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Why You Should Stop Whitesplaining Racism Now

by Petiri Ira about a year ago in opinion
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Whitesplaining reaffirms racism and white supremacy

Photo by RootedColors via

Imagine someone correcting you on your own emotions and lived experiences. Denying you of your own feelings, making you feel as though you are in the wrong. They twist your words, jumble them up and tell you that you're ''too sensitive'' and ''taking things too far'', all on the basis of something they've never had to deal with: racism.

To be so angered by me vocalising my experiences of racism in this world, they often resort to a tactic that acts as a blanket to their fragility: whitesplaining. For you to tell me, a Black woman, that I'm overreacting when I discuss racism is gaslighting. These two notions go hand in hand and work together in halting our progression.

We seriously need to move away from the immediate reaction of saying "Is this really racist?'' or "I'm sure they didn't mean it like that, I'm sure they had good intentions." We shouldn't have a debate on whether something is racist or not, if it is racist it is racist.

It is exhausting and it holds us back.

What is whitesplaining?

Whitesplaining is the act of a white person explaining topics to people of color, often in an obliviously condescending manner, and especially regarding race- or injustice-related issues. ( Via Dictionary.Com)

From this, we can learn that whitesplaining is when a white person comments on the minority experience and explains what that experience is like to the minority person. In a simple societal context, it is the act of telling a Black person whether something is racist or not.

What makes this habit so mind-boggling is that the whitesplainer does not have and will never have the same lived experience with racism as me as a Black person. So tell me in a condescending manner that I am in the wrong is completely out of line. Society needs to acknowledge that whitesplaining normalises and contributes to racism itself and upholds white supremacy.

What does whitesplaining sound like?

Whitesplaining appears in countless conversations surrounding racism and societal injustices. It's just become so normalised that it is not immediately called out, which accounts for continued ignorance and white fragility. This is because white people are often closed off in terms of learning about the lived experience of racism because they may label themselves as ''Not seeing colour'' and saying that they can't possibly racist because they listen to Black music and have Black friends.

1. ''Relax, it was just a joke"

Nope, to me racism is no joke; I'm Black, it never will be. There is a difference between a joke and being flat out racist. We can't mask racism in a blanket of jokes because it only contributes to the issue of upholding it. It is not a joke when it has an impact on what kind of healthcare I receive, how I am treated by the police or reinforces racist stereotypes about my race.

This is counter-productive, it will make me more upset than I was before. Because you are implying that I should be okay with something that is hurting me mentally.

For you to turn the tables and call it a joke is whitesplaining because it enables you to take the stage and tell me that it was something that was intended to be funny. Also, telling a Black person to ''relax'' after calling out racism is not right, it isn't as simple as calming down when it is something that affects your life. Additionally, this is a form of tone-policing because it silences me as a Black woman and dismisses my thoughts and emotions.

2. '' It wasn't my intention, I didn't mean it like that'

I once had someone tell me that their racist comment wasn't her intention. Whether or not it was your intention and whether or not it was your internalised bias, it was still racism fundamentally. I'm just calling it out so that you can educate yourself and do better.

They used their misintention as a defence mechanism which is actually failing to acknowledge your racism and holding yourself accountable. At the end of the day, racism is racism, whether it be an obvious racist comment or a microaggression, it all comes down to the same thing. So, by saying you didn't mean it like that, in a way brushes it off and gives you a pass to move on with your day.

BIPOC don't have that privilege, that is why we speak out. We aren't trying to bash white people, which is a common misconception as an effect of white fragility, we are just trying to create a better world for ourselves.

3. ''Agh! People are so sensitive nowadays"

First of all, how is being offended and calling out racism being sensitive? I mean, after all, this attitude is one of those factors reaffirming racism. Our sensitivity is valid, it always has been. We've continuously been oppressed and silenced which leads to society labelling our valid emotions as sensitive.

And, '' nowadays'', is code for white people living a progressive age where people of colour use their voices to combat racism on a larger scale, especially with the emergence of social media.

We've been fighting, it shouldn't even be a matter of ''nowadays.''

How to do better

Don't react defensively: stop, listen and learn.

Abstain from trying to immediately defend yourself or those around you when called out. Instead, listen to what is being said by the person who has had to live through racism. Don't play devils advocate and try to stop them from explaining themselves by trying to make yourself look good.

Because, the fact of the matter is, anyone can be racist. Whether it be your friend, colleague or relative, racism is everywhere. And as a white person, don't resort to giving examples from your own life in order to compare experiences, as this is another inherent form of whitesplaining.

Don't gaslight the person and make them feel as though they are in the wrong, they know what they're talking about.

Take the time to educate yourself.


About the author

Petiri Ira

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.

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