Kawohni's Other Half: So You've Been Called Racist: A Guide


Hi my name is Rob, and like many of you who will likely end up needing this guide, I am a white person. This guide is for those of you here who may have been accused of racism for your actions.

The Situation
There are a few ways you may end up in this situation. They are likely one of two possibilities, though your personal situation may vary:

- You did something not realizing it was racist. Maybe you thought it was funny, or that it wasn’t offensive. This guide is to help you understand why things aren’t as they seem and help you react in a way that won’t embarrass your fellow white people any further.
- You did something intentionally offensive because you are, in fact, racist and you feel no shame over this. If this is the case, there is a possibility that you may be, in fact, a terrible person! Uh oh! I would advise that you not continue with this guide, as you are not the target audience. I would suggest you think harder about some of the decisions you have made in your life.
Racism: What’s the Deal??
So now we’ve hopefully narrowed it down to those of you who are confused about the allegation. “I’m not racist,” you’re thinking. Maybe you have A Black Friend, or maybe you aren’t even a white person. “I don’t hate anyone; I’m not some KKK member!” The list of responses is quite long. But racism is more complicated than you think; you may even be accused of doing something racist but not necessarily being hateful or racist yourself. Racism is often institutionalized and normalized to the point where you don’t recognize it.

So What Do I Do?!
Calm down, this isn’t the end of the world. This may actually be the beginning of an important transformation for you from ignorant to more aware. Neat, huh? Follow this guide and things may become clearer. The first thing to consider is…
- Stop talking. You’re upset and defensive. Nobody likes being called a racist, except those racist people from earlier who hopefully left by now! When you’re upset like this, you might say something dumb. In fact, the next thing you need to do is…
- Listen! The person who called you racist may very well be explaining at this moment why what you did was wrong. They are usually among those you have offended, and that is why you should hear them out. If the group of people affected says that what you did is offensive, they would know, because they are the ones offended. What if you’re not sure what you did wrong?
- Ask politely. If you’re not sure what you did wrong, inquire in a way that is not offensive and abrasive. However… Don’t expect them to explain everything. After all, although this person pointed out your racist actions, it is not their job to be a representative for an entire group of people. Their purpose in life is not to be your personal guide to racism, unless they are actually volunteering to inform you more. If you are reading this, you are on the Internet, so I suggest you…
- Do some research. Find out more about the group of people offended and the history behind your unknowing actions. There are many sources out there whom have made it their business to educate and inform people, and all you need are some metaphorical “ears for listening.” You can learn a lot by listening to those affected, and…
- Don’t tell them how to feel. It’s not your job to tell someone what they can and cannot be offended by! If someone says what you did hurt them, then that is all that matters. All you can do is…
- Try to understand. You can’t put yourself in that person’s shoes and relive their personal experiences. What you can do is be empathetic. With all that listening and researching you’ve hopefully done, you might be able to understand a bit about why what you did was wrong. If so, you hopefully feel remorse and are ready to…
- Apologize. Hey, nobody likes to be wrong, but part of life is being wrong. It happens. It is the first step to not being wrong about a particular thing in the future! Your past self may have done something dumb, but your present and future self learned a valuable lesson.
How Does I Apologized?
Be genuine and polite. A template to follow may be: “I am sorry for my actions. I did not mean any offense by them, and did not realize I was doing something wrong. I understand now and will not do it again.” Don’t use those exact words, maybe, but you hopefully have the idea.
What you’re doing is…
- Saying you’re sorry
- Acknowledging your reasons as ignorance, not hate
- Saying you did not mean any harm
- Showing understanding of the problem
What you’re not doing is…
- Arguing
- Telling the person they’re wrong or don’t understand.
- Saying even more racist things
So… What Now?
Congratulations! If you used this guideline properly, hopefully this has all been sorted out and your white ignorance factor has decreased a bit. Keep in mind what you’ve learned today and hopefully it won’t happen again. Keep it up and you can be like the rest of us:

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