I’d say it’s more often about getting people to admit to it.
I actually don’t think “more people admit to racism” is necessarily a problem. In fact, in a way, I’d say that’s a good thing. Bear with me.
Everyone internalises prejudice, it’s impossible not to when growing up in a society that has inequality. We’re all sexist because of the messages that objectify and diminish women and this being true through history. We’re all racist because of messages that other and categorise certain races, and the history of it.
So what is the real problem? It’s people who are deluded and think they are not part of it. We all are. By not calling things out we are complicit. By parroting things we know to be wrong and/or reductive and offensive, we are making sure those problems continue.
We can do better, if we want to. Sure, if someone says (or more likely, thinks) “I’m racist/xenophobic because I hate everyone who doesn’t look like me!” then that needs to be addressed too. But a basic “Would you say you are at all prejudiced?” type question does not distinguish real hatred from an acknowledgment that we are flawed in our thinking and behaviour sometimes.
I accept that I haven’t looked too deeply into the questions being asked so I might be wrong about the degree of specificity, but I’ll go with that for the sake of argument. Perhaps it just reflects that more people are aware of what constitutes racism – which certainly would be a good thing; issues can only be tackled once they have been identified and defined.
What matters is:
a) accepting that inequality exists
b) accepting that means that people who are white/straight/male etc. have certain advantages and avoid disadvantages from day 1 that others have to deal with their whole lives
c) because of our culture influencing us, we all harbour prejudices
d) we have to constantly work at educating ourselves and do more to tackle inequality.
Simply acknowledging prejudice is arguably better than insisting it’s not there. “I’m not racist/sexist but [something racist/sexist]” – better to think, yes, sometimes I’m influenced to think negative things about people for no justifiable reason. But I work hard to realise and address when I do that, because no one deserves to be disadvantaged on the basis of something they cannot change – or indeed, choice(s) they are within their rights to make, which hurt no one, but for some reason make me feel icky.
We can change our behaviour to make interactions and influences better, by acknowledging those feelings and analysing where they come from, and if they’re really fair – or if ultimately they’re hurtful, especially if we do act on it somehow.
Perhaps that’s an optimistic view but I’ll stick with it. In addition, there have been other angles that say racism has decreased recently.
It might be more enlightening to talk to the people who are affected – the best way to learn about how actions affect people, unintentional as those actions may be, is to listen to the people on the receiving end. Feminism is increasingly, and rightly, criticised for its white-central approaches, and while all too easy to take accusations personally, every privileged group has to remember it’s not about them, as individuals.
Of course, when discussing any kind of discrimination, there are similar and related issues to consider. Much like the list of ‘progress’ I scribbled down above, this is found in one of my favourite articles of late, “Not all men: a brief history of every dude’s favourite argument“:
- Sexism is a fake idea invented by feminists
- Sexism happens, but the effect of “reverse sexism” on men is as bad or worse
- Sexism happens, but the important part is that I personally am not sexist
- Sexism happens, and I benefit from that whether or not I personally am sexist
- Sexism happens, I benefit from it, I am unavoidably sexist sometimes because I was socialized that way, and if I want to be anti-sexist I have to be actively working against that socialization
So, let’s not pretend we’re all perfect and immune to the very air we breathe – let’s just concentrate on what we do about it.
- Dear White Feminists
- Racism for white people
- Eurogamer editor admits sexism, doesn’t pretend it’s all in the past. This is good.
- Phil Plait: #yesallwomen
- Camels With Hammers: “Why Do We Need Feminism, Shouldn’t We Just Be Humanists and Equalists?”
- Brenda Wambui: The problem with “not all men” and why you should stop saying it