Why you can’t be ‘racist’ towards a white person

Open Letters

Trigger Warning: this post deals with identity politics and might raise some hackles if you have strong feelings about race, privilege and power. I invite you to read with an open mind. These views represent what I have come to understand, as a person who studied Equity and Diversity in university and has spent the last decade, plus, trying to be a better, more informed ally to those who experience marginalization.

A friend asked recently: What’s a topic you’d love to deep dive into with a group of people that you rarely have time / energy to “go there” with?

I answered: why you can’t be ‘racist’ towards white people. In recent weeks, I had tried explaining this to a 15 year old boy and got very little traction.

My big question for this young, white boy was ‘what do you gain by being ‘right’ about this? Do you benefit somehow by maintaining that people can, in fact, be racist towards you? This claim of ‘reverse racism’ seems to soothe our ideas about equality – people can be ‘mean to us’ too, after all. But is this effort to establish that white people can be treated as badly as others have been treated by white people missing the point? Arguably, no person or group will ever be able to top white people’s treatment of … any minority.

A friend of a friend very sweetly and sincerely asked for my thoughts on this issue. She wrote, “Hi, we don’t know each other and have the lovely E as a mutual friend but I’m curious – why can’t someone be ‘racist’ toward a white person? I’d have thought that racism doesn’t know ‘colour’. Is racism racist? I think intolerance of one race against another race would qualify as racism, regardless. But maybe I misunderstood!”

Here is my best effort to succinctly unpack the question and offer some answers:

 A simple definition of racism is about someone treating another person poorly (or worse) because of bias/prejudice based on one’s race.

But racISM is about power and power is systemic. There has never been a time when white people were disenfranchised or without systemic power (even if they are the only white person in the room). Peggy McIntosh wrote a very effective essay and list of questions you can ask yourself, which can help to put this into perspective: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack of White Privilege. 

So, while someone can be prejudiced or treat someone in a way that discriminates against a white person based on their racial bias, there will never be/has never been a time when those attitudes were also supported by systems of power that allowed another group to use those avenues to oppress white people based on that aspect of their identity. That doesn’t mean there aren’t disenfranchised white people, or people of colour who have power, etc. But generally, the ability to wield power in conjunction with bias and prejudice about race leads to Racism (capital R).

So, while I might sense or know for sure that someone has treated me with prejudice or inequality based on my ‘whiteness’ I don’t stand to lose my housing, be shot by police, be prevented from moving freely and safely, be taken off a voter list (as is currently happening in Georgia), be denied job opportunities, be followed by security in a store, have speculations about me being a _____________ (insert racial stereotype). To equate whatever prejudice I might experience with the centuries-long murder, enslavement, oppression and pervasive inequality experienced by other races would trivialize the real, lived experiences of minorities (largely perpetrated by colonizing white nations and the legacy of these institutions).

Long answer, but hopefully makes sense. It’s hard sometimes to square this with the definition of racism as just ‘treating some X, based on race’ but equating the treatment of any minority with a white person’s limited experience with racial bias obscures a lot of the history and pervasive, lasting impacts of colonization and racialized violence.

When we cling to the simple definition of racism, one we might use to explain this idea to … elementary students, we overlook the nuances of this issue which isn’t black and white. Even if, on the surface it is about colour, it’s also about… power, access to power and legacies of inequality … of power.  I’m hoping that by looking at those grey areas we can stop holding onto our privilege (to claim we are also experiencing racism), while simultaneously not acknowledging that we have privilege. This doesn’t suggest that we can’t be made to feel bad, be treated badly, or be lumped into a category with every other potato-hued person… which can feel pretty shitty. But that feeling is not comparable to the suffering experienced and real fear visited on people who are not white, now and through history.

Thanks for this question! I’m always still learning and really appreciate exploring this topic, as well as input from others who know more than I do/ can offer insight.  Please feel free to offer you ideas, questions, insights, etc., nicely and politely. I am, after all, Canadian and while really being a fan of diversity, I’m also a huge fan of civility. Thank you!

39 weeks


OOTD – while the due date approaches,… it has been a tough few days. I’ve been having some anxiety. Bad dreams. But pushing through.

I’m dressing like Phoebe from the 90s. Vintage patterned dress, oversized cardigan and knee high socks. Black silky top with bold silver statement necklace from Shannon Passero. Throw on a muppet-inspired navy faux fur coat from Zara for the eve of legalization party at The Drake. Spend a cozy day in a classic sweater dress in camel and navy stripes.

Week 38 Bump OOTD


Still rolling along with little one on slow cook. Fall temperatures have brought some relief, but Summer seems to be making a comeback with some warm and sunny weather. This far along, dresses are my best friend.

Lots of dresses in my life, from top left, Anthropologie navy with white dots, Winners red and black mod flowers, psychedelic silky tunic from a clothing swap, and an oversized black and white spotted Zara dress shirt with peplum. All worn with some variation of black leggings and boots or jeans and boots. Never skip a chance to wear your res lipstick (if you’re into that sort of thing).

Country Showers Bring Sweet … Horses!


Ever since I was little girl, I’ve had an obsession with horses and ponies. When a friend of mine, who just happens to live on an equestrian farm, offered to host a baby shower for us it didn’t actually occurred to me what that meant: horses would be part of our fall shower!

Thank you, Shan, for the most warm and loving day of celebration. I’m grateful – always.

Turns out that my shower dress matches our nursery! It was a short drive out to the country – for cake, food, great friends and an autumn walk around the farm.

Food Prep For New Mom’s


I was inspired by a friend who went on a marathon food-prepping session – following a plan from StockpilingMoms.com

I picked the most appealing plan and hit the grocery store with the pre-made list from the site. This, after two weeks of trying to eat up other leftovers and clear out one whole drawer of the freezer. With a total bill of $300 (including some leftovers like olive oil, lemon juice, etc), I will have twenty meals of four servings each – stored flat in the freezer and ready to simply throw in the slow cooker/crockpot. Ready and delicious with just a side or two to prepare.

It did take a while, but the cat seemed to find it more exhausting than I did. I prepped and labelled the Ziploc bags yesterday, and then went ahead filling the bags, starting with one type of meat, and moving through the rest. I kept my compost out and my recycling bin handy, and really only used a few knives and several cutting boards. I am beyond thrilled with my stockpile of food. Although my wife is eating vegetarian, and on most days I do as well, some of these meals have meat and will be great while I’m replenishing my iron stores post birth with a high dose of protein.

My pictures don’t look very different from the ones on the StockpilingMoms website!

Check out the site for some handy and well-organized meal and grocery plans to suit anyone, from full vegetarian to Paleo.

Perhaps this is the ‘nesting’ everyone talks about. Let me know if you have other tips and hacks for new moms!