You May Not Be Racist, But Your Political Ideology Is

A friendly, only mildly snarky letter to a white conservative

Tim Wise
11 min readNov 14, 2018

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img source: Pixabay

Dear white conservative,

I know.

You’re a good person.

You haven’t a racist bone in your body.

You once dated an Asian woman.

You have black friends.

You don’t see or think about color (well, except for the part where you’re making sure to mention your friends who are black), and you treat everyone the same.

I get it.

But despite how irrelevant your black friends are to the question of whether you might be racist — after all, straight guys can still be sexist and we date, sleep with and even marry women — and no matter how absurd and even harmful the notion of colorblindness is, this isn’t really about you.

This is about your ideology.

As the saying goes, this isn’t personal, it’s business.

And since business is about the bottom line, let me bottom line it for you: Irrespective of the decency and good intentions of individual conservatives, yourself included, modern American conservatism as an ideology is either inherently prone to racism, or at the very least furthers it in a number of ways.

And when I speak of modern American conservatism, I’m not even thinking of the Donald Trump variety. The overt xenophobia of Trumpism, the racist Birtherism with which he began his political climb, and the appeals to white racial anxiety about brown-skinned immigrants and “inner-city” crime are targets far too easy to hit with accusations of racism — low hanging fruit, indeed.

No, I’m speaking even of the conservatism of many “never Trumpers,” at least in previous iterations. For it too is steeped in notions that are at least implicitly racist on many levels.

Of course, I’m aware that this isn’t how you see yourself. You would probably say, as many of your compatriots surely do, that your politics are not motivated by racism, but rather, by race-neutral matters like reducing the size of government or excessive taxation. But while I recognize that these are common concerns of folks like…

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Tim Wise

Anti-racism educator and author of 9 books, including White Like Me and, most recently, Dispatches from the Race War (City Lights, December 2020)