Now, I am no expert on racism. But I do consider myself to be an open-minded and intelligent person. Read this post with an open mind. I do realize that some of the things I am about to say are uncommon beliefs amongst the uninformed. I took a university course on prejudice and discrimination and this article is basically my free flowing thoughts on one of the lectures. So just hear me out. Last week I tweeted, “Black people cannot be racist!” Much to my chagrin I received a backlash from a number of people on twitter, both followers and non-followers. Most of them basically laughed at me.
At face value it seems as though I am making an extremely biased and blanketed statement. However, people who study prejudice and discrimination share the same beliefs. In my sociological studies I learned that racism is a system of disadvantage based on race. Hear that, a system of disadvantage based on race. It is not just a personal ideology based on prejudice. It is a system involving cultural messages, institutional policies and practices, as well as the beliefs and practices of the people. It contradicts the very notion of justice that we have in the United States.
With all of this stated, in the context of America, if you use the definition prescribed above, only white people can be racist. Sure, there are black people out there who have racial prejudices, but they are not racist because they do not gain an advantage. When I hear the word racist the first words that come to mind are power and privilege. I would be remiss not to mention that, all white people do not benefit equally from racism; just as all black people are not equally disadvantaged because of racism. Examples: Michelle Obama and Oprah.
What is the difference between racial prejudices and racism? Racism involves power. It is the invisible backpack that white Americans carry with them. It is the ability to go into the store and find the exact shade of foundation for your skin. To have hair products for your hair type at pretty much any store you walk into. It is seeing people who look like yourself on magazines and television commercials. It is the difference between feeling like one of the bunch or an outcast. Many people under-acknowledge and downplay racism and race. Currently we only want to see things the way that they are (perhaps because the past is so ugly) The current system of racism denies white privilege of the past generations. Which is why, in my opinion, racism is such a big ugly problem. (I am not here to give my ideas on how we can stop being racist –it’s been hundreds of years and it still hasn’t stopped, maybe God can help us) We acknowledge difference but don’t attribute them to racism.
I do believe that people of all colors can have prejudices. I know I do. Whether they be racial, sexual, economical or just random they do exist. I just know that I will never consider a black person racist, according to the technical definition used by sociologists. And if they do appear to be so –it is just a reaction to white racism, the wonderful system that taught us all to divide and attack.
Here is a quotation from Malcolm X that sums up everything in a few lines
“Usually the black racist has been produced by the white racist. In most cases where you see it, it is the reaction to white racism, and if you analyze it closely, it’s not really black racism… If we react to white racism with a violent reaction, to me that’s not black racism. If you come to put a rope around my neck and I hang you for it, to me that’s not racism. Yours is racism, but my reaction has nothing to do with racism…” ~Malcolm X
Let me know how you feel.