On my blog this year, I’ve been discussing what racism in America means and its many iterations. From Colin Kaepernick to barbershop quartets, I’ve tried to describe the extent to which racism towards black people and other minorities is engraved into our everyday lives. I’ve mostly uncovered white supremacy towards black people, but never turned the table.
Which leads me to this post: Can black people be racist towards white people?
To answer this question, let’s go back to my first post that posed the question “Am I racist?” as a way of figuring out what racism actually is. The definition of race I used was in essence “a socially constructed division of people based on a combination of shared distinctive physical traits, culture, or extensive history.” This means race is more than just a skin color; it’s the history of a specific people and the role society has given them. Therefore, racism is a hatred towards a specific group of people indirectly reenforced by the history between the oppressor and the oppressed.
In “Am I racist?” I said the answer to that question is “most likely.” As members of American society, we are exposed to racist paraphernalia every day. Whether they’re in TV ads, billboards, your makeup, your elected officials, or your celebrities, there are visual cues reminding you that whiteness are on the highest pedestal in this country. So when a white person uses a racial slur or commits an act of hate towards a person of color, a system of oppression will support and even reward them for doing so. People of color don’t have that privilege. If someone uses the n-word, it’s offensive because there is a history behind that word that aided in the destruction of not just black bodies, but the African spirit. However, if a black person calls someone a “cracker” or “Becky” (I don’t know how offensive these are to most people, but some take it super seriously), all the offended person has to do is turn on the TV or scroll through their Facebook feed to be reminded that white is right. No other race has that privilege in this country.
So, can black people be racist? Towards white people? No. Prejudiced? Sure. Offensive? Yup. But like I’ve said many times, racism is not just an isolated offense or incident of hate speech. It is an institutionalized torture that lasts for generations and stings accordingly. I would even say a black person can be more racist to another black person than to a white person if they are spewing hate by reinforcing the white image of superiority. But a black person cannot be racist to a white American. There is too much support and praise of white Americans since they arrived on this land to claim they have a history that can be as damaging as the history of a person of color.
Of course, there aren’t just black people and white people in America, but this post can go on forever if we broke down the history of every race and ethnicity to see who is oppressing who. But the divide between color and lack of color is definite.