Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Anti-Racism Revisited: What About "Reverse" Racism?

First things first...obviously, class is back in session, and that is what has been keeping me away, as usual. In fact, I should be reading right now, but today was a day I just couldn't get anything going. Before the Christmas break ended, though, I actually opened up a Microsoft Word document and let a lot of thoughts just pour out, inspired by the readings I'd been doing on anti-racism and online discussions sparked by Kil Ja Kim's works. The document is long, as I'm no stranger to writing a lot, but this time I will break the posts up (the luxury of writing ahead of time). I'm also going to generally leave the editing alone, which means much of the posts will be in lowercase (a practice I usually loathe).

In my original post discussing my thoughts about anti-racism, I linked to a Livejournal discussion about Kim's writings, works that had upset some white readers. I went back and read a lot of the arguments/responses, and I got the impression that many whites who claim to be against racism or are "anti-racist" regard minorities, particularly blacks, as thinking racism only works one way. In other words, we think that we cannot be racist.

I don't know how many whites ever look at my blog, but I want to explain something to you. Minorities, absolutely, are just as racist as whites are. But we express it differently and we're affected by racism differently. Furthermore, minorities have a tendency to not only be racist towards whites; we're racist towards minorities of our group and minorities of other groups. So, yes, those of you white people who claim, for instance, that blacks are more racist than white people are...well, yes, you're right...just not how you think. Most whites, including the white anti-racists, don't run around degrading or "hating" other white people (based on race). But I can count on one hand the number of racial minorities I've known throughout my life who have never uttered a negative stereotype or expressed disdain for people of their background (based on race).

Allow me to explain a few other differences between our experiences with/perceptions of racism of all kinds, among other things. I'll kick the discussion off by telling you another of my perceptions when it comes to white anti-racists and white people, such as the ones on Livejournal, who get upset about racism/say racism is racism no matter whom it's directed at (i.e. all racism is equal/the same).

I argue that whites are interested in racism usually when something is in it for them. for those whites, including many anti-racists, what’s in it for them is the possibility of ending racism--and accusations of racism--against whites. that’s not to say they completely don’t care about ending racism against others. I just think most of them would never become interested in fighting racism if perceived racial injustices didn’t occur against whites, if they didn't interracially date and/or if they didn't adopt/birth minority children. this accompanies my theory that each and every group is primarily, if not totally, concerned with their group and engages in group identification just as much as blacks are perceived to.

most of the time, whites who claim to be against racism give several indications in discussions that much of their concern is really racism against whites, sometimes to the point of steering discussions about racism against minorities away from that topic towards racism and other forms of oppression as they specifically (or predominantly) affect whites or a white individual. thus, whites even make discussions about racism towards minorities about them. I do the same with white queers…and that’s because as much as I might be in a discussion with queers or on a site for/about queers because I’m interested in queer issues, my primary concern still is blacks, even as someone who is, herself, queer. I suspect the same is true for whites, including most anti-racists, whether it’s a conscious concern or not. I don’t believe they are ever equally concerned regardless of race, as they attempt to present themselves or argue that we all should be.

Most whites seemingly cannot talk about racism without insinuating or even outright stating that racism against minorities and racism against whites is equivalent or equally as bad. when minorities dismiss racism against whites, it’s not necessarily because they really think it’s more acceptable. it’s because racism doesn’t affect whites in the same ways as it does minorities—and doesn't affect some minority groups in the same way as it affects others, either—and because, frankly, the overwhelming majority of minorities do not really care about racism towards whites. we might not express it, acknowledge it, admit it, etc, but we know perfectly well racism exists towards whites. in truth, we don’t care. some of us probably feel that if it weren’t for whites, racism wouldn’t exist anyway and now it backfires on them on occasion. for me, I feel that if I’m forced to experience discrimination—and I do feel that, since I believe racism can’t be eliminated—so should you be. in other words, many of us find racism against whites justifiable or, on some level, even satisfying. Others of us are simply just as I described whites who are "interested" in racism, i.e. we're more interested in the racism that harms us and/or how racism harms us.

