Hopefully I don't stick my foot in it, but I have seen enough asininity on the net to choke a horse. I also don't believe it is the PoC's (Person of Color's) responsibility to teach white folks how not to be bigoted assholes. This is my attempt to teach politeness to the rude.
So here goes...
- Do not quote your "black/hispanic/asian friend" as the source of all truth about that group, especially to that group. Not all PoC are alike, really. Individuality is the rule, not the exception. Stereotypes are mental straightjackets.
- Don't expect your PoC friend/acquaintance/net.person to be the spokesperson for all PoC. Just like you don't speak for all whites, they don't speak for all PoC. They'll usually tell you how common an experience is among their friends and family, if you ask politely.
- Do not expect to be praised for talking to a PoC. Really. You don't get brownie points for having "a black/hispanic/asian friend". You don't get brownie points for simply being a considerate, polite human being. You might, however, get the benefit of having a broader outlook.
- If a PoC, live or on the net, says something about what they've experienced being a PoC in this society, listen. Don't contradict them, don't minimize it, don't negate it. It's not your place to tell them where they've been or what has happened to them. Repeat it, retweet it, try to understand how they feel about it, but don't even imply that it is somehow insignificant or didn't happen. Institutionalized racism is real, and even if you don't notice it, it still bites PoC.
- If you inadvertently stick your foot in your mouth, either just the toes or up to the hip, apologize, without "but", without victim blaming, and keep a lid on your privilege next time. Don't expect them to educate you on why you were wrong, offensive or just insensitive - it's not their job to make you not be a bigot. Don't expect them to forgive you, either. They aren't obligated to soothe your guilt.
- PoC have standards about who they will accept as friends too. You may not measure up. Deal with it. They may not feel a need to have a token white friend who can regale them with a high level of cluelessness.
- Don't make comments about their appearance that touch on stereotypes. "You look great today" is fine, "Your hair is really pretty, can I touch it?" is most decidedly not. Would you like it if someone commented that "Hey, your neck is less red today!"
- Realize that PoC may not have had the same opportunities as you did. Realize that predominantly minority schools are often underfunded. Realize that a PoC has to deal with shit every day that you can't even imagine having to put up with. Realize that even if you have been poor, you haven't been poor and a PoC.
- PoC often come from a different subculture. Expecting them to relate to white, suburban, middle class jokes when they are black, urban, and working class will probably be a big flop - just like you don't get all the jokes from your white, rural, farming country relatives.
- Claims of "it's a free country" and such ring pretty hollow to PoC - the police usually treat them like outsiders, criminals who just haven't been caught yet. Support them when they say there are problems between the authorities and their communities.
- Yes, it's true, a black person can use the "N" word, and you can't. Deal with it. If you'd had "Cracker" thrown at you in the way they have had the "N" word used, you'd want to find a way to lessen the sting too. That goes for other slurs too.
- If a PoC indicates that you have been an ass, don't justify, or demand that they explain how and why. Be glad they even told you, and didn't just cut you off like you didn't exist. Just apologize. Think about the incident, what you said, and how it might have sounded to them. Nine times out of ten, with a little bit of thought and empathy you will get it. Ask a friend if you still can't figure it out.
- There are areas of intersection of minority status and bigotry. Don't take them for granted. Build on common ground, but respect differences and different impacts. Shit you take for granted often is hard won by PoC.
- The hardest part: If you don't have something really constructive or helpful to say when someone has a problem due to being a PoC in the US, keep your yap shut. Make sure that other people know that they've been wronged, if it's a public discussion, but don't throw your two cents in. It isn't helpful.
- Don't do the "Yes, but" thing when a PoC tells you about an incident or entrenched bigotry. It doesn't help, and will likely get you mocked, chewed out, or given the cold shoulder. When in doubt, keep your mouth shut. It's harder to stick your foot in that way.
- Don't use the "tone" argument, don't derail, don't dismiss, minimize, or otherwise negate a PoC's experiences. Would you want to be erased, treated like nothing you experienced was true, or even real, and that how you felt was inconsequential or invalid? So don't do it to someone else. Remember, when in doubt, shut up.
- If a white friend of yours is being racist, call them on it. Don't expect that they will listen well, but they might be more inclined to hear it from you than a stranger. If they don't stop that kind of crap, rethink if you really want to associate with that type of jerk. There is a thing such as guilt by association. Yes, it's harder with family.
White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack
Derailing For Dummies - yes, this is sarcasm
the tone argument