Excuses for Not Acting

There are a lot of potential excuses for not actively engaging to counter racism.  Some minimize the impact of racism.  Some divert attention.  Some make racism an illegitimate topic.  They are all designed to derail conversations about racism and provide an excuse for not committing to action.

For most White people many of these excuses pop up unbidden.  They are natural reactions that have been built in by the systemic racism in which we were raised and in which we live.  The issue isn’t whether we have some of these reactions because we will.  The issue is whether we catch them when they pop up and counter them. 

Some we can deal with once or twice and get past.  Others tend to hang on because they are based in unconscious bias.  The value of dealing with those more tenacious excuses is that they can lead to unconscious bias that we can then free ourselves from.   

With these excuses, as with so many of the challenges of countering racism, we need to quickly get past any guilt or shame and focus on taking responsibility for how we want to act – who we want to be.

Below are common excuses.  Most will be very familiar.  There are others.  The downloadable PDF also includes ways to counter the excuses and alternative ways to approach each excuse.

Being Colorblind

“I don’t see race”   

“People are just people – we are all just human”

“I don’t think of you as Black”

“We all bleed red when we are cut”


Competing Victimizations

“All lives matter”

“People of color actually have it easier than White people now” 

“White people are under attack” 

“Affirmative action is outdated and is now reverse racism”   


Making Race an Illegitimate Topic

“You’re playing the “race card”

“Anti-Racist is a code word for Anti-White”

“Not all White people…”

“Confederate flags and monuments are about heritage”

“I’m not political”

“Everyone has a right to their opinion”


Tone Policing

“You’re too angry” 


Putting it in the Past

“We’ve made tremendous progress”

 “Slavery was over a long time ago”  

“Racism was fixed in the 60s with civil rights legislation”


Black Exceptionalism

“If Obama and Oprah can succeed…”

Innocence by Association

“I’m not racist, I have Black friends, voted for Obama, etc.”

“I don’t own slaves (nor did my ancestors) or vote for David Duke (KKK)


Blaming the Victims

“They should have followed police commands”  

“If people worked harder, they would do better”