I think this is a lot of the reason why some minorities are blatantly racist towards whites or other groups—because some of us think whites…any white person…deserve it in turn for what we experience or that it’s not fair that we’re the only ones experiencing it and we see no way to stop it. so some prefer to just dish it back out as a form of self-induced equality and self-induced empowerment of which we’re robbed. as I said in my original post on anti-racism, discrimination breeds discrimination. when people are discriminated against enough, they just want to do it right back to someone else or see someone else be on the bottom. that’s why minorities create so many hierarchies amongst themselves rather than unite. and we treat other minorities worse than we treat whites because we feel we can get away with it more than with whites, as well as that we’re fighting for the opportunity to be second in society behind whites/more accepted by whites. Asians just do it more civilly than Latinos and Latinos more civilly than blacks, which is the current racial hierarchy of white acceptance—Asians, then Latinos then blacks (in my opinion).

just as much as I think whites become concerned with racism primarily when/because its directed at them or other whites, blacks are interested in racism because it affects blacks—not because it affects whites, Asians or Latinos—and I believe the same is true for Asians and Latinos, as I believe queers study or recite information about the black civil rights movement primarily to serve queer interests. although there are people from each of these groups who are concerned with other groups—once again, I would credit people like Rachel Sullivan, Kil Ja Kim (with blacks) and minorities who say “people of color” and truly mean “people of color,” not just blacks or just Asians or just Latinos—I think this predominant self-interest is the norm. we don’t care about other people’s oppression, or, at least, not anywhere near to the same extent we care about our own. and especially when we’re trying to have a conversation about racism against blacks, we don’t want to hear about difficulties whites or Asians experience. we know other people experience difficulties; generally, it’s not of interest to us. as I say about racism, I think this is human nature.

whites (and some "people of color," too) don’t really appear to believe racism and oppression are systemic, even most anti-racists. when minorities attempt to discuss systemic oppression and whites start talking about white oppression, they are pretty much pointing to social discrimination. they don’t get the distinction, and this is why they don’t understand that racism affects different groups differently. The word “racism” always has the same definitions, so, in that sense, racism is racism is racism—yes. But whites almost consistently refuse to discuss systemic racism and the fact that they don’t experience that kind of oppression in regards to race, and the ones who admit to systemic racism seem to downplay how it makes a difference.

See, systemic racism is the main reason (other than self-interest) minorities view racism against minorities as worse and/or more devastating than racism towards whites, although I don’t see social racism as affecting us the same, either. Whites can point to classism all they want, but classism is not racism and minorities are disproportionately affected by classism just as they are disproportionately affected by racism—which is one of the reasons the system is set up like it is. Whites can experience social racism and, though they might feel angry or hurt, they will not be held back in society because of it. Because of the importance of race to the system, whites can be poor and/or queer and have a better chance of making in farther in life than someone who is black and poor/queer--or, honestly, someone who is black, middle class and heterosexual.

When points like these are made, it’s not so much to say racism, classism, etc, towards whites don’t matter or even to say they don't matter to us. Because of the fact that whites tend to downplay, ignore or deny systemic racism, we feel compelled to argue strictly about racism against minorities just to remind/inform whites.

Then there’s social racism. The reason I still distinguish experiences here is basically because, at some point, no matter what, whites usually find themselves predominantly in environments in which they are racially accepted. One white female on the Livejournal link described being mistreated because she was perceived to have black features, basically. I would bet money that doesn’t happen as much as it used to, if at all. Particularly for blacks who grow up in white neighborhoods and white schools, many continue consistently experiencing difficulty making friends, finding romance or feeling as if some aspect of who they are is being questioned because of race (i.e. intelligence, competence, qualifications, attractiveness, demeanor, etc...even their "blackness" is questioned), and/or consistently are “stuck” in environments in which they are the minority (since getting out of those environments essentially means making a choice between success/prospering and feeling racially comfortable/the norm). Whites might not call us "nigger" in these environment or make "black jokes," but we experience consistent subtle racism while reading/watching news stories about blatant racist incidents towards blacks across the nation.

For those who still don’t understand why some of these things relate to more social racism for minorities than whites, read the third part of this post.

Next--The Rage of Minorities