While Black Series

Oh, The Gaslighting (While Black)

A white person’s need for comfort does not negate my experience as a Black woman

Cover image for Oh, The Gaslighting (While Black) — boy with head in hands
Cover image for Oh, The Gaslighting (While Black) — boy with head in hands
Cover image courtesy of Canva

Let’s get something straight: I recognize racism when I see it.

As Rebecca Stevens Alder pointed out in I Don’t See That I am Black, You Do, I’ve had plenty of time to hone those skills.

I’ve seen the surprise when I walk into an interview room, I’ve had my qualifications and expertise doubted, I’ve been offered reduced pay, I’ve been fetishized, and I’ve been targeted while traveling.

So let me say it again: I know racism when I see it, and when I experience it.

That’s why when I read an article on racist phrases to avoid , where the Ono Mergen said:

I jumped in with the following comment:

Several people took exception to that, but one white man in particular saw my statement about recognizing racism as a statement that he was racist. And truly, it wasn’t about him.

(Of course, he tried to make it about him by writing an entire article to support his own claim not to be racist. Which, to be clear, I had never accused him of. I was having a conversation with the author of the piece I’d just read.)

Someone else jumped into the conversation by implying that Black people see racism everywhere.

All I’m going to say here is: we see racism where it exists. You can draw your own conclusions about whether that’s everywhere or not.

I have to admit I’m tired of the gaslighting. For some white people the fact that they were unaware of racist intentions is absolution in their own eyes. However, that’s not enough for most Black people.

It’s the old issue of intention vs impact. Let’s talk about that in relation to parenting. When two kids are throwing a ball to each other, and one accidentally hits the other with it, we teach them to apologize for the impact, even if the intention wasn’t there. It should be the same with racism, which is way more serious.

If I as a Black woman or BIPOC person tell you how your words or actions affect me, that’s enough reason to 1. Apologize. 2. Never do it again.

Gaslighting is not a reasonable response.

I don’t want to hear that I imagined it or I can’t take a joke or any of the myriad comments that minimize my justified pain.

I don’t want to be blamed when I’m actually the victim, and I certainly don’t want my tone policed.

I don’t want to be asked if I’m sure, or told that it’s not about race.

I don’t need people to play devil’s advocate for racists — they’ve already had it their own way for centuries.

I want you to apologize, mean it, and do better.

As I pointed on in my further response to the self-appointed gaslighter:

Like most people who identify as Black or BIPOC, I am an expert in racism through decades of lived experience. People who have not experienced racism, and have benefited from a privileged position in society, don’t have the chops to negate that experience.

But here’s a suggestion, the next time something a Black person says about racism triggers you, think before you gaslight.

Then ask yourself why you’re more bothered about being called a racist than being anti-racist. It could lead to a very interesting conversation with yourself.

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Written by

Pro writer (B2B/B2C). Antiracism writer. Co-host: Introvert Sisters podcast. Global citizen. She/her. Sharon’s Anti-Racism NL: https://antiracism.substack.com/

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