In his work The Souls of Black Folk, Web Dubois asserts the color line as the problem of the 19th century. Two centuries later, this issue persists as abrasively as before. Issues of color remain the line drawn in the sand of American soil. It must be noted that racism is only a prevalent factor for those who don’t reap it’s benefits. Thus, the majority of those who inhabit the Americas do not see the issue with racism, as it has afforded them a pedestal of privilege.
To some members of the majority, this pedestal is compromised by a commander and chief of African descent. The presence of a black family in the White House seemingly suggests a shift in power, presenting blacks as potential racists to the ignorant onlooker. While blacks rejoiced in the election of the first black president, some whites used their cast ballot as a token of their liberalism, others used this election as the catalyst for reverse racism. The attempt of reverse racism is illustrated through the phrase “racist against white people.” This phrase illustrates a reverse in the use of the term racism, not an actual reconstruction of the concept itself.
Upon President’s Obama’s inauguration, the term “racist against white people” has been overused in a nauseating abundance. As bell hooks described in her book “Black Looks” the assertion of “racism” in said context by whites demonstrates an ignorance to the reality of the term. While racism has many definitions my favorite is by Dr. Beverly Tatum, author of “Why are all the black kids sitting together in the cafeteria?” She defines racism as a system of privileges based on race. To paraphrase, those benefitting from institutionalized disenfranchisement are inherently racist. With regard to this definition, blacks cannot be racist. Not even a black first family is not enough to undo centuries of oppression and disenfranchisement thrust upon the black community. While select blacks have been afforded some privilege (such as access to education, etc), blacks remain subject to daily disenfranchisement. As depicted through the influx of blacks murdered in cold blood, blacks go through life knowing that the potential for death or disaster is greater than the possibility of greatness. Thus, even being in positions of power doesn’t negate the hovering cloud of oppression over the black community, anymore than a disenfranchised white negates their position of privilege in society.
While not racists, blacks, like every minority faction are still susceptible to being prejudice. I personally conceptualize prejudice is an inescapable flaw of humanity. Although vastly different, racism and prejudice are commonly used interchangeably. I would argue that the confusion of these terms is with interest to members of the majority. The idea of blacks being racist operates on a sketchy understanding of equality, in which whites pretend that the civil rights movement, in addition to President Obama’s election, completely elevate blacks from disenfranchisement by means of equality. By pretending that racially elevated blacks inflict the same negative behavior endured by their ancestors onto whites,indirectly presents a problem in racial equality and elevation. Thus, a racially aggressive black person is depicted as deserving their state of deprivation, another means to confine blacks to an inferior state. Even that very statement lacks equity as the misdeeds of whites are overlooked as is their stolen superiority. Interestingly, the illusion of equality looms at most places where equity should be applied.
Equality applies to two parties being afforded the same things, but equity pertains to the value or quality of an experience. An enlightened perspective of equity versus equality is perhaps best issued with a proper illustration. Picture a classroom full of students where each has on a pair of gloves. To demonstrate the concept, each student is asked to remove their gloves. After this, gloves are distributed to each student. While everyone is given gloves to shield them from the cold, ,these gloves fail to accommodate the diversity that defines human existence. Thus the intended equality of being protected from the cold isn’t met, as the equality of glove distribution fails to accommodate various widths, hand size and finger numbers amongst human existence. The seemingly inclusive widths of other differences within the individuals who are wearing the shoes. So while all humans should have access to the basic qualities of life, our access should be accessible to our experience.
Applying the dynamics of equality and equity to race and prejudice, the value or equity of the black experience permits blacks from being racist. While prejudice is something that we all have to deal with in life, racism is not. As a member of the majority faction, you’re entire existence is saturated in privileges that you never have to even consider. While you may have a bad day or even meet bad people, you’re existence is the antithesis of the black existence. Even the most wealthy, or highly educated black is susceptible to the vile reality of a presumed inferiority.
Even the malice seen towards whites is different than what is faced by blacks. I remember a former colleague complaining to me that she was at a predominately black school and some students would say ” ask the white girl.” Black verbal and physical violence against whites, much like whites verbal and physical violence towards blacks is rooted in power. However, the implementation of such behavior by whites is the result of having power, whereas blacks operate from the deprivation of power. My statement is not to suggest that these words are not hurtful, but I will say that they are less harmful. Lingual jarring from those of a with little power or societal influence lacks the equity of their privileged counterparts. While this comment may be categorized as prejudice, it doesn’t mirror the experiences of blacks who integrated schools in the 50s and 60s. The comment only slightly showcased what it’s like to be treated unfairly because of how you look. While this instance was sour, her whiteness will open more doors than it will close. Her whiteness will yield much more positive assumptions than negative. Many comments that seem negative will reflect an ingrained insecurity by those not born into privilege. For blacks , our blackness will be the catalyst for many closed doors and negative assumptions. For us, comments that seem nice are often of ill nature, masking curiosity or sheer condensation with the facade of interest.
Thus the phrase “racist towards white people” is not only utterly inappropriate, it is down right insulting. For whites, who have every privelage in American society to reference themselves as victims to racism, showcases an ignorance and indifference to the actual victims of this oppressive system. This phrase showcases how alien prejudice is to many whites, causing them to feel entitled to a detachment to racial issues. Perhaps more significantly, it showcases a dedication of whites to make prejudice someone else’s problem, because as racists, or those who benefit from the disenfranchisement of minorities- racism isn’t their problem, it’s their solution.