You Can’t Be Racist Against White People
I was wrong. It turns out I didn’t even know the definition of racism.
Maybe that’s a sign of my privilege, right there. Not knowing there difference between prejudice and racism.
You see, in order for racism to exist, it must be backed by systemic oppression. That means that in order for something to be racist against a white person, it would have to be said somewhere they represent an abused and unpopular minority.
Take for example my grandmother: Where she went to school there were no other white girls. She was harassed and physically assaulted regularly because of this. One might claim it was racism, but that would only be true if her school existed in an absolute vacuum.
It only became racism when she, as a grown woman, used racial slurs based on that prejudice against minorities. She became part of the problem, instead of part of the solution. Spouting hate privately in her home and likely voting in suit.
Decades later it all changed for her. Without preaching or use of any SJW platforms she cured herself. After my great-grandmother died my grandmother rented the tiny mobil home, behind her stucco one-bedroom, to an immigrant family.
People that looked like, sounded like, and came from the same background as her early abusers were now her neighbors. Maybe she was desperate for the money, things were always tight, but it forced her to be close to her fear; To face her ignorance.
Her total attitude shift has been apparent since. If asked about the group she use to fear and hate, she responds with “they are like all people. Some bad, some good. Just people.” She certainly hasn’t always been a perfect role-model, but she was able to overcome her prejudice and end her racist behavior.
I hoped, by seeing an exception in me, that others would re-examine their prejudice. And that was the point of my poem, and the article that followed. But I used the wrong word. No one has ever been racist toward me, but I do face prejudice regularly.
I face a prejudice that means assumptions about white privilege that haven’t always been applicable in my life. That doesn’t mean white privilege doesn’t exist, and I wasn’t trying to imply my struggle negated anyone else’s.
I learned a lot from what I went through, and one of those things was that there are exceptions to every case. I’m not trying to dismantle the notion of systemic racism by those exceptions, but understand factors at play more deeply. I’m suggesting that they may be far too dangerous to ignore.
We’ve spent a lot of time dividing ourselves as a nation, defining ourselves by corrupt political leaders and misguided movements. I only wanted to suggest that our struggles might be growing more similar than different, and our solutions more distant by divisiveness.
Yes, it probably would have all been harder if I were black. But being a POC doesn’t mean you were raised poor or broken home, though you do run a higher risk. It would be equally reasonable to surmise that I would have had it much easier if I were rich.
And this is the part that I don’t think I spent enough time on; You’re way less likely to be doing well as a minority (outside of Asian decent) in America. That means, you’re less likely to have good family structure and more likely to be facing economic hardship, statistically.
And the system is set up, more now than ever, to keep people where they are. Poor people poor, rich people richer.
I can’t begin to touch the senseless horror of Black Wall Street, “the single largest massacre of African American citizens in the history of the United States”. This, among countless others, is the reason that I said history was incomplete. Most people have never even heard of this, nor realize the modern day socio-economic impact of events like it.
Our recent, and largely untold history, plays a major factor in our lives, but we are socially unaware. There are so many stories we need to be telling our children, instead of wasting our time fighting amongst ourselves.
I could (and would probably be a better use of my time) write pages on the black woman who invented Rock N Roll only to be ripped off by a young white man by the name of Elvis Presley. Her name was Sister Rosetta Tharp, knowledge that shouldn’t require a college degree.
And while I can understand intense fear of police and share many statistics with kids from socio-economicly depressed backgrounds, I can never know what it’s like to be anything but white in a white majority country (thank god that’s gonna change soonish).
I never meant to imply otherwise. I don’t write just to make people angry. I write to share ideas I think are important. While my choice of words was off, my message was not one of indifference or condescension on any intentional level.
I don’t think we stand on equal footing, but I don’t accept that as a final reality. The institutional inequity was built by generations before us, and has to be destroyed by our total abstinence from that kind thinking and behavior.
Inequality was created when prejudice turned to racism; There is no way that predjudice will turn racism into equality, even when used against those in privilege.