Friday, March 18, 2016

"Reverse" racism?

Just a little tip for my readers who are racialized as being 'white'. Or...anyone who wants to divest themselves of a fantasy that's often presented as if it were reality. That fantasy is called "reverse" racism.

See...racism cannot be enacted by a group that isn't dominant in the society where they live. Folks who are positioned in subordinated groups can be prejudiced, they can not like people in other groups, they can avoid people in other groups, they can be angry toward individuals not in their group...but...they cannot enact racism toward others because they don't have access to the social power that goes along with being a member of a dominant group.

"Ism" refers to an ideology and ideologies are systems implemented by groups and/or institutions...not individuals.

There's no such thing as "reverse" racism anymore than there's such a thing as "reverse" sexism or "reverse" ableism. The oppressive ideologies represented by the "isms" reference a dominant group targeting a subordinate group and hence...they can't be reversed unless you also reverse the dominant and subordinate groups.

While it might be an interesting sociological experiment if, for instance, every other month people of color controlled all the major institutions in the country or if every other month people not gendered as male controlled all the major institutions in the country...that doesn't happen. Actually, I sort of wish it would make for a very stimulating and fascinating society.

Racism = race prejudice + social power. Sexism = gender prejudice + social power. Got it? You can be prejudiced without social power...but you can't "do" racism or sexism without social power.

Mr. Rahman explains very clearly what would have to occur for "reverse" racism to be possible.

Why write about this here? can go over to the excellent Aphro-ism blog and read this post that grapples with theorizing about structures of oppression. There Aph Ko writes that: "...animal liberation can't happen until we change the way we understand animal oppression."

I firmly believe that to be true. grapple with changing that understanding requires being able to somewhat clearly conceptualize and comprehend race and racism as it is enacted in this Eurocentric society. To grapple with understanding race and racism demands some degree of racial literacy...and...whoops...we (white people especially...but everyone is subjected to inaccurate and inadequate information) are socialized to be racially illiterate.

Dr. Breeze Harper very accurately writes: "We are all racialized subjects with racialized consciousnesses that have been born out of a white supremacist racial caste system;...". There's no escaping believe you escape it means you believe you aren't influenced by the society/culture that you were born into and live in. And that's not possible.

We are carefully taught to think and behave in certain ways but we are also taught to be ignorant and illiterate in terms of being able to think about and talk about racial issues. That's why someone can utter the phrase "reverse racism" and believe they are saying something that makes sense. 

That ignorance or illiteracy is one of the principle ways in which the oppressive system known as racism maintains its power. If you can't somewhat accurately conceptualize it and coherently talk about's unlikely that you're going to be able to effectively challenge it, or interrupt it or change it.

No one here in the U.S. had a choice about the teachings of racial illiteracy and ignorance they received from this culture. But...each of us does have a choice about whether we do the work necessary to attempt to overcome that systemic ignorance. We've all been given a mishmash of ignorance and distortions and outright lies about race and racism...and we were told that such was all we needed to understand what was going on around us. Nope...what we were given were tools designed to keep white supremacy and racial illiteracy in place.

So next time you encounter someone who uses the phrase "reverse racism" seriously...realize you're dealing with someone who is evincing racial illiteracy. Maybe you will want to share this video with them.

Here's another resource that provides some good information about "reverse racism". (Note: if you spot any errors or important omissions in this post, let me know please.)

No comments: