Short answer: Yes. You are racist.
More acceptable answer (to help with the feelings): Mostly likely yes.
It’s hard to hear that we white people (and our own selves) are racist, because we want to be on the side of the angels (of justice and reconciliation, etc.). But the true fact is that staying silent isn’t rejection. It’s accommodation and acceptance.
And please understand that because “racism” is seen as bad, no one who thinks of themselves as “good” wants to be called “racist.”
But racism is not what bad people do. Racism is what race-segregating, prejudiced people do. You can be a good person and still be racist if you think that by definition a person can be quantified/qualified by what they look like or their national origin apart from and before any other investigation of the person or their group and then you act on that belief, consciously or unconsciously. Ignorance and denial are no excuse for being racist-in-action, and painful self-examination is no excuse for avoiding the discovery that yes, you are racist.
Any time you make an unqualified judgment because you agree with popular opinion and not literal scientific fact, you are being prejudiced, and if it is based on “race” (which we all agree is an arbitrary classification), then yes, you are racist.
Don’t want to be seen as racist? Stop protesting you are not, and start acting in a race-neutral fashion.
Can you “see” race? If by race you mean appearance or phenotype, then of course. There exists in the world all sorts of people with varying appearances. Some have curly hair. Some straight. Some have strong cheekbones. Some do not. Some have freckles and some do not.
But these are not from “races.” These are from simple genetic information about how we will look. And someone a few hundred years ago in Central Europe (cough—Germany—cough) decided to make arbitrary distinctions between groups of people based entirely upon appearance, and used that to create the literal fantasy of “races.” (For what it’s worth, the same people came up with the perfect “race,” which was people from Georgia, the country that was a part of the Soviet Union, and the home of the Boston bombers’ family, if that’s any comfort. There’s an example of race that is perhaps not so flattering for the “white race.” Maybe the “white race” is the one most prone to terrorism and we need to keep them out of America until we know more about them…)
I can say I have white friends and black friends because I notice obvious things about them, just like I have short friends and tall friends or fat friends and skinny friends or blond(e) friends, brunette friends, a few redheads, and at my age, more and more bald heads. I’m not avoiding that color exists, because color and height and hair type and all the rest are expressions of genetic phentotype, and I notice. Because it exists.
But it doesn’t determine anything other than a way to say “I notice this.”
It certainly is not a way to say “I value this more because of appearance and learned ignorance.”
And I could not care less if you are not a “racist” at heart, because I can’t see your values and your thinking. The only thing I can see is what you do.
When you act like a racist, you are racist in your decisions. If you do not want to be seen as racist, stop acting as one.
If you think your actions are not racist but some (or even many) say they are, I would strongly encourage you to examine your behaviors and stop merely professing your beliefs and protesting your actions as “not really racist.”
Trust me on this one. The pain of going through the examination of your behaviors will be real pain, but the examination and the consequent rejection of racist actions will lead to your personal healing and growth.
And the added benefit is you will stop acting like a racist.
Next up…why racism is not based solely upon appearance but also upon the power to use appearance to determine value. Stay tuned!