“I’m a racist, and I don’t want to be. I’m a white man in my very early 40s, and for years I’ve been extremely awkward and anxious around African Americans, especially men. At some point in my early teens, I became very self-conscious about the racial divide. And about that time, I moved to a much more homogeneously white area, and I guess gradually black people became abstractions to me or something. When I moved back to a more mixed neighborhood in college, I found I was afraid of them. Horrible thoughts and associations — of crime, violence, whatever — would spring to mind.
“Now it’s reached the point where I can’t encounter any African-American person without these thoughts cropping up, along with this seizure of panic that I’m racist, I’m giving off a funny vibe, I’m making that person feel uncomfortable and he or she can see through me and knows what’s going on. It’s a complex of shame and humiliation and fear that for two-plus decades I haven’t been able to think my way out of, and if anything, it’s only getting worse with age.
“When I look for some suggestions online, they recommend going out and meeting the people I’m afraid of — trying to make the abstract particular, humanizing who I’m imagining, etc. But come on. How is that not just turning people into my little self-betterment project? It’s hard for me to imagine something more condescending and objectifying. Of course, I’m also just flat-out scared of being exposed, of being seen for who I am.
“I have no patience with apologists who would argue that there’s a legitimate justification for being racist. But I also have had no success in eradicating this side of my personality that I find so repellent.” –Ready to Get Rid of Racism