IT'S weird how some white people will believe in aliens, ghosts and the Loch Ness monster, but have a hard time believing racism still exists. 

There are very few other matters to which the logic of “I haven’t seen it so it doesn’t exist” is applied. I’ve never seen a koala in person, but I trust people who say they’ve seen them.

Why then, when I as a person of colour discuss racist incidents, is there always a self-proclaimed advocate of the devil, piping up to declare they have not seen it and therefore I must be lying? 

The answer: White fragility. 

White fragility is the discomfort of a white person when presented with information about racism, inequality and white privilege. There are white people who are open to learn, want to know how to do better or if they’re already pretty great then they want to know how they can be a support.

Then there are those who point blank refuse to hear that inequality persists and will tantrum if told otherwise. The latter are proponents of white fragility. 

READ MORE: Anthony Joshua among those to offer support to 11-year-old who lost finger

White fragility is often weaponised to silence people of colour who want to call out racism, because it prohibits us from highlighting where somebody has been racist.  

I, like most people of colour, have been silenced by white fragility. At eleven years old in my first year of secondary school, I was called a “black bitch” by another girl in my year.

Although too young to be unequivocally certain, I felt sure that this wasn’t right so I informed my teacher who correctly recognised the severity of the incident and forwarded the information onto a more senior member of staff.

That senior teacher brought both of us girls into a room together and asked us to explain what had happened. The other girl said she had been angry because she had seen me hold her ‘boyfriend’s hand (please bear in mind we were eleven…I wasn’t copping off with her husband of twenty years), to which I said I didn’t feel this was an excuse to say something racist.

The senior teacher turned to me, not with sympathy or support, but berated me for “throwing around words like racist”. Not only had I unforgivably split up the hottest couple of Year 7, but I had also uttered the worst word anybody could ever call somebody else. 

This teacher had two children in front of her – one who had called somebody a “black bitch” and one who called somebody “racist”, and instantly jumped to the defence of the one who dished out the slur in the first place.

This incident completely messed up my understanding of racism and its severity for well over a decade. It was only at around 24 years of age that I truly felt worthy of calling out people who had done anything racist to me.

MORE FROM MEL OWEN: 

If somebody does something racist, they should be called out on it. If we are to stamp out racism, then we need to stop allowing white fragility to dictate the narrative. 

Call it racism. Call it what it is. Do not pander around the feelings of the person who committed the racism in the first place. By worrying about the feelings of those being called out, we allow racism to go unchecked. 

Being called racist, is not worse than receiving racism. One more time louder for the people at the back: Being called racist, is not worse than receiving racism. 

That is why the children who it's said attacked Raheem Bailey, and if teachers ignored his mother’s warnings, need to be brought into line with full force.

What has happened to him is unforgivable, and yet there are people who are quick to warn us not to “accuse children of racism” but will do nothing to protect Black children when faced with racially-fuelled bullying. Those people who refuse to call out racism because they’re scared of the word, are themselves enabling racism to continue.  

I know – I truly know – that it is not all white people. I know I might be being harsh. But when a young boy not a stone’s throw away from home is so viscously attacked, I don’t feel like being very calm nor gentle. Afterall, society has been far too gentle on racists for far too long.  

If you value The National's journalism, help grow our team of reporters by becoming a subscriber.