The social pressure on people of color to keep the peace, not get mad, just make sure everyone keeps having a nice time — even when we hear these remarks in public, at our workplaces and schools, in our own homes and from our friends’ mouths — can be overwhelming, bearing down on us in so many situations we do not see coming and therefore cannot avoid. What does our dignity matter, what do our feelings amount to, when we could embarrass white people we care about? When our white relatives or friends or colleagues might experience a moment’s discomfort, anxiety, or guilt?
–At The Toast, Nicole Chung writes about a casually racist comment of the they-all-look-the-same variety made at her white in-laws’ holiday table. It’s still been haunting her, right into the new year, leaving her racking her brain, wondering: Was the woman who made the comment ignorant or being passive aggressive? Should Chung have spoken up, and if she did, what would she have said, with what tone? Should her husband have said something? Would saying something have ruined the rest of the night? What difference would it make?