Black Racist?! WTF?!
One of my former students had this question neatly packaged on my FaceBook wall yesterday. First and foremost, I don’t think this question could be anymore timely. There seemed to be a sense of urgency regarding my response, but the question was too important to be answered briefly within the confines of FaceBook—so I took a bit more time to offer my opinion on the subject. (I hope I didn’t take too much time, Marcus.) In addition to space limitations on FaceBook, posting this exposition on ghettoGEEKS allows me to reach a larger audience. And as I write these words, I imagine this audience to be Black, White, Asian, Rich, Poor, Religious, Agnostic, Atheist, Heterosexual, Homosexual, Confident, Intellectual, Insecure, Stupid, Jealous, Racist, Wierd, Materialistic, Ugly, Beautiful…and any other adjective under the sun. Without further ado, I offer my opinion on the matter.
I have said, and will say again, the Conservative arm of the American political system is on a serious mission to define race and issues of race. This campaign to define race is occuring RIGHT NOW. Think about it–in wake Bush leaving office and the decline in Republican power in Washington, personalties like Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh, David Horowitz, Glenn Beck, and a host of others, have been consistently speaking on issues of race. (In the cases I’d like to highlight, white people are portrayed as the victims of racism and reverse discrimination, i.e.; the Connecticut Firefighters.) The Right has actually been MUCH more active than the Left in articulating philosophical arguments surrounding race. And when you think about it, it’s actually a stroke of rhetorical genius. If they get out in front and DEFINE and CONTEXTUALIZE race and racism, then they are seen as operating from a position of neutrality and objectivity.
But, there is a problem. This popular right wing view on race is inherently flawed. COLLOQUIAL TRANSLATION: The shit doesn’t make any sense.
Race is a societal construction based on physical characteristics. According to the American Association of Physical Anthropologists, “the term race or racial group usually refers to the categorization of humans into populations or groups on the basis of various sets of heritable characteristics.” If we focus on the term “heritable,” we will learn that this idea is concerned with phenotypic variation in a population that results in genetic variation among individuals (Wiki, 2010). THOUGH THIS INTERESTING INFORMATION, THIS BRINGS TO CONVERSATION TO A BIOLOGICAL LEVEL…AND THIS IS NOT THE FOCUS OF THIS PARTICULAR DISCUSSION.
Our focus is, of course, SOCIAL.
Now, SOCIALLY, the concept of race gets a bit more interesting. Why? POWER. Plain and simple. Everybody wants Power. Everybody. Please be under no illusions about this. Most people want Liberty…and based on the research, a possession of POWER is a prerequisite for the possession of LIBERTY. I’m sure Patrick Henry would agree with me on this point.
Recognizing the role (social, economic, and political) POWER played in the creation of the racial hierachy in America, a person may be able to gain a clear and more historically accurate idea of race. The American racial hierarchy was constructed to serve the interests of those IN POWER. (To believe anything else, is nothing short of baffling.) The early American elite used race as a way in which to organize society. Through law, politics, money, and culture, those who were white were routed into social classes near POWER…and the darker your skin, the further removed from POWER you were. You were relegated to social positioning at the bottom of the social (power) hierarchy. In fact, America’s unique system of CHATTEL slavery created beings who were legally defined as less than human yet more than four-legged beast. The concise rhetorical label for this population of chattel was: Nigger. Summarily, it is here we understand race is SYNTHETIC. It is man-made. It is a way in which the elite organized society in the interest of protecting and perserving POWER.
It is a verb. It should be understood as “race in motion.” Racism is the actual execution and protection of the current racial hierarchy. It is DEEPLY entrenched into the American social, legal, and economic system. Racism, in America, is cultural. It is NORMALIZED.
It would behoove all parties involved to decrease the emotional investment you place in examples of grotesquely overt instances of racism sensationalized on television and radio. Barack Obama is hung is effigy…white cops shoot innocent black man 49 times…such and such. (Let me be clear: These stories are sad, and they NEED and DESERVE media attention.) But, what needs just as much, IF NOT MORE, attention is the Covert/Intellectual side of race. This is where it get’s sexy. The maintenance of the hierarchy is not evidenced in sensational stories; it’s actually eradicated/deleted/omitted in these sensational stories. When a group of poor, disenfranchised, white men kidnap and rape a black woman EVERYONE gets emotional. Black people get LOUD and white people get QUIET. But, everyone gets emotional. When a black woman lies about being raped by a prominent collegiate lacrosse team, everybody gets emotional. White people get LOUD and black people get QUIET. But, everyone gets emotional. Now, if we focused on the quiet side of racism, the side where the historical racial hierarchy is kept intact, then we may be able to communicate (intra AND inter)racially with a basis in something real and relevant.
So….Professor D, do you think black people can be racist by definition?
BY DEFINITION, race WAS constructed, and IS maintained by people in power. In America, this means wealthy white people. There is not ONE black individual who has access to this social club. (OK, Oprah MAY have enough money to gain access…and IF she is participating in activities that maintain the current racial heirarchy…and IF she dedicated to protecting the interest of the current powerbrokers, THEN she MAY be racist.) I doubt any other black people qualify.
Now, without a single doubt, black people can be definitely be PREDJUDICE…and IGNORANT…AND STUPID. These are intrinsic human qualities; and black people are definitely not exempt from them. Prejudice, referring to the practice of pre-judging individuals based on a certain set of stereotypical misnomers, is a practice every human being of capable of performing. I have sadly witnessed many black Americans illustrate huge prejudices in unabashed fashion. In these moments, especially when they are performed in public in uniquely boadacious fashion, I have stood dumbfounded…cringing on the inside.
“You IG’NANT ass nigga…PLEASE close your mouth, because you know not what you speaketh. You are a member of a traditionally oppressed group. If anyone should understand racial and cultural sensitivity, it should be your black ass.”
So, the argument I present is not in any way attempting to black people from racial slurs, racial prejudice, and race-baiting. BUT, I stand by the position that it is IMPOSSIBLE for black people to be RACIST because black people do not have access to the levels of POWER. Dick Gregory (1964) makes a similar case in his book Nigger. Race and racism are deeply connected to POWER…and that is something, frankly speaking, blacks in America don’t have much of, in economic, legal, and political forms. So, to say that black people can be racist is one of two things (1.)a significant syntactic flaw; or (2.) the most racist thing I’ve ever heard.