In a lot of the books I’ve read by people who overcome addiction a theme of comparison comes up. Looking at people who are much worse than you are with drugs and alcohol and using that as a metric to assess your own problem. It helps to keep you in denial, at least I’m not like that person.
In many ways racism is no different. To stay on the right side of history at least you aren’t like those people, the ones who burn crosses, wear swastikas, and scream about white pride. Comparing yourself to people like this is a great metric for denial. It is easy to claim you are not racist if you only view racism from the most extreme lens. It helps with denial when looking at the small things that contribute to systemic racism and bias.
On the positive most people don’t use the n@@@@ word, wear white robes, and intentionally discriminate. However just because you don’t do the big things it does not absolve you of the little things; comments, marginalizing, unconscious bias, jokes, being okay with caricatures, supporting stereotypes, blindly believing incorrect facts, cherry picking ideas, etc.
Many people can imagine a setting where they are with a group of white people and the one black friend. The group of white people may make some jokes about how silly it is to tear down statues or remove a logo, claiming that it is about history. The black friend sits quietly not saying anything. Which is easy to interpret as my black friend doesn’t mind or else he or she would have said something (for those of you into group think this type of behavior would be self-censorship). Instead of thinking, I wonder what my black friend really thinks or perhaps my black friend is trying to fit in with our group and in order to do so will set aside their individuality to conform to group norms (in the group think world again, this is an example of the illusion of unanimity).
Don’t mistake silence with agreement, remember the need to conform (especially if this is a work group) is powerful. You need the group to fit in and be accepted. Additionally you need the members of your work team because they can help your career. It is an unfair choice.
Take a moment and scroll through your memories and find a time when you were in a situation where you didn’t look like anyone else in the group. If you’ve never experienced it you are lucky.
Think on this, if you have ever had to defend your behavior or your ideas as not being racist then it could be a sign you are in denial about where you really fall on the spectrum of racist behavior and what your unconscious biases really are.
Or you could just stick with the story that keeps you in denial, at least I’m not as bad as those people who are really racist.