Common Misconceptions About Racism — Pt. I
Okay, Lane. I’m gonna assume you don’t know that much about modern day racism, because up until a few years ago, neither did I. So I’m tryna give you the benefit of the doubt and hopefully open your eyes a bit. I think a few of the points you made were at least a few inches left of the truth. I’ve summed up your points the best I could, in the most neutral tone I can summon. Please let me know if I got anything you were saying mixed up.
“White supremacy is not a major problem anymore.”
Let’s disregard the fact that Donald Trump is sweeping poor whites off their feet — and that most of his supporters are openly white supremacist. Let’s assume that isn’t happening, now, in 2016.
You may think these are outliers, but no, this is truly how many people subconsciously view us: as less than them. The history of the United States itself shows us that, right up until this day. Black women are routinely ignored on dating sites (and in real life). White people do not view us as feeling the same amount of pain as they do. For an historical example, check out J Marion Sims, the man who invented modern gynecology by performing surgeries on his slaves, without anesthesia, for practice. He comforted his assistants by telling them that slaves don’t actually feel pain, they just fake it for attention.
This attitude is even internalized by many black people. Black children think that white dolls or characters are smarter and prettier. This study has been repeated several times with the same results. White supremacist ideals have saturated our media to the point that white women are typically assumed to be more attractive than black women.
White supremacy hasn’t disappeared or been reigned in just because the KKK isn’t thundering down your street with burning pitchforks. The signs are there but they are much less obvious. Which brings me to your next point.
“I would be surprised if racism was a common problem.”
Well, well, well. I guess racism only counts when you’re invited to the neighborhood lynching? Y’know, instead of letting the sheriff claim it’s suicide. (And that’s not the only child I can think of.)
But that’s not quite my point. My point is more that police brutality is a very, very serious problem for black people. We are killed at rates disproportionate to the percentage of the population we make up. We are sentenced more harshly than white people are: black people make up about 12% of the population but are 35% of the prison population. And this all gets a lot more fishy when you think about the fact that the 13th Amendment banned slavery… except for those who have committed a crime.
From that point on, black men were targeted as criminals and forced back into slavery by the police. I’d also like to add that the first ‘police’ in this country were actually patrols formed to hunt down runaway slaves. This gets a bit eerie when you consider the fact that police brutality has a lasting effect on its victims. I could not tell you how many conversations I have had with my black partner about what we would do if we had to call the police. I have a friend of a friend who is black and was beaten by police for reporting a robbery in his own home. And plenty others who faced police violence far exceeding their crimes. The fear is seriously real.
Possibly a more down to earth example of racism is the newly coined term ‘microaggression’:
“…racial microaggressions are brief and commonplace daily verbal, behavioral and environmental indignities, whether intentional or unintentional, that communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative racial slights and insults to the target person or group, and are expressed in three forms: microassaults, microinsults and microinvalidations.”
I could explain it here, but the excerpt I’ve linked does such a thorough job that I would pale in comparison. Please read it if you want.
And, naturally, I’ve already touched upon internalized beliefs in racism. I can’t say much about that because I doubt you will understand much. Internalized racism does not compare to simply disliking oneself. It is the belief, either consciously or subconsciously, in negative racial attitudes regarding oneself. The effect of stereotypes on self-image and expectations has been examined by plenty of people, even the Nazis.
“Racism is reversed.”
The Merriam-Webster definition of racism (written by white people, ironically) states that racism is:
- Poor treatment of or violence against other people because of their race
- The belief that some races of people are better than others
The sociological definition of racism is varied, depending on who’s work you’re reading. But generally, it goes like this:
- Racism is racial prejudice + power
See how different that is? Nobody is saying black people cannot be prejudiced against white people. In some cases prejudice may be unjustified and hateful, but prejudice against white people does not systematically affect them the same way it affects us, for all the reasons mentioned above.
“The critical element that differentiates racism from prejudice and discrimination is the use of institutional power and authority to support prejudices and enforce discriminatory behaviors in systematic ways with far-reaching outcomes and effects.”
That’s actually from a guide to multicultural education, but it was quoted by the Center for the Study of White American Culture. (They have multiple quotes and sources explaining this working definition of racism.)
‘Reverse’ racism (always meaning racism against white people, implying that racism originates with white people) will only exist when white people have been enslaved for 245 years and demonized by science and media for another 150 years. Reverse racism will only exist when 99% of all members of Congress in the history of this country have been black. Reverse racism will only exist when a majority of police are black, patrolling wealthy black areas and terrorizing poor white neighborhoods at disproportionate rates.
