We are all racists

Thoughts · 

It's time to admit it.

I just finished reading “White Fragility” by Robin DiAngelo and it made me realize something about me that is not easy to admit: I’m a racist. In fact, we are all racists. And by “we” I mean “white people”, because I know for sure that my audience is (unfortunately) 99% white.

How so? We are racists because we hardly do anything in a racist society where being white is the norm and being a person of color is a deviation from this norm. We are complicit. In the end, it’s understandable: why would we want change in a system that unfairly advantages us?

Does that mean we are bad people? Certainly not. This is not binary. And unless we consciously make life difficult for people of color and see them as inferior, our racism is unintentional. We have too many assumptions about people of color that are difficult to control, even as we try to convince ourselves that everyone is equal in our eyes.

My personal story is that I was born in Belgium to an Italian father and a Belgian mother. I know that when people see my last name, they have some assumptions about me even if they are mostly unintentional. Would I have had more opportunities in my life and my career if my full name was Vincent Bataille? I will never know, but it’s not the point. I’m a white man, I have no right to complain because the world is made to be simple for someone like me. My point was that if even someone like me can feel some discomfort from being a bit outside of the norm, imagine what people of color must endure every day.

I’ll be completely honest with you: I can't tell if I’ll ever need to or want to take action against my unintentional racism. At this very moment, I really want to make a change, but in a few weeks, I may have completely forgotten to have read this book and wrote this article. I'll be back in my very comfortable white-dominated world where everything is easy for me, and where I don't really have to care about what less fortunate people have to go through. That said, I'm convinced that the fact that I've just recognized my racism was definitely the most difficult thing to accomplish, and if I was able to do that, there's no reason to think I can't do more.

Vincent Battaglia © 2021