Posted on June 12, 2024

Things White People Should Never Say to POC

Daniel Bukszpan, MediaFeed, June 7, 2024

It may be the 21st century, but race relations in the United States are still not acceptable. Many of us hoped we would live in a prejudice-free utopia by now, but one look at the newspaper headlines will indicate that we still have a long way to go.

One way that those without melanin (i.e., white people) can try to participate constructively in improving race relations is by learning what not to say to people of color. You may be well-intended and coming from a sincere place, but certain words and phrases are unacceptable, no matter your intentions.

Here are a few that you should avoid if you don’t want to hurt feelings or step on toes, even inadvertently.

“You don’t act Black.”

Suppose you are a melanin-deficient person and you’re having a pleasant discussion with a person of color about various matters. In that case, the most effective way to bring the conversation to a screeching halt is to tell the person of color with whom you are conversing that they don’t “act Black.” That’s also a very effective way of getting asked, “What do you mean by that?”

“Can I touch your hair?”

{snip}

“You’re so articulate.”

{snip}

“I don’t see color.”

{snip} In other words, it comes off as a declaration akin to “Just get over it,” even though people of color still deal with inequality and inequity every day.

“All lives matter.”

Do you really need this one explained to you? The Black Lives Matter movement was created in response to various events that saw Black people killed by everyone from power-mad law enforcement officers to private citizens who wanted to be law enforcement officers but were too emotionally defective to pass the entrance exam. Saying “all lives matter” to someone who’s saying “Black lives matter” is not the “kumbaya” statement that will bring all parties together. In reality, it’s no different from saying, “No, Black lives don’t matter.”

“I have a Black friend, so I’m not racist.”

{snip}

“I’m not racist, but…”

{snip}

“You’re too sensitive.”

{snip}

“Why does everything have to be about race?”

If you are a Caucasian American and you ask why everything must be about race, you’re oblivious to history at best and a jerk at worst. {snip}

“I have an Asian friend, so I’m not racist.”

If you’re speaking to a Black person and you feel compelled to utter this statement, it’s no better than saying you’re not racist because you have a Black friend. {snip}

“You’re just playing the race card.”

{snip}

“I voted for Obama, so I’m not racist.”

{snip}