Racial Minorities Share Some Of The Subtly Racist Things People Say To Them Without Even Realizing

In this country American means white. Everybody else has to hyphenate.

Toni Morrison


1. Interviewer for a job: So how to you pronounce your name?

Me: Shee-yu Joo. [It's Shiu Ju].

Interviewer: Uhhh, okay. I'm just gonna call you Jane. Is that okay?

Me: I'm just gonna show myself out.


2. Can you pass the skin color crayon always meant the peach one. "Natural looking" bandaids, until recently, only came in a beige / peach tone. The term "nude" for nude bras still always refers to the ones that resemble white peoples' skin color. People describing people in stories as "a man" or "a woman" to refer to white people but then putting a race in front of everyone else, because the default is to assume white until told otherwise. There are a thousand of these tiny things, and sure they're so slight that any one of them wouldn't bother me on its own, but added up day after day, it can really make you internalize the racism and start to see yourself as lesser than.


3. How they always assume I like fried chicken and watermelon. I do like those things, but still....


4. I once had a friend try to set me up with "the perfect guy" for me that she had met at work (this was before I was out, even to myself), and when I asked her why he was so "perfect" for me, she said "he's the first black guy at my office."

That was it. Full stop. He'd been there for one day, she had no idea if he was a nice guy or not. He was black, I am black. So, you know...


5. Being followed shopping in stores;

When people tell me they "don't see color" or say "you're the whitest black person I know" as if it's a compliment, or there's some way I'm acting that defines the color of my skin.

Then there was the time in high school that I went to the gym after b-ball practice to get water and a cop detained me in cuffs because the silent alarm was going off and he thought I broke into the gym and put on an organized wrestling match between my school and another.

I was the only one detained - all the white students and coaches weren't. An hour later, I was uncuffed and told to "stay out of trouble" by that cop instead of apologized to. Not so subtle, but nobody else seemed to notice or care.


6. My ex is black and he said that people would say to him "I don't even see you as black" or "I don't see color" which pissed him off because (Continued)

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what the hell is wrong with being seen as black. I noticed a very clear difference in the way he was treated by the police, I was honestly so shocked! I live in Australia and I thought that was just an American thing. Obviously not.


7. My Black friend in college was always annoyed with how they try to make everything ethnically diverse.

They were making a photo of happy students for one of the very small schools at my university that had no Black people in it, so they asked him to join. He argued that he didn't belong to that school, so they offered him coupons to the cafeteria. That whole discussion was so awkward and uncomfortable, I almost wanted the coupons to be from the local KFC.


8. When the substitute teacher needed to leave for a moment during math class and put me in charge to 'continue the lesson'. I am the only Asian in class. I am horrible at math.


9. The so-called 'positive' stereotypes suck... I mean, aside from being just stupid, I personally don't conform to any of them. So there's a lot of "whoa, I'm a better dancer than you! haha, I'm more Black than you are!"

Like, I hate that phrase... "I'm blacker than you..." cause I've heard it so much... No... you're not. Unless you are Black, you can't be blacker than me.


10. It's becoming more well known, but well, it's still something that a lot of white people don't understand. Hair. Black hair. People can be so rude and inappropriate about it.

Like, random stranger in the post office yesterday -- not kidding, this happened yesterday -- smiled at me in a friendly way and said "Is that your hair?"

Motherducker, it's on my head... it's mine. Whether it's extensions or it grew out of my head is none of your business. And yes, I get that people are curious, but... you wouldn't do that about anything else. A woman you don't know with really long eyelashes, would you randomly ask her if she had eyelash extensions? Of course not. that would be rude and inappropriate.

I also constantly get asked how (or even if) I wash my hair... again, many times by strangers. Again, highly inappropriate.

Oh, and the touching. Like, I'm not a cat.

And just so you know, I don't get angry like this in person, I tend to just smile and answer, but this is the internet so I'm being honest. It pisses me off. I honestly don't mind when good friends ask, but strangers? And one time a professor, in front of the class... called me out and asked me if my hair was real.


11. Guy in my civics class: What are you?

Me: I'm American.

Guy: No but like, where are your parents from?

Me: My mom's from Long Island and my Dad grew up in Iowa.

Guy: No but like, what's your ethnicity?

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Me: Judging by the dictionary, which defines ethnicity as "belonging to a social group that has a common national or cultural tradition," I'd say American. Probably also New Yorker, but that's getting into microdetails.

Guy: You don't look American.

Me: By that do you mean I don't look like an Aboriginal person or that I don't look like you? Just because your family came over from rural Ireland and mine came from Nigeria doesn't make either one of us more or less American.

