Johnson’s thesis for this article is “but the truth is that my silence, my inaction, and especially my passive acceptance of the everyday privilege that goes along with group membership are all it takes to make me just as much a part of the problem as any member or the Klan” (118).
This article describes how racism and sexism are still happening within our culture, though much less obvious than in the past. For example, every time someone says a racist joke, but ends it with an “I didn’t mean it”, they think that saying they did not mean it means that they didn’t say it at all, they’re not being racist, and that the person who was supposedly offended by the statement shouldn’t feel hurt at all. People in today’s society view their privileges as if that’s the normal way of life. There seems to be nothing wrong if someone acts in a sexist way, it was the fault of the one being discriminated against, as if they were asking for it. This lets the person who is being sexist become “off the hook” because it “wasn’t their fault” to begin with. There are different states that Johnson mentions that show how people get away with showing signs of being racist, sexist, or discriminatory in any way. These ways are to deny and minimize, blame the victim, call it something else, “it’s better this way”, it doesn’t count if you don’t mean it, “I’m one of the good ones”, being sick and tired of situations, and getting off the hook by getting on. Also, throughout the article it shows how these different discriminatory signs between the sexes and races have been dulled down in society and coming off as subtle and shouldn’t cause anyone any harm. One example that he uses is the documentary “True Colors”, which shows how two men who are the same in every single way, minus the fact that one is black and one is white, are treated differently in today’s society. They recorded what happened between the men in different situations, such as applying for a job, accidentally locking oneself out of the car, trying to rent an apartment, shopping for shoes, buying a car, and so on (p.119). The example that was featured in the article showed that when the white man entered a shoe store, he was instantly greeted by the white sales clerk, and was helped. Though after he left, and the black man entered just a few minutes later, he received no such greeting, or was not helped in any sort of way while browsing the store. This shows that even though those of the “privileged” part of society won’t say they’re racist, these subtle actions show that some parts of them are, otherwise they wouldn’t act in this sort of way.
In the article, Johnson states that “In effect, ‘I didn’t mean it’ often comes close to ‘I didn’t say it’ or ‘I didn’t do it,’ which of course isn’t true” (p.116). I agree with Johnson on this viewpoint, because it is very common to hear a joke or a phrase followed by an “I didn’t mean it” in the case that someone shows they were offended by the statement. With people saying “I didn’t mean it”, they automatically think that they didn’t say it, and they are off the hook from being discriminatory. This argument is valid because it is true in almost any situation that even has a hint of racism or sexism.
Overall I thought this article was interesting. The part I found that was most amusing was the section of the article where the men and women were arguing over the action of men opening doors for women. I personally just think that men opening doors for a woman is an act of chivalry, which is kind of rare to find nowadays. Women shouldn’t take it as an offense, and should just accept it. If anything women can do the same thing for men every now and then, and open some doors for them as an act of kindness. I don’t understand why people would be offended by that, and in relation to some argumentative statements that were included, women could always ask men for help in the home nowadays. Other than this, I thought how Johnson pointed out the different subtleness of discriminatory statements in today’s society was very interesting, and surprising enough, it’s true and apparent without even having to look for it.