“I’m not a racist/sexist/homophobe, but…”
“My best friend is gay/black/Asian/etc, and he doesn’t care when I use that word.”
“It’s just a joke. You know I don’t mean it like that.” “Oh I’m not one of those people. You know I don’t mean anything by it.”
“You know I don’t mean you when I say that. You’re not like the rest of them.”
I could go on and on with more phrases like these, but I am sure we can all conjure up similar expressions that we have heard before or even said ourselves. Nice people say careless things all the time, make jokes that offend some people, use words laden in histories of hate and subjugation, condone systems of inequality. Does this make them bad people? No. Does not being a "bad" person make it okay to speak or act in such a way? No. I am so sick of people brushing off micro-aggressions because they were just joking or they "didn't mean it like that." There is no way for someone to use offensive language, play off of stereotypes, or put down a group of people without endorsing existing systems of inequality. There is no way to claim absolution from a system that a person partakes in just because they know better or they only do it in certain social settings.
If someone claims to be a nice person out there, if someone claims to not be a racist/misogynist, if someone is not one of "those people," then prove it. Thoughts and intentions don’t matter at all in the face of actions. Moving outside of systems that are societal norms and bred over lifetimes takes constant effort and vigilance. It is no easy feat. And mistakes/ slip ups will be made. But it is through the acts of rectifying those slip-ups, being open to growth, seeking out different perspectives, and accepting criticism with compassion and an open mind that we can slowly work beyond systems of hate and inequality. And earn that “nice guy” badge that is so easy to just verbally claim.
I'm a bi female undergraduate student majoring in Psychology, with minors in Women and Gender Studies and African American Studies. I am passionate about issues of domestic violence and sexual assault, and intend to get my masters in social work in order to serve those populations.