And in general I think we need to move away from the premise that being a good person is a fixed, immutable characteristic, and shift towards seeing being good as a practice, and it is a practice that we carry out by engaging with our imperfections. We need to shift from, we need to shift toward thinking of being a good person the same way we think of being a clean person. Being a clean person is something that you maintain and work on every day. We don’t assume that I’m a clean person therefore I don’t need to brush my teeth. And when someone suggests to us that we’ve got something stuck in our teeth, we don’t say “Wh-what do you mean? I have something stuck in my teeth? I’m a clean person! Why would you--”
Gold. That's a bit from this really interesting TEDx talk from Jay Smooth, who is a DJ, blogger and all-round interesting and intelligent dude. I know listening to some guy give a talk for 12 minutes is a little too much like school for some of you people (myself included), but check it out, it's consistently interesting and may just change the way you think about the issue of racism and racist comments.
One more bit I think needs repeating:
We deal with race and prejudice with this all or nothing, good person/bad person binary in which either you are racist or you are not racist. As if everyone is either batting a thousand or striking out every at bat. And this puts us in a situation where we’re striving to meet an impossible standard. It means any suggestion that you’ve made a mistake, any suggestion that you’ve been less than perfect, is a suggestion that you’re a bad person.
So we become averse to any suggestion that we should consider our thoughts and actions, and this makes it harder for us to work on our imperfections. When you believe that you must be perfect in order to be good, it makes you averse to recognizing your own inevitable imperfections and that lets them stagnate and grow.
The belief that you must be perfect in order to be good is an obstacle to being as good as you can be.
Check Jay's full post on it here.