Laura Smith sees it in her research.
“Many white people sincerely oppose racism in the abstract but reject the suggestion that they have perpetrated a microaggression — or have racist attitudes,” says Smith, a TC psychologist who studies whiteness.
Whites can be “so insistent in their defenses and explanations,” Smith says — No, I didn’t mean it like that; I just didn’t see you standing there — that people of color often suppress what they feel rather than navigate the barrage of disclaimers.
White reactions can stem from “the shame of discovering racist assumptions we consciously disown, the wish to ‘disappear’ them by explaining them away, and the conflation of intention and impact.”
Living in the context of whiteness means I am used to centering my own experience, so my denial of intention takes precedence over your experience of impact.
“Living in the context of whiteness means I am used to centering my own experience, so my denial of intention takes precedence over your experience of impact,” Smith says.
“People resist changing when things are comfortable, when they feel shame, fear or resentment at the implication that they need to change, and when they feel they have something to lose. Those things take them beyond their comfort zone.”