Subtle and Hidden Racism

Subtle and hidden racism: Confronting a covert enemy

by Elizabeth M Young
…this article originally appeared at

Created on: September 22, 2009   Last Updated: April 22, 2011

“I’m really surprised…you’re soooo articulate!”

“What she’s saying, Lucille is….”

“We require proof that you have a degree before you can work here.”

“I have Black friends, so I can use that expression.”

“Oh, come on, you’re too sensitive”.

These are the verbal expressions of covert racism. In the first example, expressing shock and surprise that a Black person speaks intelligently is an old racist code that allows the speaker to hide behind some form of twisted compliment. It is now treated as an overt form of racism and is often confronted accordingly.

 The second expression is for when a third party steps in and tries to use “translating for the Black person”, to cover up and defend a racist comment or behavior. When a foreigner with English as a second language does this, the act is even more disgusting. The implication is that the insult was “misheard by the inarticulate Black person.”


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