Are You a Racist? Five Easy Steps from WikiHow can Help You Figure It Out

On the website wikiHow.com, there’s a short exercise you can take to tell if you are a racist. It’s only five steps so I figured why not?

Step 01: Consider your judgments of what people wear, their hairstyles, headscarves, etc. Are these thoughts negative or justified?

Given the fact that I’m middle aged and balding I’m fairly conscious slash jealous of anyone with a full head of hair, I’m not sure I fare well on this question. I think that you can tell a bit about a person by the way they dress, at least what subculture they are attempting to identify with. It’s pretty easy to pick out the hipster—skinny jeans, tight fitting shirt, dark rimmed glasses, maybe a bow-tie or some leather boots. Or the soddy—Stetson, ropers, crease in down the front of their jeans.

Step 02: Gauge your fear of being around people who are not of the same race as you.

I mostly have a fear of saying or doing something that makes me sound like or appear to be stupid. Race is only one in a long list of things that can trip that particular neurosis.

Step 03: Note the frequency of your racial slurs and jokes.

Step 04: Think about your upbringing. Are your parents racist or extremely prejudiced? Many racists learned their behavior in childhood from the influence of relatives.

These two are tricky.

I confess that I told racist jokes when I was young, or even not that young. I wish I hadn’t, but the truth is that I did. It was acceptable. The small town Kansas’s world in which I grew up wasn’t exactly cosmopolitan. Everyone was very aware of race, but among my good-hearted relatives, especially those from the South I can’t remember a single strident racist. Though rarely explicit, and never programmatic, racialized thinking was still customary.

Racism mostly came out through racial jokes. African Americans, Vietnamese, Polish, Jews, Red-necks, and the Irish were all targets of some kind of humor. I don’t think I realized until I was much older than most of my people were farmers and oil-field workers. I come from a long line of rednecks and roughnecks, which is possibly why those jokes got the most laughter.

To be sure, humor was a subtle way of reinforcing racial stereotypes and class distinction. The jokes were told as if to say, “We might be poor rednecks, but we’re better than those…” fill in the blank with whatever socially unacceptable racial circumlocution was common to the person’s vernacular and particular prejudice. All of it was wrong. All of it seemed harmless at the time. It doesn’t anymore.

Racism was a normal part of my world. Nobody openly challenged those underlying beliefs until high school. I say beliefs but that might not be right. Racism wasn’t so much a belief as it was a habit of the mind. In fact, when it was couched as a belief and held before me to consider I immediately rejected the premise and slowly began to change the behavior and thought patterns.

The truth is, however, that once those neural pathways are formed, it’s easy to go there, even if it’s only in your mind. Firing is wiring, and my brain was wired from a young age by generations of folks who saw race very differently. It’s important to tell the truth about the ghostly echoes of racist thought, the leftover relics of an early stage of development that still exist in my mind.

Step 05: Consider the following questions:

  • Do you think of all people of any particular race act in the same way?
  • Do you always refer to people’s race in your description of them or do you deliberately leave out the obvious so as not to offend?
  • Do you ascribe certain negative behaviors to people of certain races and insist that only they do this?
  • Do you think all people of a particular race look alike
  • Do you dislike other races, or do you just love your own?

What are you asking me? Do I think white men can’t jump, or don’t have rhythm? Do I think women make less than men and this isn’t fair? Do I think poverty, crime, drugs, and violence in my hometown of Kansas City are, to a high degree, concentrated among Spanish speaking immigrants and African Americans, while rich white suburbanite seem univocally vine with this arrangement? Do I think Yankees fans are obnoxious? Do I think all Muslims are terrorists? Do I wish the Jehovah’s Witnesses would stop ringing my doorbell?

I’m not a fan of step five. Race, gender, ethnicity, religion, these qualifiers complicate our lives because they expose the selfishness that lives at the heart of all people. But there’s always the possibility that, when it comes to race I am hopelessly stunted. Am I a racist? No, I don’t think so. But I’m a white, middle-class, educated, heterosexual, American, male. Can you think of any segment of society less qualified to determine whether or or not somebody is racist? I know that at some point I was. And in some unredeemed part of my consciousness, at some level, I have to say I am. Or at least I was, and it still plagues my memory. All this to say that in my experience, it is not effortless to think about race. And, I’m aware that, unlike my life, race is constantly on the mind of those for whom it poses significant challenges.

However, I’m also a Christian. I have been taught to put myself last in the pecking order, to consider everyone else as above me in some way. Humility is a kingdom virtue. I’m taught to move toward “the other” in love, no matter what the attribute may be that makes them “the other” in the first place. Christianity isn’t a belief system, it’s a way of being human, a way Jesus taught and continues to empower.

You want to lead the way? One leads through humility in this kingdom. You want to strive to be first? Then you will be last in the kingdom of God. You try to grasp for the life you want, it will slip through your fingers and you’ll lose it. You want to control others by oppressing them for whatever reason, you will find yourself on the business end of a universe that was designed to resist this. The Christian must be willing lay down their life for others, consider them better, higher, above. One must spend their life and time & energy serving those to whom we have been given.

