Inherently. Consistently. Racist.
I grew up on Long Island in the 90’s, in a town where white boys knew more words to Wu-Tang Forever than I ever would, white girls dated Black boys, and Black boys skateboarded. If you would have asked me, “Where is racism?” I would have told you, “not here.”
It wasn’t until I got older that I began to realize all the jokes that were on me. The eyes that fell on me whenever a Black person was mentioned. The insults about my hair. Maybe someone asking for permission to use the N-word. The moments when I was expected to co-sign on bigoted myths, e.g. Black women are genetically less attractive than everyone else, or, Black guys are prone to violence. Co-workers starting sentences with, “Why do Black people have to always …” without apology or pause. Sometimes, someone would say something so blatantly offensive that I would ask them, “Why are you friends with me?” Their eyes would soften and they would tell me, “You’re different.”
I didn’t really get it until the end of last year. I was arguing with a white feminist.“I’M NOT A RACIST!” she kept posting over and over, even though I had never said that she was. Her fragility had gotten the best of her and she was completely unhinged. Like other white people who refuse to correlate their unearned privilege to my compound oppression, being called a racist was far worse a crime than actually being a racist. That’s the moment it clicked: all white people are racist.
It’s Not What You Think It Is
Because racism and white supremacy are so attached to visuals of burning crosses and klan marches, white people flip out when someone says all white people are racist. This is because people have a tendency of confusing racism with prejudice. Anyone has the ability to prejudge, regardless of race, social status, ethnicity, etc. However, racism is prejudice plus power.
It’s privilege that gives white people the false impression that they can dictate how Black people express themselves and fight against oppression. It’s why they shoot at us out of fear rather than safety, and they call 911 out of annoyance rather than emergency. With that privilege comes apathy for Black people. It’s at the root of why they can find rationale out of brutal murders and beatings by police, and blatant every day acts of racism.
To be racist isn’t an instant assumption of klan membership, it’s an acknowledgement that those with white skin have access to both the privileges of whiteness and the power that comes with that privilege. For Black people, that power often leads us to wrongful imprisonment, police brutality, medical malpractice, unfair housing due to redlining, and a host of other racial injustices. Oddly enough, it’s white people who become indignant when told that their privilege is the source of their racism.
Whiteness sits at the top of the food chain, and comes with so many privileges most don’t even realize they’re the only ones who have it. They can live, learn, and work wherever they choose. However each of their spoils come with great consequence to Black people. Racism isn’t an empty-handed curse. It comes with hierarchy and loads of unearned power. You’ve got to rank pretty high in the food chain to acquire racism.
There is no example of Black Americans enforcing prejudice against white Americans to the point of consequence.
Black People. Cannot. Be. Racist.
There are Irish Americans who will talk about their ancestors who were ‘slaves, too’, and Italian Americans who speak of the hardship their ancestors faced when coming to America. They mention how they worked so hard and pulled themselves up by their bootstraps, as though my ancestors failed to do the same. They’ll say this without a suggestion of empathy or grasp of American history. And then I remind them the difference. The violence, carnage, rape, dead bodies, broken families, castration, the savagery of chattel slavery. Hundreds of years. Fast forward to today and we are still living in a country where a man can kill a teenage boy in the dark of night and go to bed in his own home.
Every American institution, standard, and system of power is tailor fit for white people. From the Atlantic Slave Trade, the Reconstruction Era, the Great American Migration, until this very day, there is no example of Black people enforcing prejudice against white people to the point of consequence.
“I’m not racist!”
Yes you are. You are racist if you have a bias against Black people that makes you believe we’re louder, commit most of the country’s crime, drain the government with welfare, are ill-mannered, etc. You’re racist if you’re willing to argue with me about it instead of considering how weaponized your whiteness is. You’re racist if your wedding party looked like a Tide commercial. You’re racist if you think your Black friends are different than other Black people. You’re racist if think talking about race is what makes racism worse. You’re racist if you’re reading this and you’re white.
All white people are racist.
Tamela J. Gordon is a writer, and Black feminist. She’s the creator of the women’s empowerment group, Sisters with Aspiration, as well as SWA’s Black Feminists Book Club, an online space for all women and non-men to explore the literary and creative works of Black women and women of color. You can gift books for readers or pay Tamela HERE: To contact Tamela for speaking engagements or creating your own women’s empowerment group, email firstname.lastname@example.org