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Friday, July 15, 2016

What Does Racism Mean?

Let's start this post by getting the immediate triggers out of the way:
I'm white.
I'm male.
For good measure - I'm not a parent and I have been a citizen of the U.S.A my entire life.

If you feel that any of these things (or anything else, for that matter) means I am not allowed to have an opinion on a topic feel free to leave. If you feel anyone is ever not allowed to have an opinion on a topic then you are a major part of the divisiveness problem in out country and in society as a whole.

Before we go any further let's get some other important bits out of the way.

Racism is real.
Racism is a very serious problem.
Racism is pervasive.
Racism is taught to us all from the moment we start to absorb language through until the moment we expire from life.
There is no escaping racism in the modern world; we can but reject the racist thoughts that have infiltrated our minds and embrace the notions of equality and egalitarianism.

I do not, and never have, rejected these notions.

I will admit, as per some earlier posts, that it took me until specific experiences to really understand what these idea meant and to witness them, but I never claimed they did not exist. I, merely, failed to comprehend them. When I was much younger I even questioned some of the things that existed because I hadn't seen any evidence of the systemic oppression that occurs.

Some time ago, I am not precisely sure of when, I encountered a graphic in the facebook feed of someone I do not know who posts many graphics, memes, news articles, etc that highlight the various problems in our country. Most of them relate to racism and sexism. I agree with most of them because these things are a problem. But, then, there was this one graphic that jumped out at me because of the core, and severe, level of wrongness. I tried to find it to embed in this post and failed.

It was a screen shot segment of a tweet (or some other social media post) that said:

Black people cannot be racist.
Black people cannot be racist.
Black people cannot be racist.
Black people cannot be racist.

I, immediately, took offense to this as did a variety of other people. As I outlined in previous posts I have experience racism. I have experienced the tiniest sliver of what it is to receive hatred because of my various genetic phenotypes and the resulting physical traits. It was unpleasant but I was able to walk away from all of it. I understand that Black people cannot walk away from it because out entire society is built to maintain that level of scrutiny and subhuman* treatment toward them.

There was another graphic I encountered in the same facebook feed, which I also cannot find, presenting another set of ideas:

Men cannot say what is misogynistic
White people cannot say what is racist
Abusers cannot define what is abuse

I believe it had five lines in total, but I am sure you get the idea. It's a sound concept that outlines that those in the dominant position don't get to define what harms those in the weak position. The bully doesn't get to define whether or not the bullied feels bullied. The assaulter does not get to define if the assaultee is harmed. 

This is important because the origin point of the idea that Black people cannot be racist lies in a specific "equation"drafted by Pat Bidol in 1970

Racism = racial prejudice + institutional power

By the tenets of this equation Black people cannot be racist. The problems with this concept, though, are numerous. First, and foremost, those using this equation seem to subscribe to the concept that the oppressors cannot define the oppression; but the equation was drafted by a white author. Therefore, the very equation they are using to redefine racism as being a practice that can ONLY be perpetrated by the dominant racial group is a hypocrisy in their belief set.

Aside from the hypocritical origin point let's look at the actual words involved.

The combination of the words "race" and the suffix "ism" form the word "racism." Let's take a look at those:

As one can clearly see from these constructs "race" is a specific group of people who share genetic similarities that are physically apparent and "ism" is a practice of some sort related to the root of the "ism." Racism, therefore, is a practice based solely on racial traits. That is the formal definition.
The formal definition has NO mention of it only being applicable to the dominant racial group: NONE. Therefore, by the very definition of the word, anyone individual can be a racist and practice racism.

This newer concept of racism was generated in 1970 and is accepted by only the most far-left liberal academics as being THE valid definition. The term "racism" clearly dates to 1932 in popular use and has been dated to 1902 where it began to replace the previous variant of "racialism." My very meager research into this shows that the term "racialism" has been dated to at least 18971 and that the word "race" applied to humans dates back to at least 1500 with racialist ideas and concepts being discussed all the way back to the beginning of written history (just open The Holy Bible). The idea of segregation and sorting by race is NOT new and NEVER has it been exclusively contained to the dominant racial group.

Furthering this, piggybacking on the idea, is an NEA statement from 1973:

“All white individuals in our society are racists. Even is a white is totally free from all conscious racial prejudices, he remains a racist, for he receives benefits distributed by a white racist society through its institutions. Our institutional and cultural processes are so arranged as to automatically benefit whites, just because they are white.
It is essential for whites for whites to recognized that they receive most of these racist benefits automatically, unconsciously, unintentionally.”
--from EDUCATIONA & RACISM, National Education Association.

