As an African-American woman, I think that part of the reason that it’s such a challenge for white people to recognize and accept the reality of racism is because they truly don’t understand what it is and, in many cases, don’t care to learn, either. But whether their ignorance is deliberate or not, it’s important that the true definition of racism be made available to, at a minimum, prevent the “unknowing” whites from saying it was never available for them to learn.
Racism is often used in a loose and heedless way to describe the belief that on the basis of their genetic difference, some racial groups are innately superior to other racial groups in intelligence, temperament, and attitudes. However, to describe racism simply as a peculiar idea does a major disservice to the deplorable impact that racism has had on the economies and histories of most of the world.
Racism is a system of power and prejudice designed to subjugate people of color, while preserving the resources, opportunities, and privileges of white people. This system is fundamentally a socioeconomic structure that not only directly proposes to sustain the racial order—whites leading the racial hierarchy—but it also uses religion, politics, and education to preserve the freedoms naturally warranted to white people. Moreover, based on history, racism has awarded white people the power, resources, and wealth to deprive, exploit, and injure blacks and other minority groups for beneficial purposes—usually economic, political, and social gain.
Still, aside from the systematic pervasion of racism that has gravely impacted black and brown society, the most common form of racism is subtle racism or microaggression. This form of racism I have personally found many white people to be oblivious to. For instance, if a white “friend” says to their black friend, “Geez Ray, you’re really smart and cool. You’re nothing like other black people.”
Of course Ray’s reaction to this would be, “What the *uck? What are other black people like?”
What Ray’s white friend really meant is that from his perspective, black people are uneducated and unworthy of befriending due to his perception of our overall cultural behaviors and mannerisms. However, Ray has proven to be intelligent and behave the way that his white friend believes real people should (whatever that even means.)
The sad fact is that Ray is probably the only black person that the white friend has ever had or have even directly encountered. Yet he/she felt confident enough to compare Ray to “other black people,” as if he/she interacts with a slew of us and has a right to make a judgement of our entire race based off of his/her minimal experiences. Even more, he/she felt comfortable enough to share such a profound insult with Ray, mistaking it for being an “attaboy.”
THIS IS RACISM!
So many whites, and non-blacks for that matter, base their distorted perceptions of black people and our culture off of the information that they acquire from the media, disregarding the fact that the media has always dehumanized and criminalized black culture for the purposes of mass manipulation and psychological warfare. It is apparent to anyone who has their eyes opened that the media has always demonized black people in order to control the opinions of mainstream society and their behaviors toward black people.
THIS IS RACISM!
Another common form of racism that as the founder of RacismInAmerica.org I’ve witnessed countless times is colorblind racism–a racist practice where whites aim to end racial prejudice and discrimination by attempting to treat all groups “equally,” while ignoring the continuing historical elements that systematically impact the life chances and freedom of others.
Most white people that have visited R.I.A’s Facebook page haven’t been reserved, by any means, in terms of spewing their views on black society. For instance, many have ignorantly said things like, “I work hard for everything I have. If black people just work hard, stop being lazy, and looking for handouts, things would be better for them. All they do is complain. Quit crying and start working.”
I can’t do anything but laugh when I read the super redundant, right wing, conservative rhetoric. These people fail to understand that so many of us work extremely hard, are very educated and qualified, yet are overlooked simply because we are black. There are more of us than not, and unfortunately it’s systematically designed to be this way.
THIS IS RACISM!
Another example of subtle racism, and a more personal experience of mine, is being the only black engineer in an entire company, department, or even building–for that matter. Furthermore, being used as the token black whenever a black presence is needed to represent the company.
“See look, we are a very diverse company. Look over there at Rachel, she is black. No, she doesn’t have power to make any executive decisions, but we include her in all of our meetings to make her feel, well, more involved. We just don’t involve her in any real decision making, that’s all,” said the company through their actions, practices, and behaviors towards me. They forced me to attend meetings when it was important to show diversity, even though those types of meetings had nothing to do with my job function, at all.
Although knowing that I was being used as the “token” black bothered me, not nearly as much as not seeing any other black faces to at least share the “token” burden with. And, of course, the reason for this was always:
“You know, Rachel, it’s a challenge finding qualified black engineers.”
“Really?!?! Well, what about the slew of resumes that I’ve provided to you of black engineers who graduated at the top of their class?”
“Oh, they weren’t really qualified.”
“Ohhhhh, okaaaay! I gotcha. In other words, they’re black.”
THIS IS RACISM!
The point is, white folks, racism isn’t always shouting “nigger” at black people, or burning crosses on the only black family in the neighborhood’s lawn. If you really want to understand what racism looks like, I advise you to watch the bestselling documentary, Hidden Colors 4: The Religion of White Supremacy.
This film covers “the motivation behind European global subjugation. The history of rarely discussed vast West African empires. How germ warfare is used on melanated people. The history of slave breeding farms in America. And much more.”
Otherwise, Jane Elliot exemplifies racism in the best way in the video below, starting at 1:20 and ending around 6:07.
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