There is something interesting about working with folks who are (for the most part) middle aged or older, white, and rather Conservative.
This afternoon I had to explain the reason why a book aimed towards tween girls about why “black people hair” isn’t some alien construct that needs to be feared is necessary (we’ll be printing 200 copies of the book). I was flummoxed that this wasn’t common knowledge, but then I realized language used earlier in the day about the book, laughing at the picture of the girl wincing while her mother tried to comb her hair (I’ll admit the artwork itself made me immediately think it was a racist caricature, though upon further reflection it was just the style and probably not the best drawing), is indicative of why I had to explain the meaning behind the book. My coworkers aren’t overtly racist, but there are a lot of the thoughtless remarks that are common to those who “don’t mean any harm by it”.
I think it’s important to realize that people like my coworkers are clueless about what their words really mean and that it’s the job of a civil society to point out when something they say is racist and to explain that even though they don’t mean it to be racist, there are people who would be offended by such remarks and to disrespect those people simply because they’re not the ones calling folks out on it does us all an injustice. A lot of change can happen simply by calling people to think twice about what they say when otherwise they’d immediately forget about it.