‘Everyday’ Racism is a Major Problem


Anna Ho

While saying a racially charged comment in passing may appear harmless, the impact of hearing such comments frequently has been detrimental to minority students.

With the return of in-person learning, work, and extra-curriculars, students of color are seeing the return of more “casual”, everyday racism in their lives.

Commonly, the cases of racism that are covered by the media are more obvious cases of hate crimes and outright discrimination. As a result, unaffected people are made aware of only the most extreme cases of racism. The more prevalent, “everyday”, instances of racism often go unnoticed as a result.

These experiences, however, are the ones affecting the majority of student minorities most frequently.

Often, students are faced by microaggressions and casually racist remarks made by friends and peers, often said offhandedly in conversation. Many of these offenders don’t even realize that what they are saying is offensive.

“A lot of times, people use microaggressions as a way to joke and try to get away with their racism,” said one SJHHS student. “People have made jokes about my appearance and the way that Asian people look over text- like about my eyes and stuff like that. They say it as a joke, but I don’t take it that way because that’s my ethnicity.”

Often, the line between racism and comedy is blurred.

“Students feed into microaggressions by making “light-hearted” racial jokes and laughing at cultural aspects of a song or music. It is really concerning to me because half the time, they don’t understand why it’s wrong,” said another student.

In most of these cases, it’s ignorance that fuels racism, not outright hate. Intent, however, does not negate the detrimental harm caused, especially since POC face such instances day after day.

A study published by City University of New York finds that there are significant connections between increased anxiety and depression among those who experience microaggressions and casual racism in their daily lives.

Casual racism can cause POC to reject their own identities and feel unwanted in their communities. For young adults, this can be especially harmful because of the value they are trained to place on their acceptance in society and how others view them.

Whether you meant to make someone feel uncomfortable or not, the fact of the matter is that you did. There are still consequences to that action.

When degrading jokes and off-handed comments are made by people they respect, the detriment to their mental health is intensified. It can be heartbreaking to realize your race is one of the main things other people notice about you, not your personality or values.

A lack of accountability surrounding such events allows students to continue to face hostile environments and experiences. Because a lot of instances are said in such casual contexts, victims are often afraid to or even unsure if they should speak out. 

On top of this, offenders reflexively become defensive when they are called out. It appears that some are under the delusion that if what they said wasn’t directly intended to hurt any of the parties involved, they should not be held accountable for their actions. This is far from the truth: whether you meant to make someone feel uncomfortable or not, the fact of the matter is that you did. There are still consequences to that action.

Students need to start calling out racism when they experience it, and students need to hear them when they do. This is not always easy. The complexities of friendships and high school relationships make addressing such impactful topics extremely difficult and awkward, but there are ways to start.

For those on the receiving end of casual racism, it is best to be upfront and honest with people. If you accidentally hurt another person, you would want to know about it too. Hold others accountable, but do not unreasonably attack or hate other people, especially after they have apologized. Be forgiving, but do not allow yourself to lessen the effects of what someone has said just to spare their feelings.

For offenders, just know that when you are called out, your character and your existence are not what are being attacked. People make mistakes, and you can use such instances to grow as a person. Most importantly, just apologize. It will lessen the harm felt by those on the receiving end of racist comments.

When in doubt, listen to the advice of those around you.

“Think before you speak. It sounds simple but it can really help to create a filter and keep people feeling safe and comfortable around you– realize the consequences of what you’re going to say before you say it.” said a SJHHS student.