"I didn't know. I didn't mean to be prejudiced/racist, therefore it isn't racism."
In discussions about the definition of racism, white people will frequently argue that a particular statement or action does not constitute racism because racism was not intended. As noted elsewhere, in Human Rights law and anti-racism education, intentionality is irrelevant. It is the effect/impact of the action on the target person/group that is to be considered and takes precedence.
In addition, people may argue that they had never been taught the correct or appropriate information—"I didn't know"—and therefore they cannot be racist. However, while their statement may be factually correct, ignorance does not justify racism or mitigate the effects of their actions; it can be another form of defensiveness. To assist individuals in identifying "what they know or do not know," a number of Learning Actions have been designed to address Knowledge Gaps.
Alberta Civil Liberties Research Centre
Our mission is to promote respect for civil liberties and human rights in Alberta through research and education to contribute to a more just and inclusive community.
Find this resource useful? Help us keep working on civil liberties and human rights by donating now using Canada Helps secure website.
Legal Disclaimer: This site provides information about human rights law and civil liberties. Legal information is not the same as legal advice as to the application of law to an individual's specific circumstances. We cannot offer legal advice in response to specific problems. We strongly recommend that you consult a lawyer if you need such help.