How to Get Called Out on White Privilege

By Anonymous

Hey fellow white people! We white folks are the beneficiaries of white supremacy, a powerful and complex system of institutionalized racial discrimination that advantages white people over Black, Indigenous, and People of Colour. White supremacy can manifest itself in pretty subtle ways, and as white people we are less likely to notice it than BIPOC because we do not experience its negative outcomes.

This means that we white people will get called out for perpetuating white supremacy, either as a group or as individuals. To help dismantle this system that we benefit from, it’s important to learn how to respond when other folks point out that things we do/say/assume/etc. are racist.

Fortunately, responding to valid criticism in a respectful, thoughtful way isn’t actually that hard! Here are some steps that you can take if you are called out on racism/white privilege:

  1. Breathe. It’s ok, this isn’t the end of the world.
  2. Listen. If it’s happening in person, do NOT interrupt the person telling you what you did wrong. It probably took courage for them to bring it up, and it’s rude to interrupt people. It’s assuming of us to interject as if we know better.
  3. Remember: this isn’t just about you as an individual—it’s about a system. We white people carry benefits that hundreds of years of white supremacy have afforded us. As much as we can try to not be racist, it’s pretty much impossible to separate ourselves from that legacy.
  4. Reflect on the truth of the call-out. BIPOC know better than us what racism looks like. Believe them when they tell you something is racist.
  5. Respond, and apologize. There are lots of ways to respond respectfully when someone calls you out. A simple “you’re right, I’m sorry I did that and I’ll try not to do it again. Thank you for telling me” makes it possible for the conversation to keep moving forward without turning it into a big deal.
  6. Take time to learn more – in the moment or on your own time. If you don’t fully understand the call out, it’s fair to want more explanation – but also recognize that not everyone wants to be your personal tutor in How Not to be Racist. You can say “I’m sorry I don’t completely understand the full effect of what I did; do you have time to explain more, or if not are there specific resources I should check out?” That leaves space for others to give you more information if they feel like it, but also direct you to other resources for later.
  7. Keep examining white privilege/supremacy on your own time! Seek out info that BIPOC have created explaining different racist stereotypes/behaviours/assumptions etc. Examine your own thought processes and how they might be a product of white supremacy. Talk to other white people about things they’re learning and changes they’re making. The more we’re aware of how white supremacy works, the more effective we can be in countering it!