Guy: Ooooooooh. So you're Nigerian.

Me: I give up.

12. Random teenager commented that it's nice my baby is part Asian because he'll probably be good at math.


13. At my small liberal arts college, for each month, the dining room would have "special dinners." Normally they only occurred once a month, and they'd give out items that they normally did not prepare.

EVERY FEBRUARY... they'd have a black-history month meal. The items on the menu were:

  • Fried Chicken
  • Collard Greens
  • Corn Bread
  • Watermelon
  • Kool-aid


14. Turning up at South African border control in their international airport with a Portuguese passport and being asked if I had arrived to sell fruit and veg.


15. One time my class was going on a rather expensive field trip. The teacher announced that we could fundraise to subsidize the cost, and to see her for forms. After class, she makes a beeline to me and puts a paper in my hand. "Here you go, Trey. If you need any more help don't be afraid to ask." I don't know if it was the color of my skin or the way I dressed or both, but I just turned to her and said, "Ms. Brown, my parents are some of the wealthiest people in this city, I'm sure someone else could use the help more than myself." The look on her face was priceless. The truth? I lied. I'm from an upper middle class family, not super wealthy but definitely well off enough to pay for my field trip. I just wanted to see her reaction, and call her on her assumptions.


16. When I joined student council and the president said I should be treasurer because I'm Jewish, so I "could save everyone a lot of money." I know it's not racism, but it was really a bizarre experience.

17. I don't think this counts as racism, mostly just people being ignorant about history. Being asked where my family is "really" from or what my family's homeland is.

Do people not understand what slavery is? We're given the ethnicity African American because we (Continued)

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because we have no way of knowing where the heck we're from. Our ethnic/racial classification is an entire continent because we have no true homeland. People that migrate from Africa aren't African Americans, they're Kenyan-Americans, Egytian-Americans, Tunisian-Americans and so on. I don't think people understand the frustration of just having to pick a random country and culture to follow when none of them are really yours.


18. Having employees/loss prevention officers follow you in stores. Especially the ones that dress and pose as regular customers, after about the age of fifteen I'd confront them. Sadly a few weeks later the same officer would be following me around again.


19. I always think it's interesting how our language subtly shapes our perceptions of color, and as a kid I was totally unaware of this ingrained fear. For example:

- Money earned through illegal methods or money on which tax is not paid is called black money, but legal money is called white money.

- Culture equates white with being good and pure, and black with being evil. Notice how heroes usually wear white, and villains wear black cloaks.

- Blackening is a word that means to damage or blot someones reputation or to make something black. Whitening means to make something white. Why does blackening also have a negative connotation

Prathamesh Kulkarni

20. You're so articulate: as if I'm not expected to, based solely on my race, Women clutching purses as you walk past; Men holding women tighter to them as you pass

Alex James

21. Being asked if you are legal at college admissions by the admission girls even though you are a citizen but just brown.


22. White people living in a foreign country: Expat

Non-White people living in a foreign country: Immigrant

Ajmal Oodally

23. I'm a Black woman, my husband is white. We have mixed-race kids. When he takes them out into public alone (Continued)

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When he takes them out into public alone people assume they're adopted. When I take them into public alone, people assume I'm their nanny.


24. Had a business meeting in an office on Wall Street. The concierge asked me if I was the new janitor.

"I'm here to meet with [president of company] you should have me in your schedule."

"I'm so sorry."


25. When I mention subtle racism like everything that's already been mentioned, and a white person tries to "explain" to me how I'm wrong or what it's actually like to be Brown.


26. Athletic scholarships. Many sports require complex facilities or lots of equipment, putting them out of reach of many urban leagues or school districts.


27. Anytime anyone brown or black commits a crime, their race is reported on the news. When it's a white person, it's just a "man" or "woman" who committed the crime. This is so small, but so significant. If you're only ever hearing about certain races (or religions for that matter) committing crimes, you're more likely to (Continue)

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If you're only ever hearing about certain races (or religions for that matter) committing crimes, you're more likely to associate those people with criminal activity. Especially if you are living in a mostly white community, this is super dangerous, because that's the only impression you form of other races.


28. Being told by a woman at a bar that "even though I'm Asian" she could "definitely be into dating" me. I nope'd my way out of that one fast. The whole dating scene is really hard for Asian males.


29. "I like you. You're not like the other Koreans."


30. Ancestral national heritage.

Europeans and American descendants of Europeans readily have their ancestry acknowledged by country. South-East Asian and South American descendants or immigrants, less so. South Asians, native Americans, middle-westerners, and Africans (and their descendants/immigrants) are not afforded the same opportunity to regularly present or be known by a specific nationality.


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