Why “Everything Is About Race”
Unpacking this socially woven misconception
Society is in love with saying “everything is about race nowadays”, but little do they know everything has been about race since the 15th century. See, this phrase has undoubtedly become a social refrain and society is glued to using it as a defence mechanism and as a perilous deflection.
It is important for society to disengage from this saying, as it imposes further harm in the work we are trying to do when aiming for change. Implying that “everything is about race” perpetuates the falsehood that oppressed groups use race as an excuse when opening discussions that pertain to the colour of their skin. When in fact a large majority of struggles are at the root of race and racism.
Society often forgets that the world was practically built on race. Think about it, systemic issues result from discrimination, beauty standards are built on colonial mindsets, which are linked to race and housing discrimination is linked to the colour of law which is connected to race.
Society needs to recognise that everything is linked to race, and it needs to be acknowledged not used as an excuse to timidly dance around social injustice conversations.
Society is misinformed and ignorant
In my view, society has a tendency to block out the bundle and intertwined set of issues in our world. Because of this habit, people become misinformed, and this leads to ignorance. See, ignorance covets society from the real world. For example, a considerable number of people do not know about the four layers of racism, and they do not recognise that racism needs to be seen at a systemic, structural, interpersonal and internalised level. It is without this knowledge and for this reason, why people use “everything is about race” as an excuse.
When we discuss the mountains of issues present in our world, society is shocked and surprised by how each of those issues could result from race and racism.
As a Black woman in predominantly white spaces, I have been singled out and mistreated because of my brown skin. In my final year of high school, the teacher would check on every student, doing rounds around the classroom to ensure every student was on track and understood the concept we had been taught. This teacher would check up on each student even if they didn't put their hand up, and she would also assist those who put their hands up, in need of her aid. However, she always seemed to skip past me.
Over the course of the year, I would wait for her to ensure I was understanding the material as she would to my classmates. I yearned for the same treatment my white counterparts received. Our desks were all connected. I sat in the front row, my hand was visibly up, I mean, how could she miss me? Even when I raised my hand, she would tend to 3–4 other people before me. It was a task to receive help.
After this constant series of events, I was reminded of my Blackness. The teacher was aware of my Blackness. This is why she missed me each and every time.
I had a conversation about this with one of my friends at the time. I expressed my views on how my race was playing a part in the treatment I received at the school and I was met with the “I'm sure she doesn't mean it like that, not everything has to be about your race all the time.” Here's the issue, everything is linked to race. In this setting, it was on an interpersonal level I presume. Because if you think about it, I was the only Black person in that setting and I noticed time and time again that the treatment would differ between me and my white counterparts.
It is vital that society refrains from gaslighting as it perpetuates the perilous habit of shunning out minority voices and stories. It wouldn't hurt to just listen and learn for once.
Society is in denial
People are petrified, nervous and uncomfortable. They see confronting race as a barrier to living peaceful lives. They see discussing race as a waste of time, race frightens our society. And because of this, they deny its presence in all facets of our all lives.
The main reason why the expression “everything is about race” is so popularised is because at large, society does not want to accept that, that is the truth. I mean, that's why it's even said in the first place, because deep down inside the wells of their minds and hearts they have something telling them that is the case.
It's well overdue for people to regularly discuss race and widely normalise talking about it. Those who don't face discrimination have no excuse, it's time for them to open their eyes and minds to the realities of the minorities in our world.
Where do we go from here?
The first thing is to stop saying that “everything is about race”. Seriously, it's old and offensive. Imagine saying that to a person of colour, it's gaslighting, and it shuns out our pain and lived experiences.
Society should start by informing themselves on how the world is built on race. That means going back in time and looking at how imperialism and colonialism, and slavery has played a significant role in making “everything about race”.
About the author
I am a Race, Society and Culture writer. I write opinion pieces and personal essays on the Black experience in our society. My articles provide readers with actionable takeaways they can take to aim for change and progression.