In my view, the intention and emotional position of the person who is espousing questionable attitudes is essential and should be taken into consideration when one is tempted to use the Racist label. I acknowledge I have a very minimal position in this in that unless malice and hatred (with its underlying fear and insecurity drivers) are expressed, I generally will not use the R word. When a person makes the overgeneralisation mistake, then the capacity and will of that person to change his/her position based on new data is also crucial. So, ignorance if coupled with an open attitude is forgiven.
It is important to be sensitive to other people’s feelings but I believe that it is impossible (because we are all human and have insufficient data) to go through life without making overgeneralisation mistakes*. IMO, it is the responsibility of every individual to be aware of overgeneralisation mistakes and to maintain an open and learning attitude about them.
At the same time, I believe it is also the responsibility of every individual to look for the best in people who may be inadvertantly making the overgeneralisation mistake and to attempt as best as they can to set aside any hurt feelings they may have in order to engage and educate.
Is this too much emphasis on the “victim” “getting over it”? I dont think so because I’m not attempting to tell them that the “victim” has no rights to their emotions. I think rather that the *person* needs to take on the challenge of being emotionally mature enough to rationally engage and discussing stereotypes and overgeneralisation mistakes. Of course, this means that on the other side, the person who has made the mistake must also be prepared to examine their own concepts and ideas and to change them.
Finally, I believe that the common usage of “racist” and “racism” as a label directly undermines this form of responsibility on both sides. People who have no malicious intentions and are making a genuine mistake can be hurt and defensive when they are called racists. People who freely use it, imo, are susceptible to judgemental us-vrs-them views of the world and again imo, at risk of taking on a disempowered victim mentality. I cannot see rational discussion occuring after someone has called someone else a racist.
* So what should one do if one makes the overgeneralisation mistake and hurts somebody’s feelings. An apology is a good first step for a person making the generalisation mistake. That is an apology in the lines of, “I’m sorry I hurt your feelings as I did not intend to. Can you explain how I hurt your feelings?**” to which of course the gracious response is “That’s ok. I’m glad you apologised. This is why I felt hurt …”
** As opposed to “I’m sorry I espoused ignorant racist views.” with a response of “That’s ok, you cant help being an inherently racist product of the white patriachy.”