If there's one thing to know about racism, it's that racism (and race) is incredibly complex. Many people think racism means one group of people hates another group of people. However, racism manifests in all kinds of subtle and insidious ways. It operates on both a micro and macro level. For this reason, it's so hard to talk about racism, or even recognize it when it's going on.
So sorry, just because you're not burning crosses on some black person's lawn doesn't necessarily mean you're not part of the problem. It's important that we recognize the different ways racism exists in the world, because being aware is the first step in fixing the problem. The fact of the matter is, there's no one specific kind of racism or racist. There are many types of racists, and they come in all forms, from the blatant to to the inconspicuous. Below is a list of just a few of the different kinds:
1. "But I Have A Black Friend" Racist
The "But I have a black friend!" line has become a crude cliché, but some oblivious people still use it as an excuse whenever they get called out for racist behavior. Last week, the wife of an Alabama teacher who wore blackface for his Kanye West Halloween costume came to his defense saying, "Some of my husband's best friends are black."
What people who use this excuse fail to realize is that having a black friend is not some kind of fool-proof guard against saying or doing racist things. Just because you've befriended one, maybe two black people, doesn't mean your behavior doesn't offend an entire race. Instead of using your innocent hypothetical black friend as a way to absolve yourself, actually own up to and learn from your mistakes.
2. Free Speech Racist
Comedians like Lisa Lampanelli and Patton Oswalt have defended racist jokes by pointing to the fact that being "politically correct" is the antithesis of comedy. But contrary to popular belief, the right to free speech doesn't mean saying whatever the hell you want is really the best way to go. According to the First Amendment, American citizens have the right to say most anything without being penalized for it by the government, but that doesn't mean you can't be called out for saying something blatantly racially offensive.
3. Fetishizing Racist
Fetishizing Racists are creepily attracted to a particular race based on racial stereotypes. Rather than looking at a potential partner as a human being, they look at him or her as an exotic sexual object. They might obsess over the possibility of having "mixed" looking babies, and they're liable to say things like, "all black women are freaks in bed" or, "Asian girls are submissive," and actually believe it. Ew.
4. Colorblind Racist
Colorblind Racists believe that saying, "I don't see color" is a good thing, when what they're really saying is: "I don't see color because I don't have to." Colorblind Racists have the privilege to ignore the every day realities of racism which don't affect them directly. Acknowledging our differences isn't inherently bad -- it's when we let those differences divide us that "seeing color" becomes a problem.
5. "Not All White People" Racists
Not All White People Racists are skillfully adept at turning frank conversations about racism into conversations about themselves. Much like the But I Have A Black Friend Racist, they're quick to remind you that just because slavery happened or segregation was a thing, not all white people are bad. They fail to understand that to call out structural inequalities and institutionalized racism is not blaming all white people ever.
6. Hipster Racists
Hipster Racists rock Native American headdresses, dream catcher tattoos, and bindis to come off as spiritual or "edgy." Hipster Racists often say or do blatantly racist things for the sake of "irony," and think that taking a few African American studies classes at their liberal arts school means they couldn't possibly ever be racially insensitive. Hipster Racists will often make "aren't white people just the worst?" jokes, as if they themselves aren't the worst.
7. It's Science! Racists
These racists love to trot out all kinds of statistics, studies, and graphs to justify their backwards beliefs about people of color. It's Science! Racists were responsible for the three-fifths rule which declared African-Americans only three-fifths human in 1787. Today, scientific racists like Nicholas Wade argue that racial groups are genetically predisposed to certain mental abilities and traits. They might believe that black people are innately lazy, or Latinos are more likely to be rapists. They will have used the phrase "what about black on black crime?" at some point in their lives. They are awful.
8. Voyeuristic Racists