This is a guest post for swpd by Victoria, who describes herself as "a south Florida native, a senior majoring in English Education planning to teach in public schools, and a mother of 2."
I used to work in finance/mortgage, and I often heard my white coworkers making jokes about people's credit reports. They assumed the people serving as the butt of their jokes were black . . . unless, of course, their last name indicated the possibility of being Latino. I've also heard random white people tell me they're "not racist -- BUT," only to follow that up with a comment that's definitely racist.
I've noticed in these situations that they expect me to give them the old wink and nod -- "I hear ya, buddy" -- tacitly indicating that we're a part of the same special whiteness clique.
Up until recently (that is, until I put a stop to it), I received regular emails with pictures of POC behaving in stereotypical, supposedly humorous ways, or sometimes the opposite of stereotypical ways, with remarks attached to make sure that everyone knew that a stereotype was NOT being fulfilled here. Again, a kind of white solidarity was always being assumed, as if I would automatically agree with the racism that actually IS there, just because I'm white.
This sort of behavior seems fairly common among white people I have known. I always feel like they're insinuating that I'm like them, that my thoughts and feelings about non-white people are just like theirs. I grew up with white people constantly (I really do mean constantly) noting my differences from them, especially my abundance of non-white friends, which they clearly considered some sort of a rejection of my whiteness. But now it's assumed, by white adults who don't know me well, that I'm like them based on racial appearances. That couldn't be further from the truth.
Oh, white people who tell racist jokes and talk behind the backs of POC, please allow me to spare us both the disappointment!
I, and some other white people, do not think your jokes about POC are funny -- at all. Most of the time we're horrified. Contrary to what you believe, we don't all secretly think POC actually fall into the stereotypes that you think they do. We do not necessarily share some collective consciousness together bound by our whiteness. True, we are all lumped together in the white category, but that doesn't mean that we're all as blissfully oblivious as you are about it.
When you send us those emails, some of us are surprised and sorry to find out that you think that way. We want to tell you how ignorant what you've said is, and many times we do tell you. But deep down we know that it means the end of our friendship no matter what we do. Either you'll hate us for telling you that what you've just said, or forwarded, or laughed along with is racist, or we will simply be unable to bear the knowledge that your bigotry runs that deep.