White Talk

White talk is the lingua franca of race talk among white folks. It’s a privilege-exercising discourse that usually springs from our lips without notice. White people habitually fall into white talk as a strategy for steering clear of entertaining the possibility that many of our actions, utterances, and thoughts contribute to the perpetuation of racial injustices and that we bear some responsibility for these. As Alice McIntyre argues, white talk “serves to insulate white people from examining our individual and collective role(s) in the perpetuation of racism. It is the result of whites talking uncritically with/to other whites, all the while resisting critique and massaging each others’ racist attitudes, beliefs and actions.” White talk is a family of verbal strategies that whites regularly deploy to excuse us “from the difficult and almost paralyzing task of engaging [our] own whiteness.” We use white talk to derail conversations on race, to dismiss counterarguments, to retreat into silence, to interrupt speakers and topics, and to collude with other whites in creating a ‘culture of niceness’ that makes it difficult to critique the white world. White fear and anxiety drive these conversational detours, dismissals, and denials.

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