About Tim Suttle

Find out more about Tim at TimSuttle.com

Tim Suttle is the senior pastor of RedemptionChurchkc.com. He is the author of several books including his most recent - Shrink: Faithful Ministry in a Church Growth Culture (Zondervan 2014), Public Jesus (The House Studio, 2012), & An Evangelical Social Gospel? (Cascade, 2011). Tim's work has been featured at The Huffington Post, The Washington Post, Sojourners, and other magazines and journals.

Tim is also the founder and front-man of the popular Christian band Satellite Soul, with whom he toured for nearly a decade. The band's most recent album is "Straight Back to Kansas." He helped to plant three thriving churches over the past 13 years and is the Senior Pastor of Redemption Church in Olathe, Kan. Tim's blog, Paperback Theology, is hosted at Patheos.

  • Kurt Rietema

    Tim, I think that the premise of the quiz is off base to begin with. All of the questions that are being raised are not about if one is racist but if one is prejudiced. It is about feelings, fears and emotions. This minimizes and flattens racism to feelings. If we could just get over ourselves and the bad feelings, then everything will be fine. Prejudice helps to create and maintain a racialized society, but it is more than that. The main thing we’re missing as white people is that we become racist when we shut up, dismiss or silence others who challenge the racialized structures and institutions that we are the beneficiaries of. It is privilege and oppression that deals out rewards for some and burdens for others that are embedded in these systems that makes us racist, not the mere feelings that we have. So to follow that logic to “making ourselves last and not first” it means not simply “serving” on an individualized level or working to root out those feelings of prejudice by making friends with people of color. Those are good things. But what we really need is to disadvantage ourselves and our privilege and instead privilege the oppressed in the systems, structures and institutions of our society. That is what most of us, by and large are completely unwilling to do and that is what makes us racist–perpetuating a racist system. While we may or may not protest along with blacks in Ferguson, we sure as hell will let our voices be heard if taxes are raised, Medicare is expanded, the Affordable Care Act is fully unrolled, we create policies of higher acceptance rates for people of color, lower drug sentencing, lighten policing presence in communities of color. It’s this that reveals that we’re really racist, not merely those feelings of prejudice.

    • BT

      In a nutshell, yes. Absolutely yes.

    • Hypatia

      Higher acceptance rates to what?

    • Benjamin Martin

      RE: what we really need is to disadvantage ourselves…

      So let’s watch you start the process with intentionally hobbling your child’s ability to absorb education. You could poison them with lead, that would really “disadvantage” them mentally. Let us know the dosage that assuages your guilt.

      I suppose I’m “racist” because I regard deliberately crippling other people as morally abhorrent.

      • SashaDentin

        Six months ago I lost my job and after that I was fortunate enough to stumble upon a great website which literally saved me. I started working for them online and in a short time after I’ve started averaging 15k a month… The best thing was that cause I am not that computer savvy all I needed was some basic typing skills and internet access to start… This is where to starthttp://www.googleonlinework/2014/1/9….,..

  • http://jasonjdotbiz.wordpress.com/ JasonJ

    I’m not sure we will ever live in a society that where we have zero Racist/Gaycist etc people http://jasonjdotbiz.wordpress.com/2014/02/12/sports-no-woman-no-blacks-and-now-no-gays/ however being educated, informed and self-reflective will certainly help!

  • Space_Cadet_1952

    “Hello, my name is Paul Weston and I am a racist. I know I’m a racist because I’ve been told I’m a racist by a great deal of people…”

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t2kKnzW4d8w

  • bill wald

    Thanks to the dumbing down of America there is no longer a difference between “prejudice” and “discrimination.” When I was a lad, “discriminating” inferred being educated and sophisticated; one who makes decisions based upon experience and expert opinion.

    This essay takes the “Did you stop beating your wife?” approach. I am a culturist, not a racist. “If it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck . . .” it is white, black, brown, or yellow trash.

    • Rebecca

      Thank you for this Bill. My thoughts precisely: there are people who are trash in every race. I don’t care what you make in income: if you demonstrate respect for yourself and others, speak in a reasonably educated manner (“axing” me a question, “git er done” or “ima do it” doesn’t make the cut), are polite when interacting with the general public, have a good grasp of basic personal hygiene practices and dress appropriately (not to big/tight and clean)….I’m good. I work in retail and have seen it all. I have seen whites with more money than I have ever seen behave in the lowest way and a life-long inner-city dwelling black person behave in the most gracious and dignified manner. Guess who I have more respect for? Guess who is going to get better service? A clue: it isn’t the rich, rude white person.

  • duan walker

    so…then…yeah youre a racist…

  • Rothbardian Slip

    I think, if you have to ask…you are. I really don’t think there are many racists except for in the minds of those at the Southern Poverty Law Center. But I also think that if you’re not racist, you know it. I don’t need to take a test to ask if I’m an atheist or a libertarian, although I will occasionally take the libertarian tests to see how extremist I am. Lol.


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