Can Only White People Be Racist?

Racism is not something particular to the United States & race is not the same everywhere in the world. Racial categories serve particular contextual purposes depending on the society they are used in, but generally follow the base logic of the supremacy of one type of human body over all others (ordering these human bodies in a hierarchical fashion). – Decolonize All the Things

I had a recent exchange on social media over an NYT article I had posted. I had shared an extract from the article that said:

“The consequences are serious. When we don’t talk honestly with white children about racism, they become more likely to disbelieve or discount their peers when they report experiencing racism. “But we’re all equal” becomes a rote response that actually blocks white children from recognizing or taking seriously racism when they see it or hear about it. This is at best.

At worst, the consequences are akin to what happens when you breathe in polluted air. Not realizing the pollution is there doesn’t mean it doesn’t affect you. White children are exposed to racism daily. If we parents don’t point it out, show how it works and teach why it is false, over time our children are more likely to accept racist messages at face value. When they see racial inequality — when the only doctors or teachers they see are white, or fewer kids in accelerated classes are black, for example — they won’t blame racism. Instead, they’ll blame people of color for somehow falling short.”

Someone commented to say that it’s not just White people who are racist and another replied with “but they ARE the only people who can be racists…hasn’t this discussion happen a million bajillion times. Other people can be discriminatory, but that’s NOT the same thing.” It made me think. I want to have an open conversation on this and see how others feel- I want an open, honest, and critical conversation so that I can understand how two people I know who are both ethnic-minority could hold such different views.

I was inclined to agree with the first comment, that it’s not just White people who are racist and I think that is because it is context-specific. It has to do with power, who has the dominant form of power. In the United States, yes, certainly Whites certainly upper-class communities have power and because of that power, discrimination becomes racism. In other words, racism denotes an aspect of power that discrimination does not. But what about elsewhere in the world? Is it really possible that only Whites can be racist? Is it maybe more about power and the dominant hegemonic discourse within a context than it is about skin-color? Is it not power which made us see race as biological, which made us differentiate ourselves from others, consider some to be less than or more than, to see some as threatening and others as worthy? Are White people the only ones who have power in the world? Or is it that they have the most power and therefore their discrimination is racism? Do they have the most power wherever they go, wherever they are? Perhaps I am naive to even be asking such questions, but I felt during that conversation over the NYT article that I was being seen as racist for thinking that it’s not just White people who can be racist.

I think also it’s important to distinguish between race, racism, racializtion, and race-craft. I’ve been slowly working my way through this and cannot recommend it highly enough.

With regards to race I think the below excerpt does justice to showing the power race holds, power that combats logic, reason, and refutation:

CyUMk_LUQAA2NFx.jpg
Taken from here

I think Decolonize All the Things helps me to answer my question. Race is not the same everywhere in the world, therefore racism cannot be the same everywhere in the world, therefore it is logical to reason that it’s not just White people who can be racist. Perhaps acknowledging this alongside efforts to challenge the dominant discourses and power held by Whites in the United States is the necessary step for moving forward in achieving equity and maybe even for furthering diplomatic globalization.

Most people assume that racism grows from a perception of human difference: the fact of race gives rise to the practice of racism. Sociologist Karen E. Fields and historian Barbara J. Fields argue otherwise: the practice of racism produces the illusion of race, through what they call “racecraft.” And this phenomenon is intimately entwined with other forms of inequality in American life. So pervasive are the devices of racecraft in American history, economic doctrine, politics, and everyday thinking that the presence of racecraft itself goes unnoticed. – See here

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