Earlier this week, I was meeting with a client. She is an elderly black woman. During the meeting, she made an outrageously racist comment about HIspanics (in reference to a dealership employee). Specifically, the employee threatened violence against the client’s brother, and the woman “observed” that Hispanics are prone to violent behavior. I gently pointed out that she was stereotyping, and she immediately backed-off.
Only several days later, when thinking about the current occupant of the White House’s racist comments regarding immigration, something occurred to me. If my client had been white, I think that I would have reacted much more strongly to that comment. I went easy on her. I wasn’t even terribly upset about it at the time.
Yes. It is really ugly for someone to explicitly claim white privilege. That statement presumes that it is one thing for businesses to take advantage of minority consumers but, because he is white, he should receive better treatment. That is really ugly. But, I don’t think that it is as bad as characterizing an entire ethnic group as violent. At least I don’t think it is any worse.
Maybe I reacted less harshly to this elderly black woman because of her age or her gender. But I think my more measured response was, at least partially, because of her race. Did I give her a “pass” on her racism because she’s black?
In retrospect, I now realize that I should have been more gentle with the white man who made the racist comment. In that case, I let my anger control my response. It would have been more productive if I had calmly explained to him why his comments were so offensive to me and tell him that all consumers should be treated fairly, regardless of race. No, it probably would not have caused him to be a better person.