“He’s from a different time!”
“He’s only a kid, he doesn’t know any better!”
“It’s how he was raised!”
People, white people specifically, have this weird desire to defend racists. We know racism is wrong; we’ll happily say it. We talk a big talk, especially on social media where real-life problems can sometimes seem distant and distorted. We rake in useless ‘ally’ points when we post about how we support black people or the LGTBQ community but when we see someone acting racist first hand we balk. We step back and defend and justify the actions of white people around us.
Sometimes, we even go so far as to defend the racist actions of long dead people. We’ll read literature written by white men who depicted people of color and women in awful ways and defend it by saying that the author didn’t know any better, that it was a different time. When the discussion of slavery or Jim Crow laws comes up, (laws which still have actual impacts on black people today), we dither over whether or not those white people knew their racism was wrong.
Let me tell you this. They knew it was wrong and they didn’t care. Our ancestors weren’t stupid. They had the same ability to think things through that we did. We can all read about and find old studies done by scientists hundreds of years ago. These studies found that black people were lesser, less evolved, brutish, dangerous and in some cases more animalistic than their white counterparts. Science that didn’t have any basis in fact. These studies were funded by the rich, the rich that wanted to justify what they were doing. The sheer volume of the literature out there seems to imply that they needed a lot of stuff to justify making their wealth by owning and torturing other people.
We need to stop justifying what they did by claiming it was a different time or that they were ignorant. Our grandparents lived through the 60’s, which means they were teens and children through one of the greatest civil rights movements in American History. They were there, alive and able to witness those moments in a way we couldn’t. They were the ones who failed to learn and understand what it meant. It’s not being from a different time; it’s being racist.
When teenagers or people our age say racist things, we try and play it off. Make them seem ignorant rather than malicious. When we do that, we prioritize the feelings of a racist over the feelings of people who are being oppressed. We side with the oppressors, and every time we justify what they do we only further prove that we find racism in any form acceptable. All of us have things we have to unlearn and relearn as we grow. It’s part of life. But justifying things as being how we were raised is just immature and empty. If we want real change then we need to hold ourselves and those around us to a higher standard; we need to stop defending racists.