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To the boy who walked out in the middle of class and almost skipped his math test because of me: you know who you are. You had brought coffee to class. My friend tried it and said it had a bitter taste. I made a joke saying that I’ve only ever seen white people drink plain black coffee, and you quickly replied back, “That’s racist.” This surprised me so, of course, I thought that you were joking. Regardless, I swiftly shot back with my usual answer to a statement such as the one you made: “You can’t be racist towards white people like that.”
This immediately outraged you. You stood up and began to walk out, yelling to the teacher, “I’m sorry for doing this, but I just can’t stand to be around stupid people!” You slammed the door behind you and didn’t come back for almost twenty minutes. When you did come back, you began to gather your things as the teacher tried to calm you down. I overheard you say that you were just “really upset right now.” In the end, he convinced you to take your test, and then you were allowed to leave. I don’t know if he knew the situation, and I don’t know if he even chose a side in it. I was just glad that you were gone.
I can’t really say that you were ever a friend in the first place, because the truth is that I never quite liked you anyway. You always seemed so absorbed in your privilege, so high up on your throne, that you didn’t—and still don’t—seem to realize how truly ignorant you are. If your idea of racism is a comment on black coffee, then you clearly have never experienced true racism. You have never been a victim of systematic racism or racial slurs. And no, being called “Becky” or “Cracker” is not a racial slur. You have never been the victim of a hate crime. You have never been kept from a job because you are white. You have never been convicted of a crime you did not commit simply because of the color of your skin. You have never experienced true racism.
You have always made anti-Semitic “jokes”—about the Holocaust, about Nazis, about the violent deaths of Jews, and I have always told you it’s disgusting and that you should stop every time I have heard you say it. You would always say, “Oh no, I have Jewish friends who laugh at them, so I think it’s okay.” So your gruesome “jokes” aren’t racist, but suddenly I am because I believe your privilege protects you from the reality of racism?
Have people been prejudiced against white people? Yes. Are some still prejudiced against white people? Absolutely. Does this mean that you can be racist against white people in the United States of America? No. Because, systematically and otherwise, you have the privilege. Not the Native Americans, or the Hispanics/Latinos, or the black people. Only you. And maybe if you weren’t so absorbed in that fact, you might realize it too.
You have no fear of being deported. You’re not afraid when pulled over by a cop. You don’t have to worry about acting “too white” in front of people, because that’s never been a problem for you. People of color wish that their biggest problem was having a joke made about a cup of black coffee. Your problem with that is completely irrelevant compared to the real problems, and the real issues, that colored people face today, that they have always faced.
I am not writing this article to “expose” you, or even to bring you down. You exposed yourself, in fact. It’s just that you need to know that the way you acted was completely unnecessary and it baffled me how someone could be so uninformed and so dramatic at the same time.
Your friend sitting next to you shook his head as you left. “That’s how you know,” was all he said. He didn’t need to finish his sentence for me to know what he was talking about.