. At least partially, the communities and society are to blame for the occurrence of hate. How is this so?

Throughout the documentary, you hear them time and time again say that they never really got to know a person of another race. When they got to know Deekyah, she touched a part of them that no one of color had before.

As she connected with them, she not only showed that everyone is human but so much more. Men who spewed vile words months before began to feel bad when she received hate mail. The cognitive dissonance was so intense in some cases that a few of them even left the movement.

Seeing it unfold is a momentous realization, and I suggest checking it out. Watching this film was like a light bulb in the question that plagued me for several years.

Deeykha Khan - White Right: Meeting the Enemy

Sympathy for the Hate

You’ll begin to notice that I see almost everything as a moral gray, and racism is one of them. So, I want to leave you with this.

You need to give compassion to the people you think are undeserving of it, because they are the ones that need it the most. We can do so much when we put ourselves out there and try to connect with those we don’t know or may even hate us.

Isn’t blanketing racists as all bad, just as counterproductive as being racist itself? I know, I know. The argument is, “But, but, but…THEY’RE RACIST!” And if you say that, then you may not understand the message I’m trying to convey.

When was the last time you tried to break the barrier of hate with compassion and understanding? I’ll leave that question to you. And if you’re ready to change the hate in the world or in your heart. Watch this Ted Talk by Christian Picciolini.

Until Next Time,


Want to read the other parts? Find them on my Blog!

Keane Neal-Riquier
Keane Neal-Riquier
Read next: New Mexico—It's like a State, like All the Others!
Keane Neal-Riquier

Writing and storytelling have been a passion of mine ever since I was young. I look to dig deep into what it means to be human, and this is what you will find at the very core of my writing.


See all posts by Keane Neal-Riquier