Okay so amongst the rubbish I get asked on curious cat someone asked me if I thought Black people could be racist to be white people. I was literally like omg someone has finally asked me something relevant!!! But when I answered yes they then proceeded to say I’m one of those all lives matter people.
Hate to see it.
I think the main disagreement when it comes to talking about whether or not Black people can be racist is how we define racism. There are a lot of general definitions that are mainly saying that it’s when you discriminate against or treat someone differently based on the fact that they’re a different race but I think these definitions are valid. Some say that they’re problematic because they may be written by white people but this doesn’t actually mean they’re wrong. You don’t always have to be a victim of something to understand what it is.
The go-to definition it seems is the “power” one where people define racism in terms of power.
Essentially the definition is:
Racism = Prejudice + Power.
They then use this definition to justify that Black people cannot be racist to white people because there is a power imbalance. I can see why people might agree with this. It is true there is a power imbalance in a lot of circumstances but just because there’s a new “quirky”/”woke” definition of something doesn’t mean that it must be true. If you really think about this, we cannot define general racism this way.
By saying you have to be powerful to genuinely be racist totally ignores intersectionality and can be extremely problematic. To explain why I’m going to conflate power and money. If we say racism requires power what we’re saying is that poor white people cannot be racist and rich Black people can. Now this is obviously stupid.
This is also saying that Asians cannot be racist towards Black people because they too are a group that lacks power. Although in a lot of aspects they may hold more privilege, this does not take away from the struggles faced in their own communities. Now I know a lot of black people would agree that Asian people can be racist, but you cannot say this and then maintain the power definition of racism. Anti-Blackness in the Asian community and the Black response to it is a whole other issue that I’m not going to unpack in this particular post but I hope you see what I’m getting at here.
The power definition of racism is really describing institutional racism in my opinion. Institutional racism is racial discrimination that exists in certain establishments or institutions, as the name suggests. Where power comes into this is who allows or manages the behaviours that discriminate. For example, institutional racism would exist between someone who has the power to hire/fire and a potential or current employee if the person in power makes decisions solely based off the persons race.
It gets kind of complicated here because questions like “what if the person hires on a positive discriminatory basis?” So like what if the person employs an Asian based on the fact that they think Asians are smart, or they’re trying to diversify the work place? Well calling that racism seems a bit far fetched, that just seems like ignorance to me but I’m just a small girl with a small blog so what do I know!!
We shouldn’t excuse ourselves from bad behaviour just because we were once or still are the victims of it. That being said, Black people being racist isn’t comparable to white and even Asian institutional racism. In the wise words of my friend Tosins mum ” If a white person is racist, they can most likely block job opportunities and get away with things that Black people cannot. When a Black person is racist, you are limited to only inciting fear and violence because there is no institutional power”.
I just feel like being oppressed doesn’t mean that you cannot oppress others. Maybe you don’t have the power to oppress to the same degree; but then why would you want that? It seems regressive to me.