5 Key Traits of Racist People Who Are in Denial About It

They’re hiding in plain sight everywhere.

Jeremy Helligar
5 min readJul 16, 2021


Photo: Tim Pierce/flickr

Does anyone actually think they’re racist? Apparently, not even the guy in the picture above, which was taken at a 2010 Tea Party Express rally in Boston, did. According to the photographer, the man claimed he was being “facetious” with the declarations on his sign.

Racist is a trait nobody wants to claim — not some random dude at a Boston Tea Party gathering, not the most-rabid White nationalist, not proud card-carrying Klansmen, not the last person who called me a n****r. If a White person is willing to acknowledge or own their racism, it’s typically in past tense — as we see over and over during celebrity apology tours — after they’ve allegedly recognized the error of their former ways and actions. Who publicly admits to being racist right now?

If you want to really rile up a White person, call them “racist.” As put-downs directed at White people go, “honkey” was child’s play in the ’70s. It didn’t come close to being a match for the N-word. Back then, Black people like George Jefferson on the TV sitcom The Jeffersons were wielding the wrong weapon. “Racist” is to them what the N word is to us — maybe worse.

Unfortunately for those who shun the tag most, it isn’t up to them to decide. Racism is typically in the eye of the beholder — or its targets. Black people are trained practically from birth to see the telltale signs, and while they all may not be visible to the naked eye for many White people, for us, they’re impossible to miss.

The clues sometimes differ from Black person to Black person. After decades of living among both White allies and White foes, I have my own. Here are five of them.

1. Time is always on their side.

They can defend Thomas Jefferson’s blatant racism by claiming he was from a different time. They can give Eric Clapton the benefit of a doubt because his onstage racist rant was 45 years ago, and…



Jeremy Helligar

Brother Son Husband Friend Loner Minimalist World Traveler. Author of “Is It True What They Say About Black Men?” and “Storms in Africa” https://rb.gy/3mthoj