There’s the trailer of a new movie going around on social media and I think it’s rather a good thing. It’s called Dear White People and it raises some social issues we need to talk about.
Yesterday evening I was watching some clips about it and I found one called “Black people can’t be racist“. I found myself to disagree with this notion, so I addressed the issue on my fb page, obtaining interesting and, most importantly, different views from my friends, consequently I thought of sharing it here so we can start building a wider and meaningful conversation.
First of all I want to make it clear that I’m not an expert in Sociology or Social History, nor Political Science, so my opinion is really an opinion, nothing more, nothing less; I know this is an issue many people will object to, but it doesn’t matter. I actually think it’s an interesting fact, because I’m keen to know why and how people approach it. You don’t have to agree.
Racism is such a complicated matter, so difficult to address that of course a post will not make a difference, if not to cause a conversation to be opened.
Racism is sociology, it is a principle that promotes social and emotional inequality based on the colour of one’s skin; in essence the colour of the skin is the measure by which an individual, that can be white, black and everything in between, is seen; so I disagree with the notion that black people can’t be racist. I think it’s simplistic, dismissive, comfortable and stupid.
The fact is, because of the history of humanity, one would think that black people should know better; but I’m afraid to say that it’s not always the case. Some (I repeat: some) black people convey their anger and sufferings in that wrong way, by playing the same card (note: this card is different from the race card; that is when a white person is trying to dismiss a black person that is making him -white person- realise he -white person- is being racist). I call it “reverse racism”. Now, I understand where this is coming from. I am a black person myself, who grew up in a sensitive-zero-country when it comes to racism, so trust me, I’ve had my portion and I know how it feels like. But this is not an excuse, to pay back by giving the same medicine; it is so wrong.
In objection to this a friend of mine (T) commented stating that of course black people can’t be racist: in a society where “white supremacy” is the norm, black people can’t be racist by definition. Meanwhile another friend (V) stated “[…] we can’t blame another generation’s mistake on the current one […]”. T, in accord with V, agreed that of course we can’t blame a generation because of what others did, however “[…] most of the children of that previous generation are still experiencing and living on the advantages created by that mistakes and they are not willing to (re-)create a more equal society […]”.
V replied saying that “It’s difficult to escape the shadows of the past because society is built by its history […]” but again, “[…] I like to think that we’ve gotten better […]”.
I objected to T’s opinion according to which black people can’t be racist in a white dominated society. Now, I understand that some white communities (let’s just think about the British Empire) still inherit revenues from the dirty treatment of black folk, but as V put it, to blame people of today about what their forefathers did is stupid. It perpetuates dangerous ideologies along the way that do more harm than good. It tell people that history can be used as an excuse instead of using it as lesson, a lesson to do better.
It’s not easy to love the race that did your forefathers wrong or your forefathers told you to hate on the other side, but as people –both white and black, we have to try our very best to do better.
With the help of T, I did some light readings about the definition of racism and its applicability when it comes to black people (stuff white people do: wonder how to define racism). Now I understand that what I know as definition is wrong, and in accordance with T’s point of view, a person can be defined as racist whereby they have institutional power + prejudice. In essence, because we live in a white dominated society and every meaningful system of this society is managed by white people, they have institutional power (now understand that this is a very concise explanation, but you can find plenty of material online and you can learn a bit more by following this link stuff white people do: wonder how to define racism). (This is the sociological definition, which I understand to be the only accepted one, there is no such thing known as “reverse racism”.) Consequently, based on this definition, a black person can’t be racist, because in this white dominated society, blacks don’t have any institutional power whatsoever.
Now, although my own definition of racist person is wrong, with regard to the sociological definition, I still don’t agree with the latter. I understand and respect it, but I don’t agree. I honestly don’t think that we have to regard an attitude as racist based on a definition, instead it’s from the attitude that the definition has to be drawn, if we have to have a definition anyway. Despite the institutional power, try to ask a white person who has been victim of racist abuse by a black person if they regard it as racism or not. I don’t think this power would make a difference.
T pointed out the following: “In an ideal world a racist can be anyone […], but not in the real one we are living in. If Blacks had institutional power in a worldwide level, they would be the racist ones. Racism is not a problem related to single individuals. […] It’s the foundation of modern societies where the top of social scale is represented by White people: the lighter skin, the better, the prettier, the more powerful.
Look at Brazil: more than half of the population is Black yet Afro Brazilians are the minority in politics, in the media etc… now let’s ask ourselves why. Is it because Black Brazilians have inherited an ineptitude gene? Or because their progression is always resisted at every single step?”
I find myself to agree with some of T’s opinion but I honestly think that shit happens every day and we don’t need to reach the ideal world to witness some nasty stuff, whether from black or white people. I think we are all broken by the same flaw actions and there’s no good in elevating ourselves at expenses of our fellow human being. I agree with V in saying that racism is so ugly and often uncalled, but avoiding the conversation and scattering blames won’t help, we need to talk about it and understand that history is not a bowl of excuses from which we can pick from to prove our point or suit our ugly actions.
As already said, race is a complicated matter and, of course, mine is an opinion of a person who is interested in the issue and not of an expert. What I want us all to understand is that there’s a huge difference between approaching the matter in a theoretical way and experiencing it; as far as our encounter with racism is shaped by definitions and books, we will not get the whole heart of the matter.
I am a black person myself and when I think about the possibility that black people can be racist, my feet grow heavy of sadness, however I also think that, because the world is so diverse, people are so different and experience is different from theories, it’s worth to consider the possibility, in order to learn from the mistakes and grow better together as human beings and not as colours.
What do you think?
Have you ever witnessed a racist attitude from a black person?
If you are a white person, does institutional power make any difference when you experience racism?