In bell hooks’ chapter “Talking Race and Racism” from her book Teaching Community, she writes that one of the biggest barriers of discussing race in academic settings is not overt racist supremacists, but the covert racism and assumptions that white people hold onto that oppress people of color.
[T]hese extreme groups rarely threaten the day-to-day workings of our lives. It is the less extreme white supremacists’ beliefs and assumptions, easier to cover up and mask, that maintain and perpetuate everyday racism as a form of group oppression. Once we can face all the myriad of ways white-supremacists thinking shapes our daily perceptions, we can understand the reasons liberal whites who are concerned with ending racism may simultaneously hold on to beliefs and assumptions that have their roots in white supremacy (hooks, 30).
I find this in many spaces, especially with people who identify as non-racist, but are more concerned with appearing racist rather than actively understanding and rejecting their racism.
An example of this is in euro-centric beauty standards. In an article from Gal-Dems, Paniz Khosroshahy writes about how not removing body hair can be a form of liberation from capitalist-patriarchal oppression for white people, but can be a confirmation of racist stereotypes when done by POC.
I know women of colour that can’t look at the mirror at themselves because the sight of hair on their body is a reminder of all the years they have been bullied for existing. And I know so many women of colour that are expected to get over their shame and trauma to get rid of the razor the minute white feminism decided to reclaim the hair. In “rad” spaces, hairless pits are the anomaly, and sometimes it seems like there’s an assumption that women of colour who do remove their body hair are somehow less aware of oppression (Khosroshahy).
Because “[w]omen of colour have been seen as unwomanly, dirty, either hypersexualized or desexualized” women who remove body hair do it as an act of survival (Khosroshahy). Like hooks argues, white-supremacists assumptions in the name of activism actually perpetuate racism instead of understanding and intersectional equality.
Hooks, Bell. “Talking Race and Racism.” Teaching Community: A Pedagogy of Hope. New York: Routledge, 2003. 25-40. Print.
Khosroshahy, Paniz. “Not Shaving Isn’t Always a Choice for Women of Colour.” Gal-Dem. Gal-Dem. 18 Mar 2016. Web. 20 Sept 2016.