A – Articulate
“Usually you don’t find Black people as articulate and well-spoken as you are.”
Meaning – I’m impressed that you speak English the same way I do. Usually Black people speak with those funny ghetto accents. But you sound really educated and upper class.
B – Black-on-Black
“What about Black-on-Black crime?”
Meaning – I think it’s stupid to raise all this hell over police brutality when there is so much violence within Black neighborhoods. Clearly, this violence in Black neighborhoods must exist because Black people are naturally violent and ill-equipped for civil (aka White) society, so the buck stops there, my friend. No blaming the cops. Absolutely nothing to do with economic inequality or the fact that colonialism and slavery set non-White peoples at a major social disadvantage all over the world.
C – Color
“Just so you know, I don’t see color.”
Meaning – A) I am unschooled in the age-old discussion about “colorblindness” and do not yet know how pernicious and misguided this statement is, and can’t see how the statement makes it seem as though having skin of a particular color is something to be ignored or politely disregarded, like a disability or deformity.
B) I think I am better than my racist ancestors. In my mind, this colorblindness is a sign of my virtue and progressiveness, which absolves me and my ancestors from the sins of prejudice and hate. Because I have already established that the color of someone’s skin does not affect how I treat them, I am free to continue believing all the unconscious and unexamined racial biases I carry in the back of my mind.
D – Divisive
“You guys don’t need to be so rude and divisive when making your points. It frightens people away.”
Meaning – I don’t care how valid your points are. When you yell at me, it scares me and pushes me away. And then I won’t want to help you fight for your rights. And you want me to help you fight for your rights, because otherwise you wouldn’t be yelling. So be nice when talking about your son that just got killed by a cop.
E – Exhausting
“Everything is about race these days. It’s so exhausting.”
Meaning – I feel uncomfortable with my status as a member of the privileged group. Pointing out white privilege makes me feel personally attacked. I feel like an oppressor because I do not belong to the oppressed group, and this causes me to feel stressed and upset. I am too stressed and exhausted to go back to the real topic at hand: the tangible and serious problems affecting Black people and their communities.
F – Friend(s)
“My friends are a diverse group of people. I understand and sympathize with their struggles. I am not a racist person.”
Meaning – I am an ally because I have non-White friends, who would not have been friends with me if I were a racist person. I’m a good person, free of the racial biases that society instills in everyone. I am doing my share just by having friends who are POC. Be happy with me.
G – Girl
“God, I love me a Black girl!”*
Meaning – I pursue those of a specific race because I have fetishistic preferences to satisfy, not because I am attracted to the human soul underneath the other person’s skin. I like to think I’m flattering people when I say this, but I don’t understand (or want to understand) how it undermines a Black person’s basic humanity, exoticising and objectifying them.
*The opposite of this statement–“I don’t go for Black guys/girls”–works the same way.
H – Hair
“Can I touch your hair?”
Meaning – I have only ever seen a maximum of two non-White people in my life. A better understanding of the texture of a Black person’s hair is needed to satisfy my own personal curiosity. Spare me the BLM talk tho.
I – Intersectional
“Fuck those conservatives! And everyone who isn’t an intersectional, vegetarian, ecofeminist communist lesbian like me! I’m a White ally through and through!”
Meaning – I am White person who is virtue signaling and I want everyone to know how woke I am. I desire the public perception of being a cool White person — this is more important to me than actually advocating for oppressed groups. I have never suffered from racism, but I frequently accuse others of being racist. I call myself an ally, but I spend more time talking than listening. Furthermore, even though I don’t know it, I can end up harboring the same unconscious racial biases as the conservatives I rail against, because my obsession with assuming the guise of a social justice warrior prevents me from developing the qualities necessary to actually advance social justice, such as self-awareness, humility, and empathy.
J – Jenner
“Did you see Kylie Jenner’s cornrows? I want them! They look so cool!”
Meaning – I never knew about cornrows or thought they were cool when Black people wore them, but I’m edgy enough to adopt a traditionally Black hairstyle, dance move, slang word, or any other fun cultural aspect. Don’t ask me about actual Black people, their culture, and their experiences.
K – King
“Kendrick Lamar is the rap king, yo. I love dis shit. I’m Black on the inside.”
Meaning – I’m a frat bro at a party who just snorted some coke while pretending to rap. All around me are fifty White boys named John who are dry humping/sexually assaulting fifty White girls named Mackenzie. (Meanwhile, in the “bad part of town,” the cops are using a battering ram against a dilapidated trap house, where Kendrick’s fellow peers and pioneers of rap music are getting arrested–if they’re lucky.)