Until then, black anger is not the same as prejudice and prejudice against white people is not the same as racism.
“Most of the things you mentioned, are currently the other way around.”
I’d just like facts on this. Even a Twitter argument would be a decent citation. Anything. Anecdotes, studies, overheard conversations, seriously. Anything but this poorly punctuated, half formed hypothesis.
“African American anger is common and is becoming harder to ignore.”
This point was a little fuzzy, and it’s difficult to separate the statement on black anger from the mentions of pro-black movements. Are you claiming that organizations such as the Black Panthers, the NAACP, BLM, and, of all things, the Black Caucus, are proof of reverse racism? Not to mention the fact that each of these movements/policies of affirmative action are entirely separate from one another in their methods. I’d like to point out some of the differences.
- Black Lives Matter is a justified response to police brutality and especially to unjust killings of black people by police. The title refers to the fact that black lives matter just as much as white lives do, and therefore should be treated as such when it comes to the treatment of victims and the prosecution of killers. The violent protests that color America’s perception of BLM have almost always been instigated either by the police or by reactionary individuals that no one within the movement associates with. Only two examples out of plenty.
- The Black Caucus is a justified response to the ongoing racial disparities in our government: black people make up 1% of the entire membership of the United States Congress. (There have been 12,177 members of Congress since March 4, 1789; 139 have been black, 38 of which have been black women.) Their aim is mostly to achieve equality for black people through legislative means, as well as connecting black members of Congress with one another.
- The NAACP is a relatively liberal organization focused, again, on ensuring equality for black people through legislation and leadership. This is a justified response to the racism that has historically been embedded in this nation’s culture.
- Scholarships for black people are necessary because we are centuries behind white people in education. It was illegal to teach slaves to read or write, so that’s 245 years. Even after Emancipation the quality of public schooling for black children has been shown to be poorer than that of white children (allowing for interactions between class and race, naturally). Not to mention the economic and social obstacles to higher education that exist for many black students. So, scholarships directed at black students are not reactionary or comparable to reverse racism; they are a justified response to the lasting effects of legalized inequalities in education.
- The Black Panthers were a justified response to the increasing militarization of police in poor, black neighborhoods. Yes, their protests were staged to present them as a militia; this was a calculated move. The police also use this tactic when approaching black neighborhoods. Flash grenades, tear gas, surplus military gear…when the police are looking more and more like the army, what do we expect the communities under attack to respond with? If this country had not built its wealth off of our bodies and spit in our faces when we asked for an apology…if the government had stopped allowing the terrorism of black people by the police to happen, then I would say the Black Panthers were unjustified in their response to this system. But that’s not the case.
And as for black anger — I challenge you to consider the fact that estimates for the total deaths of black people during the slave trade range from 6 million to 20 million (estimates that assume the worst, and are possibly right, go all the way up to 60 million). Estimates vary widely depending on the period being analyzed (some only analyze the entire Trans-Atlantic route itself, some analyze the Trans-Atlantic slave trade by destination, while others seek to estimate slave deaths in the U.S.). In comparison, the Holocaust’s victims are estimated at 6 million and may be higher as well.
We are speaking about a tragedy that is on the same scale as the Holocaust. With no restitution and no official apology until 2008–140 years after the fact. That 40 acres and a mule we were promised? It was given back to plantation owners when they returned home from the Civil War. In light of this, I feel like the widespread anger that black Americans feel is not only justified, but is also mild in comparison to what has been done to us in the name of freedom.
I’m sorry that this went on longer than I intended, or than the article itself. But I felt like you brought up a lot of common misconceptions that white people have regarding racism today and I wanted to address those in an informative manner.
I also felt like most of what you said had very, very little to do with the original article; Ezinne Ukoha was referring to the specific brand of racism that exists for black women. I’ve barely touched on that topic because nothing you said really had anything to do with it, but the misogynoir that black women go through is a completely different topic from everything that you brought up (besides insinuating that white supremacist ideals regarding women have been reversed). Seriously, just Google misogynoir and learn about that topic; then we’ll be able to have a much more in-depth conversation about the different experiences of white women and black women.
Until then, I hope that you click on any one of the links I’ve included in this post. I’ve only written this post in the hopes of educating you or anyone else with the belief that naming racism as we see it means we are causing ourselves unnecessary grief. Part of our struggle is sharing our experiences without being second-guessed or called angry, so please keep that in mind.
Thanks and be blessed~