Pro tip: do not ever suggest that something your partner is experiencing is not about race.

More: do not compare this experience to something that you, too, have experienced. Why? Because you are not a person of color, so your experience is not actually the same.

Let me explain:

Sometimes, being a good friend means having a difficult conversation in which you try to give your friend feedback. This person is recounting something that they experienced (at work, with another friend, in public, etc), and in your own mind, you might be thinking, “Yeah, you brought that on yourself.”

Or, “That’s because you actually are pushy/meek/loud/quiet/etc.”

You might be trying to help your friend see the other person’s perspective or to be more self-aware about their actions.

Here’s the thing, when you are a person of color, your race is never not present. You are 100% of the time dealing with outside misperceptions of you before dealing with your actual individual character. Over many years and millions of interactions, you learn to filter out when/how/how much someone is treating you differently because of your appearance. 

As a white person, you do not have these experiences, so you do not have the benefit of this knowledge. 

Therefore, when you go to “explain” or “educate” your friend about an alternative explanation, what you are really doing is erasing their experience, pretending that colorblindness is real, and assuming a position of authority over someone for something that you have ZERO authority in.

What to do instead?

Listen. Challenge your own misperceptions as they come to your mind. Reflect on what about your own privilege is making you think that something is not about race. Resist the temptation to vocalize these things. Do not try to make the person feel better by minimizing their experience through sharing your own. Do not suggest that the person is over-reacting, over-sensitive, or any other term that trivializes their experience into being a personal weakness.