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Uh-Oh: Kyle Just Started a Sentence with "I'm Not Racist, But..."


Photo by Tony Alter / CC BY 2.0

This isn’t good.

Intro to Sociology recitation. 10 a.m. on a Friday morning. Everyone would rather be in bed. The air is tense. Something is wrong.

The TA is discussing the history of structural oppression of minorities throughout American history, and the very real continuing systemic challenges they face in 2019.

Up flies Kyle’s hand. Uh-oh. He’s exactly who his name suggests he is (there may be good Kyles out there, but I have never met one). The class falls silent. Kyle adjusts his baseball cap, which is on backwards, as he waits patiently to be called on.

The TA looks worried. She knows just the kind of person Kyle is and is worried about what he might ask. Realistically, he’s won't even ask anything, just state something dumb, offensive, or incredibly racist (or all three), and then look really smug about it. That’s what he usually does.

She hesitates, but eventually calls out his name, through gritted teeth. “Kyle?” she asks. It’s almost a groan.

This is it. His time has come. He smiles, clearly thinking about how great he is, how brave. Anyone in his class would love to punch his grin off his face.

“I don’t have a question, actually,” he says, as he always does. “Just wanted to say something.” Time stops.

“I’m not racist, but…”

What he said next doesn’t deserve to be repeated. Was it reprehensible? Yes. Did it reveal Kyle’s immense privilege and all of the benefits accorded to him because of his family, race and background? Yes. Were all his classmates shocked? Yes, but maybe not as much as they would be if it were anyone else. They all know the truth about Kyle, after all, and that does deserve to be repeated:

Kyle is, in fact, racist.