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America is such a global heavyweight that we forget the nation is only 235 years old, barely an adolescent as far as empires go. More than a third of U.S. history is marked by the legal institution of slavery and we’ve been dealing with the fallout of racial inequality ever since it was abolished. But cultural traditions run deep and propagate down generations. While progress is steady, America’s color lines don’t erase easy.

And few things warp a child’s mind more than the ridiculous notion that people don’t like you or judge you because you’re black. Even as an adult, it’s infuriating, depressing and demeaning all at once. Socially, it causes us to defend and define our existence out of habit. I’m not a “man in America” but rather a “black man in America,” and the difference is anything but subtle.

Today’s racism is often subtle, unlike the strain that infected the nation during the civil rights era. It’s carefully veiled. Daily situations are more shades of grey than simply black or white. Like any form of oppression, the people on the receiving end are left with the impotence to say something. But sometimes, our learned defensiveness jumps the gun and what appears to be classic racism may actually be a case of mistaken identity.

Here are the 7 most common things that get billed racist when the check should be going somewhere else.

Being Confused as a Store Clerk

Ever go shopping in [insert chain store here] and a white person asks you for help? The first thing you think is, “Oh, you think I work here because I’m black?” but not so fast. There are plenty of non-racist reasons someone might think you work there like your outfit. I’ve been caught out there wearing matching colors to the store clerks.

Sometimes people just aren’t being mindful. Say you knock over a few boxes of cereal and start resetting them as someone walks over with a burning question, hardly looking your direction in her thirst to consume. Silly things like that happen all the time. But if you’re wearing a boardroom suit in the supermarket and some white person comes up talking about, “where’s the oatmeal,” that’s some racist s#!@

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