This has some merit, which I acknowledged and agreed with above, but it is not a valid statement overall. Both the idea that minorities cannot be racist and that every white person is are removing personal action and personal responsibility from the equation. They eliminate the very seed of institutional racism from reality: personal actions.

Take these examples:

A white person refuses to serve a Black person because of their skin color.
A white person refuses to serve a Latino person because of their skin color.
A white person refuses to serve an Asian person because of their skin color.
A white person refuses to serve an Arab person because of their skin color.
A white person refuses to serve a Native American person because of their skin color.

All of these are an INDIVIDUAL action. The white person in each of these examples is practicing prejudice against another person solely for the color of their skin; they are practicing racism and are, therefore, a racist.

Now, let's take these examples:
A Black person refuses to serve a white person because of their skin color.
A Latino person refuses to serve a Black person because of their skin color.
A Black person refuses to serve a Latino person because of their skin color.
An Asian person refuses to serve a white person because of their skin color.
A Black person refuses to serve an Asian person because of their skin color.
An Asian person refuses to serve a white person because of their skin color.
A Black person refuses to serve an Arab person because of their skin color.
A Native American person refuses to serve an Arab person because of their skin color.

All of these are ALSO INDIVIDUAL actions. In each case the same exact prejudicial practice is being performed based solely on the color of the person's skin. BUT, according to the equation-based definition NONE of these are racism because none of the perpetrators of the action are white.

That's right. This new racism definition is, in itself, racist. It says that the color of your skin determines whether or not you CAN be racist.

Shortly after encountering the above graphics I encountered this article. The author describes herself as "queer, nonbinary Black fat femme writer, artist, and cultural producer."

I posted the article to my facebook feed because I felt it had some good points but, also, that it highlights an ongoing trend of divisiveness that DOES NOT HELP.

This is what I posted with the article:
I agree that it shouldn't be a hobby.
I agree that anyone showing up for a photo op is a problem (I'm being nice and gentle).
I agree that people showing up to undermine the protest and subvert it for their own "fuck the police" or any other political agenda are scum.

I agree that black people have suffered in this land at the hands of oppression since the first one was tossed onto North American soil.
I agree that the systemic issues have arisen and been constantly reinforced in a recursive cycle of smaller and more tightly knit subtle ways to keep power through active oppression.
I agree that black people are disproportionately poor in most places in this country.

I agree that we need to level the playing field by increasing opportunity for the poorest among us and that we need to give them more resources to be able to succeed.
I agree that our efforts to help the poor should go to the poor regardless of their color and that that means those assistance programs will mostly go to black people.
I agree that such an "unfair" distribution is not, at all, unfair.

I don't agree that unilateral reparations are deserved as that is the same level of entitlement that poor whites are accused of for being white.
I don't agree that anyone alive today has experienced 400 years of it of oppression, merely the results of the oppression applied to their lives (VERY different).
I don't agree that every white person is as responsible as those who started the oppression (it's not specifically said, but it is implied).
I don't agree that white people can't be upset and want to help while still having their lives intact.
I don't agree that white people have no place vocalizing against police brutality and racism.

Lastly - this article bothers me because it is, inherently and completely, racist in itself. One canNOT eliminate racism by switching the polarity. One cannot eliminate racism by seeking vengeance based on skin color. One cannot seek to make the world a better place while advocating to judge people based on the color of their skin regardless of what color that is.

This article, like so many other strong activist stances I have seen, is NOT good for society; it's highlighting and advocating for preserving the barriers of skin color rather than trying to erode them.

Whatever color you skin is does not matter - if you judge others by the color of their skin you are a racist. Racism is NOT good.....

I want to see an end to the problem of disproportionate poverty (and ALL poverty). I want to see an end to inequality in educational opportunities. I want to see an end anything other than a person's own merit being the measure of their worth.

Being a good person who adds value to the world should be the ONLY thing that matters. THAT'S what I want to see in our society.

