I can’t believe that a discussion on what a racist is, still needs to be had in 2015. The meaning used to be clear cut but as more Black people speak out against injustice racists seek to muddy the waters by trying to change the meaning of racism and who can be racist. When that doesn’t work they try to come from the reverse racism angle.
Normally I try not to get into a discussion about what racism is because I tend to think anyone who doesn’t get is being deliberately provocative or just plain ignorant and I don’t have time for either. But as I’ve recently been referred to as a racist because of an old article that actually just states a bunch of facts, I thought it was time to try and educate some folks, educating folks is what this site is all about after all.
It if hasn’t been obvious over the years, this site is dedicated to the telling of black experiences. Articles will therefore be written from a black perspective as is our right. It’s not racist, heck it’s not even prejudiced, it is what it is!
So who can be a racist?
A lot of online dictionaries state that a racist is:
“someone who believes that other races are not as good as their own and therefore treats them unfairly.”
From this watered-down description, I can see why people get confused and think all races including blacks can be racist. Here’s the missing link: Racism = racial prejudice + systemic, institutional power.
So in order to be racist, you need to possess the two and of course the belief that your own race is better.
People like to dismiss slavery and tell blacks to get over it but the reality is this: slavery happened and it has helped to shape white power and privilege. At this point, Europeans will mention that one time when Rome enslaved a whole bunch of Europeans. Yes, that did happen, white people enslaved white people. Black people also enslaved black people, lets get all that out of the way, shall we?
Despite Europeans conquering and enslaving each other whites today still occupy positions of racial privilege, even the poorest of whites. White privilege is typically invisible to white people because they have been taught not to see it. Regardless of whether they want to benefit from it or not it puts them at an advantage.
Examples of this privilege include the fact that in America a white guy who walks around waving a gun will be reasoned with by police first, a black guy will be typically killed.
White people don’t see their whiteness or wake up every morning thinking about it but they benefit from it every day. You can see the many ways that whites benefit here.
Slavery lasted for 245 years. Europeans went from acknowledging Africa’s greatness to systematically colonising her lands and using propaganda to justify enslaving her people. Our history has been whitewashed or destroyed and 500 years later the mud still sticks.
As former oppressors, Europeans have built systems over time that continues to benefit them. Oppression is built into institutions like government, law and education and power and positions of dominance are given to whites over people of colour. White people are backed up by society to be strong social influencers, with greater freedom when it comes to what they do and how and where they do it.
Now if black people had colonised a large proportion of the planet, written laws, formed governments and institutions that benefited them and enforced their privilege over other races, then yes, blacks could be considered racist. But not today!
Black people can be prejudiced and bigoted, there is no denying that. They are humans after all.