(Spoiler alert: Please do not read on if you haven’t watched Thursday’s episode of “How to Get Away With Murder”)
“I just think you’re white.”
That’s what Wes Gibbins (Alfred Enoch) told Asher Millstone (Matt McGorry) as a reassurance when Asher was accused of being racist after grabbing a black woman’s butt thinking she was his girlfriend, Michaela Pratt (Aja Naomi King). Asher claimed it was an honest mistake, and didn’t happen because all black people look alike to him.
In less than a minute, Thursday night’s episode of “How to Get Away With Murder” summed up how Donald Trump came to be President of the United States. Also racism, white privilege and microaggressions. All in one scene.
In the “We’re Bad People” episode of “How to Get Away With Murder,” Asher found himself in hot water with a black student who accused him of being a pervert and a racist for grabbing her butt. He tried explaining that while, yes, he can probably identify with being a pervert, he’s not racist because his girlfriend is black and the girl whose butt he grabbed just happens to look exactly like her.
Thankfully, Wes came in the nick of time to save Asher from a potential lawsuit and told the girl that, yeah, she did kind of look like Michaela.
Once he and Wes began walking away together, Asher asked him if he thought he was racist. Wes replied with the punchline: “I just think you’re white.”
Asher isn’t racist, he’s just white. In other words, he totally is racist, but casually rather than vindictively. Through neglect rather than intent.
It’s an issue many white people have when dealing with other races. They become oblivious to certain things that are otherwise a pretty big deal to those from marginalized communities. It’s called white privilege.
It’s why 53 percent of white women and 63 percent of white men voted for Trump. A few, some or quite possibly all of his voters probably identify themselves as not being racist, and quite frankly we probably wouldn’t even think of them as racist if we came into contact with them — which we probably already have.
These racist-but-not-racist white people are our teachers, co-workers, friends, bosses, hell even some of the protesters at the Women’s March fall under the umbrella. And while they may have good intentions and no ill will towards anyone who doesn’t look like them, by default they’re going to be just a little racist. But they don’t mean to, so it’s OK.
It’s just the way American society works, for now. Everything that has occurred from the foundation of this country up until now have allowed white folks the liberty to elect a President whose campaign was run on racist undertones (and overtones at times) because they have the privilege of being able to look past his bigotry and find some common ground with his platform.
They’re not all technically racist — they’re just white and are therefore afforded the privilege of not having to worry about or even think about certain things that black people, or marginalized communities, do on a regular.
Like that one time my white Uber driver felt comfortable enough to say the N-word in a car full of four black women because she felt a friendly vibe from us. After speaking with her and understanding where she was coming from, I realized that she wasn’t racist. She was just white.
So you know, the next time your white colleague tells you that you look better with straight hair or the next time your school counselor thinks that maybe you should look at community colleges instead of the 4-year university you had your eye on, just remember — they’re not racist, they’re just white.