Is “Racism By Association” Reaching?

By: Reina Escobar

As someone surrounded by many privileged people, I have heard questionable, ignorant things fly out of their mouths. For example, once one of my white friends made a joke about black history month. As a person of color, who does not let that slide, I told him that it was not appropriate to make that joke. He understood, and I never heard it again. But it makes me wonder if he didn’t care and I stayed friends with him, would that make me a racist by association? Would you be racist for being friends with a racist?

“Racism by association” is the idea of someone being racist due to them associating themselves with racist people. A lot of people like to disregard the idea or say it’s “reaching” since they don’t want to be identified as a racist, which is understandable. No one is responsible for what their friends say. However, are you okay with being friends with a racist? Do you not see someone being a racist as a morally wrong person? If yes, maybe you are racist by association. 

I know, most people don’t care if a ninth-grade girl calls them a racist by association. I know my opinion really won’t make a difference. However, if most people of color are uncomfortable with their friends being associated with racists, there’s probably something wrong with it. 

If your ex-best friend betrayed you and your new best friend befriended them, I know you would get upset. There are going to be some people who don’t care if they’re friends with a racist, but if you do care about racism and people of color, it is something you should question. No one’s telling you to scream at your friend and slap them. Maybe, just tell them that they’ve been saying or doing some things that are offensive. But if they’ve committed full-on hate crimes, and you don’t care, I’d be concerned about you. 

Obviously, I can’t give the final answer to a question as complex as “Is “racism by association” reaching?” That is a question that will probably be answered differently by different people, but it is something for you to think about if you care.