I’ve figured out the perfect response to those occasions when someone starts to lecture you on concepts from social justice or critical race theory. You know those discussions. Where they’ve decided that a field that didn’t exist 50 years ago (e.g., African American studies) gets to dictate the meaning of already-defined English words like “racism.” Or where they tell you the fact that you’re wearing certain clothes or hairstyles is “hurtful” or “offensive.”
It’s a very simple response that does not invite argument: “That’s not my religion.”
Perhaps a devout Muslim is offended that as a woman, you’re out in public without a hair covering. If they tell you it offends them, a perfectly reasonable response is, “That’s not my religion.” It acknowledges that they have a set of beliefs you aren’t going to argue with, but firmly asserts that you have a different set of beliefs and are not inclined to live by theirs just so they aren’t offended.
The same phrase and concept can be applied to the following conversations:
“Black people can’t be racist because racism is a combination of prejudice and institutionalized racism.”
“That’s not my religion. I believe anyone can be racist.”
“It’s wrong for [insert celebrity name] to wear cornrows because that’s cultural appropriation.”
“That’s not my religion. People should wear their hair however they like.”
There is no sense in arguing with people who tell you they’re offended and therefore, you should live your life differently. You’re never going to convince them that their way of looking at the world is, at best, unhelpful. It’s exactly like an argument about religion: it’s a set of strongly held beliefs with no possibility of objective proof. But that doesn’t mean that we have to give in and concede to live by whatever others find most comfortable. We can simply declare that it isn’t our religion and continue living by our own beliefs. I hope you’ll join me in making this response a common one whenever faced with complaints about the hurtfulness of increasingly petty perceived racial slights.