And, again, I was presented with a tirade of condemnation for my stances because I called the author racist. I was told that she cannot be racist because she is Black. I was told that I am undermining the entire equality movement for refusing to accept that the newer definition of racism is valid. I was told that I am using my privilege to reject the suffering of those who don't have it. I was told that I am "white privilege in the flesh" because I refuse to accept that minorities cannot be racist. I was told that racism is NOT a niche of prejudice which, by definition, it CLEARLY is.
The onslaught against me deviated into questioning my stance on sexism in a manner I cannot even comprehend well enough to rephrase. My rebuttal to that was, quite clearly, that the effort to achieve equality for all is NOT the same as redefining a word so that minorities are incapable of it. That doesn't reduce the problem but, rather, it gives a free pass to the minorities to act out the behaviors.

White person does a racist thing - they're racist and a monster
Black person does the same thing - they're "just prejudiced" and it's excusable.

This is NOT acceptable.

Those opposed to my stance were not abated in their onslaught but, rather, became more and more enraged by my continued stance that the meaning of the word is, in fact, the meaning of the word.

Knowing that I am a white male and, therefore, not entitled to any opinions (see above) about anything regarding oppression of any sort of anyone I sought validation from those who are far more qualified to speak to racism than I.

Malcom X said:
"The true Islam has shown me that a blanket indictment of all white people is as wrong as when whites make blanket indictments against blacks,"
"I totally reject Elijah Muham­mad's racist philosophy" (Elijah Muhammad was Black, therefore Malcolm X is clearly saying Black people can be racist)

MLK has also said (though these are a weaker example):
"Racism is a philosophy based on a contempt for life."
"Racism is total estrangement. It separates not only bodies, but minds and spirits. Inevitably it descends to inflicting spiritual and physical homicide upon the out-group.”

If Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcom X can both acknowledge racism is something black people can be then it is pretty clear that racism is not something black people are immune to.

Likewise, sexism (because it was brought up in an attempt to undermine my position and my morals with respect to racism) is something that women are not immune to. The first recorded instance of the word "sexism" in print was in 1968 by Caroline Bird. Her words on it include:

Sexism is judging people by their sex when sex doesn’t matter.

Sexism is intended to rhyme with racism. Both have used to keep the powers that be in power. Women are sexists as often as men.


They know isn’t so, but they use the sexist arguments to get around prejudice.

Note that Bird CLEARLY equates "sexism" to racism and CLEARLY outlines that women can be sexist and CLEARLY outlines that sexism is a FORM of prejudice - a niche of it.

I stand on my statements that any individual can be a racist. The creator of the term "sexism" agrees with me, the dictionary agrees with me, the etymology of the words that are combined to make "racism" agrees with me, the most prominent Black civil rights leaders in modern history agree with me. To disagree with me on this is to disagree with all of those.

What I will say, though, is that there is merit to the Bidol equation but it is missing a word (which may very well be in the original text - I cannot locate a copy online to check).

Institutional/systemic racism = racial prejudice + institutional power

There is, without question, legitimacy to this variation on the equation and, by it, minorities canNOT be part of the systemic racism problem on a macro level (there are still micro pockets where they can be the dominant race and white people are victims of racism in those situations). But individual behaviors are STILL A CHOICE. Each and every person, regardless of the color of their skin, has the CHOICE to accept the racist programming of society, reject it, or reverse the polarity and be as racist as those they are racist against.

Individual behavior is a choice. To say that individuals cannot be racist because of the color of their skin is, in itself, racist. Putting forth such racist ideas is a true undermining idea for the pursuit of equality. To say that someone can't be racist because they are a minority is to CONTINUE TO SEGREGATE THEM AND CATEGORIZE THEM AS SOMETHING LESS THAN HUMAN.

So, anyone who subscribes to Bidol's equation as applicable to individuals - YOU are racist. YOU are subverting advancement by continuing to enforce racial compartmentalization. YOU are advocating for a unilateral pardon to all minorities when they commit actions that are racially motivated. YOU are saying that they cannot be individually responsible for their own behavior. YOU are saying that they can't be trusted with their own moral agency when it comes to racial biases and prejudices.

That's right - I am calling everyone who subscribes to Bidol's equation as applied to individuals part of the problem and roadblocks to progress.

Stop saying that minorities can't be something just because of the color of their skin: it's racist.

*Yes, I said "subhuman," I am NOT saying Black people are subhuman. I am saying our society treats them as such. They are oppressed - I am not. Therefore I am NOT privileged; saying whites, specifically men, are privileged is to say that the treatment of women and minorities is NORMAL. It is NOT normal: it is reprehensible, therefore, it is subhuman treatment.

A bunch of links: