Yesterday, the long-awaited Oprah interview with Meghan Markle and her husband Prince Harry was aired. Honestly, I was expecting to not be surprised by what the couple was going to share: I’m not “brand new,” to quote “Drag Race” superstar Shea Couleé, and the continued existence of the British monarchy is quite literally a testament to colonialism, so Markle experiencing racism seemed unfortunately par for the course. And yet, I was floored.
There’s the confirmation that Markle was thrown to the wolves (aka British media) and used as a scapegoat to distract from other potential scandals. Prince Charles no longer answering his own son’s calls (didn’t know this man could sink any lower, but here we are). Markle’s own son Archie being denied his birthright to be a prince, with the media making that out to be the couple’s decision. And someone, who Prince Harry stressed was neither his grandmother or grandfather but part of the family, inquiring about how dark his child was going to be. Considering how many bombs were dropped, the interview was actually underhyped, TBH.
There are a lot of takeaways you can get from the interview, but I think one that’s especially relevant to us Filipinos is that if you think you just heard a racist dog whistle, it most likely was. Racism blindsides you, no matter your proximity to whiteness. It can sometimes be outright (for example, I was once called a sea n-word with the hard r), but often it’s sneakier than that. Whenever the latter happens, it’s easy to tell yourself that you’re just being too sensitive. You’re not. If you need help deciphering them and figuring out a response, here are a few tips.
Just because it’s a joke doesn’t make it less racist
Sometimes, I think that because of 2010s style irony, a lot of young people think that it’s okay to say racist things as long as it’s couched within a lot of layers of irony. At least, that’s my reading of the “I’m not racist, I’m just being ironic” phenomenon. But racism is still racism, whether it was meant as a joke or not. And that “ironic racism” can still have disastrous consequences. (Remember when YouTuber Pewdiepie made a Nazi joke that ended in major changes in YouTube that is still continuing to screw a lot of smaller content creators over? Yeah.)
Even if they’re your friends, they can still be racist
It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking “they love me, so there’s no way that they can hold negative views against people like me.” But the thing is, it’s entirely possible for a person to hold stereotypical and racist beliefs that would impact the people around them. Case in point: Many white supremacists have married Asian women. And it’s a very local problem, too. For example, Jim Watkins, owner of 8chan and rumored author of Qanon, lives in Manila.
And even if they haven’t gone down the deep end and are relatively progressive people, it’s still possible for them to hold ingrained racist beliefs and make small microaggressions.
Calling them out doesn’t have to turn into a fight
I’ve admitted this before: I’m a very non-confrontational person. I hate being in the middle of conflict. So I understand when people say they don’t want to call out their friends for saying racist sh*t because they don’t want to start a fight. I get that.
However, calling out bad behavior doesn’t have to turn into a bad, friendship-shattering fight. It might be a difficult conversation, but it’s possible to diplomatically talk to someone about their racist behavior. And if it still turns into a fight, that’s not on you. (Also BB, it’s best to keep a record of that conversation in case they’ll somehow turn it around and make you sound like the aggressor. Receipts, we love them.)
…But it might be better to cut off communication entirely
Did the person who’s been making microaggressions do it too many times even after you called them out? Did they do something particularly egregious? Are you just tired of dealing with them?
You can only expend so much time and energy for a person who won’t change, especially if the change they’re not willing to take is to not be racist. Racism is *traumatic* and it’s not your job to face constant trauma in the hopes of making someone else better.