An Open Letter to a White Male Influencer

There are Real World Consequences for Racism

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Photo by Joel Mangin on Unsplash

We haven’t even met and you have already broken my heart.

I was listening to you being interviewed on one of my favourite podcasts and I immediately became a fan. You seemed likeable, kind, generous, accomplished and provided a ton of value.

Before the episode had even finished, I subscribed to your personal podcast. You had earned a seat in my very competitive podcast list. 

The first episode I listened to was a solo episode. You were just talking and sharing information. It started out okay…you were casual and making jokes. Mid-way through the podcast, you started talking in a fake Asian accent.

My jaw dropped.

My heart sunk.

I felt deeply disappointed.

I felt angry.

Maybe this was just a terrible lapse in judgment? Maybe you didn’t realize your attempt at humour could offend? Maybe you think it’s okay to make fun of people’s accents, kind of like (cruel) kids do in the schoolyard?

OR maybe you’re racist?

Maybe you think White people are superior. Maybe you think small children from other countries should be torn away from their parents and locked in cages. Maybe you frequently do a Nazi salute.

Oh sorry (not sorry), I noticed that pained look on your face when you read those lines. You don’t think of yourself as racist, do you?

I always try to give people the benefit of the doubt. So I want to cling to the first explanation – that it was a lapse in judgment. A colossal miss at trying to be funny.

The thing that you may not realize is that you, as a White male, are in a position of influence. You, as a White male, are someone who people are looking to as a role model. You, as a White male, are someone who gets interviewed on many podcasts. You, as a White male, say that your mission is to serve people.

You may not have meant to convey this message but in making fun of Asian people’s accents, you clearly indicated that you don’t want to serve everyone. You sent the message that not everyone who listens to your podcast is welcome. No Asians allowed.

And then it got me wondering… does this also apply to people from other racialized groups who may happen to download your podcast?

Now you may be thinking: “take it easy…it was just a joke.  I didn’t mean to offend people.”  

Well, first of all, this is a common way to turn the tables and make the problem about the person who experiences racism (me) rather than the person who committed the racist act (you).  

Second, those who are often the target of racist jokes or comments get tired of these jokes, which are racist microaggressions.  Sorry, let me explain…  

Better yet, let me share Dr. Derald Wing Sue’s explanation on microaggressions with you (BTW, he is a highly regarded Professor from Columbia University):

Racial microaggressions are the brief and everyday slights, insults, indignities and denigrating messages sent to people of color by well-intentioned White people who are unaware of the hidden messages being communicated. These messages may be sent verbally (“You speak good English.”), nonverbally (clutching one’s purse more tightly) or environmentally (symbols like the confederate flag or using American Indian mascots). Such communications are usually outside the level of conscious awareness of perpetrators.

After I listened to that episode, I unsubscribed from your podcast and all of your email lists. I made an explicit choice to never purchase your products.

I could have just let it go. 

No big deal. 

No loss. 

Just another racist White male influencer whose products will never make it onto the list of things I will ever purchase. Why bother using up my time and energy writing about it?

But I have always been one to stand up…

So I thought I would take some time to explain this to you and make this a teachable moment.

I want to let you know that there are real world consequences for racism. We have seen a number of people lose their jobs after they engaged in overtly racist incidents which were posted on social media.  Those are well-deserved, real world consequences.

And even for racist microaggressions, there are real world consequences.  You will lose money from me and from the many others who just won’t tolerate hate, injustice, and racism in this world.

So please check your privilege, White male influencer. 

Think carefully before you speak. 

Consider the power and influence that your words carry.

I write this message in the hope that you learned something. I write this in the hope that you will think carefully about the messages you are conveying about respect for all people

And mostly, I write this in the hope that you don’t break anyone else’s heart.

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