Many white people in America believe outbreaks of racism are spectacular events. For them, racism occurs on an epic scale, perhaps with someone yelling a racial epithet or wearing the hood of a klansman. They understand that when racism happens, it is a needle-scratch moment where everybody notices what has happened.
This is not racism. Or, to be more accurate, this isn’t how racism happens most of the time.
In the real world, racism is boring. Racism is banal. Racism is an everyday event that occurs without raising an eyebrow among anybody but the target.
We need as an American culture to stop roping off spectacular YouTube-ready racism away from the real stuff. Because if only the big stuff “counts,” it gives a pass to the other incidents.
Imagine if a car accident only counted when it is a 10-car pileup, and that everyday fender benders don’t count. Insurance companies are not that kind.
Discriminating against black names. Watching Latino kids when they walk in a store while the white kids get a pass. Police assuming minorities are “up to something.” And on and on.
Real racism is boring and doesn’t make waves. It accumulates and becomes ingrained into society, to the point where even as it fails every test of racism, it is questioned nonetheless.
“Nobody said anything.” “I’m a good person who doesn’t see color.” These are the excuses made for boring everyday racism. Often it isn’t out of intentional malice. For many people, they don’t even notice boring racism. It just is.
Instead of accepting this and limiting racism to only the occasional planet-sized events, we should be aware of the banal bigotry that permeates so much of life.
Real racism is dangerous. It is also boring and doesn’t quicken the pulse. We need to start speaking nationally about how boring racism is hurting America.