Ask Athena: Called Out

When you see something, say something. And own up to your role.

If the hood fits…

Dear Athena:

I need your help. Someone I care about made this defense: “Everyone is racist, they just won’t admit it.” How do I respond?  ~ Speechless White Ally

Dear Speechless,

Acknowledging that racism is prevalent is not a Get Out of Jail Free card for being a racist. When we see racism, we have an obligation to call it out. Even when we see it in ourselves and our allies. Especially so, in that case.

“Everyone” may be racist in the US, but ultimately, white people get to pick and choose when they see it, and whether they act on it. This person in your life is asking you to give them a pass for being unapologetically ignorant. Agree, and you’re reinforcing white supremacy. Disagree, though, and “everyone” jumps on your back.

You asked my advice so here it is: take this person’s comment as a sign that they are open to sharing views about race and bias. Start some conversations – maybe read them our Q&A here, and talk about why you identify as an “ally” and how that affects your words and actions. Connecting with honesty and vulnerability is key. No one’s perfect so be honest about your own challenges and shortcomings.

Don’t judge or shame. If you’re met with resistance, let the subject change and try again another day. Eventually, it’ll be clear whether they’re willing to change their tune around you or not. It’s up to you whether you choose to accept this person in your life, and what boundaries you might need to be comfortable.

More than meats the eye…

Dear Athena:

My wife and I have been vegetarians for decades – since before we were a couple. At least, I thought we were. I found out the other day that my wife has been using chicken broth and bacon fat when cooking our meals. She says she’s been cooking like this for years and insists that unless you’re eating the “muscle” you’re technically not eating meat so it’s cool. I feel so…. betrayed. To her, though, I’m making a big deal out of nothing. What do you think, Athena?  ~ Freaked About Meat

Dear Freaked,

I think you need to get into the kitchen and cook for yourself.  The fact that you missed bacon grease and chicken broth means you haven’t spent much time looking around that room.  You know, the one with the refrigerator and stove.

Being a vegetarian means not eating meat, defined as “the products of slaughter” which includes muscle as well as fat, organs, broth, rennet and gelatin. I hate to break this to you, but you and your wife have not been vegetarians for years.

Honestly, I find it hard to believe that your wife didn’t understand what she was doing but it’s possible. I would take her at her word – I don’t think you have been betrayed or deliberately died to. Vegetarianism has many offshoots that will fudge a bit with animal protein.

The “pescatarian” diet, for example, is all veggies plus seafood. “Pollotarians” swap out fish for chicken. You and your wife probably fall into the “Flexitarian” category – basically vegetarians with minor meaty allowances.

Now is a good time to sit down with your wife for a straight talk about your eating habits and why you both choose to be vegetarian. Hopefully you will agree but if not it will be insightful to explore your differences. If you need to, set some ground rules about ingredients and then – here’s the important part – get cooking! Both of you.

Agree or Disagree? Please comment below.
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Read last month’s Ask Athena here.

About Athena 44 Articles
When she’s not advising mortals, Athena spends her time on earth in NW Philly with her husband, two sons and a day job where she’s paid to tell important people what to do (naturally). Send your questions to

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