L – Lives
“Blue Lives Matter”
Meaning: I think that showing support for Black folks by saying “Black Lives Matter” equates to attacking/undermining the police.
“All Lives Matter”
Meaning: I feel that paying attention to the Black community and its struggles divides the country more than actual systemic racism does.
M – Month
“I think it’s racist that you can have a Black history month but not a White history month.”
Meaning – I believe in the concept of equality, but only if it means “no special treatment for anyone. ” Not even if that special treatment aims to undo centuries of exclusion and oppression.
N – N’Yongo
“Lupita N’Yongo is sooooo beautiful.”
Meaning – I’m not used to seeing beauty in Black women, so when one of them comes along in the media that I find attractive, I will treat it as an event that has never happened before in the history of the planet, and overemphasize how much I think this particular Black woman is beautiful.
O – Opinion
“The last time I got into a discussion about race, I was accused of being racist. If I’m going to talk about race again, it better be in a place where I can freely admit my opinions.”
Meaning – I hold others responsible for my own emotions and reactions, and I don’t want to reflect on why I feel uncomfortable discussing race to begin with. Also, my emotional fragility is the priority here, not the lives and rights of POC.
P – Privilege
“Look, I’m 1/18th Native, ok? Don’t hector me about me about my privilege!”
Meaning – I feel singled out and attacked for being a member of a privileged group. I do not enjoy being cast as the oppressor in the narrative unfolding in my mind, and so I would rather claim victimhood or innocence via distant ancestral roots so that I can win arguments online, even though I have White skin and do not know what actual oppression feels like.
Q – Quota
“We already fulfilled our quota of African-American applicants. Thanks.”
Meaning – We literally wouldn’t have thought to hire non-White people if we didn’t have a quota to fulfill in the first place, but since we do, let’s hire just enough to say we’re a diverse company.
R – Rap
“How do people even listen to rap music seriously?”
Meaning – A) I dislike rap music and I don’t know how to communicate this without disparaging an entire genre of music and its listeners.
B) I dislike Black people and their culture.
S – Sensitive
“People need to stop being so sensitive about everything.”
Meaning – I have never been discriminated against or hurt by a racist act or statement. I don’t have a problem dealing with that particular issue, so why should it be a problem for anyone else?
T – Tolerance
“I have zero tolerance for racism against Black OR White people.”
Meaning – I support the idea of equality, but I need to make sure I am protected too, even though White people have literally never needed protection from oppression. I also do not understand/agree that prohibiting racism (which can only occur to historically oppressed groups at the hands of socially dominant ones) differs from prohibiting discrimination or prejudice (which can happen to any racial group).
U – Unity
“Stop pitting people against each other. We need unity and harmony, not division.”
Meaning – I don’t like arguing, and having people calling me out is making me uncomfortable. I don’t understand how this is supposed to help the cause of the opressed. Unity, harmony, and friendship should prevail, even at the cost of constructive disagreement and dissent.
V – Vicksburg
“None of that happens around here in New York City. Maybe down in Vicksburg or in the deep South, but I don’t think racism is that big of an issue here.”
Meaning – I am a better and more progressive person than the people down South because the North fought to free the slaves. I live in a world that is just and equitable to my eyes, and I have never witnessed an act of racism, therefore racism cannot still be an issue.
W – Work
“Regardless of someone’s race, if that person works hard, they will be successful.”
Meaning – I have always earned my successes and accomplished my goals. If people don’t have the same outcome as I do, it’s because they aren’t working hard enough or don’t deserve it, not because society views them as lesser citizens and treats them accordingly.
X – Malcolm X
“Malcolm X and his crew were terrorists and people involved in the Black Panthers are no better than members of the KKK.”
Meaning – I do not understand the basic ideological differences between the two groups and I feel terrorized by the presence of militant Black activist groups because I believe in some fundamental way that the only violence that is excusable is White violence.
Y – Youth
“Black youth in hoodies walking around like that … no wonder they get shot at by police.”
Meaning – I judge the worth of a citizen based in what he’s wearing and how scary he/she looks which, in the case of a young Black man, is pretty damn scary. Not worth the hassle of mourning his death.
Z – Zendaya
“Oprah, Neil DeGrasse Tyson, Zendaya — all these famous, successful Black people, and you’re still going on about racism and whatnot.”
Meaning – I believe that exceptional individuals who have achieved success and fame function as proof that the system is changing and that society no longer discriminates against Black people. In my opinion, seeing Black celebrities in the news/cultural spotlight means that we have undone centuries of systemic racism and that the system is more amenable to non-Whites.
Co-Editor of The Black Revolution Blog