No, You Can't Both Sides Bigotry

A letter to a white friend

Hello friends,

While I’m often pretty reasonable, there are some experiences in anti-racism work that are hard to cope with when I’m not in a good place or wearing my professional facilitator hat. This started as a an article then turned into one of my slightly ranty letters - enjoy!

Dear white friend,

I need to share something with you.

One of the things I find most annoying is when people (you included) try to “both sides” or “devil’s advocate” racism and bigotry. It’s both ridiculous and inhumane to make the argument, just as racism and bigotry themselves are ridiculous and inhumane, but sadly all too real.

There are people with whom I have versions of the same conversation often. Just as some people say “but the emails” as the excuse for electing a self-confessed sexual abuser, there are people who say “but she lied” as an excuse for discounting the real racism Meghan Markle faced. Then there’s the “it was another time” as an excuse for attitudes and practices that were ALWAYS inexcusable but somehow - well, we know how - condoned.

Please, just stop it.

If I, as a Black woman, am telling you, as a white person, about an experience of racism or my views on racism, and we’re not in a workshop setting where I’m facilitating, then I’m unlikely to want to hear the excuses, justifications and minimisations of the inexcusable.

I don’t want to hear that so and so “should have complied” - even compliance doesn’t guarantee safety if you are Black and, just as importantly, in the USA only white people are guaranteed to come out of most engagements with the police alive.

I don’t want the gaslighting. As I’ve said many, many times, I know racism when I see it. I can feel it in the air even when it’s not overt. My senses are finely tuned as a matter of safety. I truly believe that that is a multi-generational skill passed down through centuries of trauma.

So the both sides thing makes me see red - almost literally. I can feel the smoke rising above my head like in those cartoons where people get angry.

And sometimes I have to disconnect from the conversation before I say something I’ll regret, because often it’s clear that there’s such a gulf between our perspectives that there’s no point in talking about it. If you ever see me tune out in such a conversation, that’s why.

Honestly, I don’t want to hear you being reasonable on behalf of the racists, bigots, abusers, assaulters, etc. I just don’t.

No, I want you to understand where I’m coming from and lend your unquestioning support.

After all, if you both sides too many times, I might start to wonder where you really stand.

Thanks for understanding, and for leaving the “both sides” approach at the door.


Anti-racist friends, have you ever found yourself in this situation? What was your reaction?

Thanks for reading,


Black line with small circles at the edges and an icon with a raised fist holding a pencil in the middle

What did you think of today's article?

Login or Subscribe to participate in polls.

If you enjoyed it, please share to help others discover it. Thank you!

Here are a couple of similar letters you might enjoy:

I am an anti-racism educator and activist, Co-Founder of Mission Equality, the author of “I’m Tired of Racism”, and co-host of The Introvert Sisters podcast.

© Sharon Hurley Hall, 2024. All Rights Reserved.

Join the conversation

or to participate.