I have a question about racist strangers who think I am their friend.
Occasionally, I’ll be out in public waiting in line, reading at the
library or just waiting for the bus and a stranger will approach me
and feel compelled to make a racist observation about someone else who
is present. I am a white person, and I think these strangers assume
that because of that, I will totally agree with whatever racist slur
comes out of their mouth.
Usually I just give them a look of disgust and horror and try to move
away as quickly as humanly possible, but I would love some clever
scripts to have on hand to let them know that:
1. I do not agree. At all.
2. That they are horrible and racist.
3. To get away from me.
This doesn’t happen often, but when it happens, it often takes me by
complete surprise. I realize this is a problem of privilege, but I am
concerned that my silence (even with the face of disgusted horror)
could be interpreted as agreement, and I never want to give that
Not Your Friend, Racist Stranger
Keep it simple! “Wow, that’s really racist.”
Maybe throw in a “Not cool” or “Do you seriously believe that?” or “I beg your pardon?” depending on how much you want to engage.
The person will likely insist that they aren’t being racist, to which you say “Sure, whatever. Howabout: Don’t talk to me anymore.” Chatty Racist, like Rape Joke Telling Bro, is looking for people who will be a willing audience for their crap, and if they can’t find that, they’ll settle for a silent-but-unwilling one and get off on making you uncomfortable but too scared or polite to speak up.
If you feel safe and able to do so, defeat them with total bluntness. It won’t change hearts and minds, but it will remove the sheen of plausible deniability or silent assent from what they do, and it will show the people the comments are meant to intimidate and marginalize that you have their backs.