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Miss Manners by Judith Martin, Nicholas Ivor Martin and Jacobina Martin

Racism Discussion With Friends

DEAR MISS MANNERS: I had a conversation with friends that left me really upset, and I feel I need a second opinion as to whether or not I should be.

First of all, I am horrified at the injustices people of color have faced in this country. However, I am a white male and I spent a number of years in another country, where people are primarily of a different race. On numerous occasions there, I was shouted at with derogatory racial epithets, and one time was even hit lightly with a car while being shouted at. These instances were emotionally very hurtful.

I brought up these stories while discussing how evil racism is, and was told, “It is not possible for a white male to suffer racism.” Not only that, I was told that even though my friends know I am not racist, I should not repeat the stories, as I would be taken as a racist.

According to them, the definition of racism is “thinking you are better than someone because of your race.” They said it is unlikely that people in that foreign country said hurtful things to me because of racism, but rather out of resentment for white people’s history of cruelty and injustice towards others.

I feel racism is racism, and what really matters is how the victim feels. My partner is upset at me for my opinion. Should I be offended?

GENTLE READER: You are debating semantics. Miss Manners is quite certain that you are destined to lose this argument -- and alienate far more than your friends through its insistence.

Yes, there was a preconception made against you based on the color of your skin, but while admittedly horrid and unfair, it is different from the experience of most marginalized groups. As unpleasant as it was for you, it did not take away your rights, freedoms and basic equality.

The fact that it was likely a retaliatory bias, and not inherent, is key. Persisting in your argument and in taking offense will only make you look naive. Miss Manners suggests that you stop.