Calling All White People, Part 18
(A periodic attempt to mobilize white people for something other than supporting just other melanin-deficient folks and maintaining a status quo of a nation geared toward whiteness as the baseline and the norm)
By An Average White Guy
TODAY’S EPISODE: Reverse racism is a damned unicorn
[To find other installments of “Calling All White People,” click here]
There is a photo of me in a family album (the bulky old physical photo albums that are no doubt being phased out quickly by our electronic libraries of digital photos) at a Renaissance fair of some sort, sitting next to a unicorn. Of course, that “unicorn” was a small goat with some sort of genetic abnormality that had him growing just a single horn. Kind of hard to ride into battle as you wield your magic sword against some evil dragon.
Perhaps you’ve seen a real unicorn in a zoo someplace? No?
Maybe in a fairy tale forest preserve? No?
OK, blurry but believable snapshots of them in the wild? No?
Well, I have another unicorn for you, then. Reverse racism. It doesn’t exist, and white people need to stop citing it as a real thing. Most people don’t believe in unicorns; time to stop believing in reverse racism too.
Part of the problem is that white people who don’t want to deal with race issues (and that would be most of them) also don’t want distinguish racism from bigotry. They want them to mean the very same thing. Except that to have honest dialogue about racial issues means you cannot do that.
BGIM has often used (here at the blog, or in Twitter/Facebook posts), as have many other people of color, the equation: prejudice + power = racism.
That is, you have to have a significant edge over the other person socially in order to be racist, not simply have prejudices and bigotry toward them.
The thing is that bigotry can be rude. Bigotry can be mean. Bigotry can hurt feelings. No matter what the color of the perpetrator and what the differing color of the recipient. Sometimes, bigotry can turn to violence, as can almost anything (from disputes over a baseball call to a fight over a parking space).
But racism is capable of far more than minor irritations or hurt feelings or sporadic violence. Racism *is* violence. More than that, it is a force for destroying lives on a vast scale.
Racism in this society toward people of color, Black people being among the biggest victims, leads to having your car searched and having three police cruisers show up for a simple broken taillight. To being stopped and frisked by police for no reason whatsoever. To being punished more harshly for infractions (at school, at work, in public). To being passed over for jobs or even interviews despite being qualified…even when *more*qualified than the white person who ends up with the job. To being paid less than white peers who have less education than you. To being killed by police for any number of innocent activities or very minor non-violent crimes. To being seen as “angry” or “belligerent” just for stating an opinion. To being denied loans you have the ability to repay. To being harassed by police for jaywalking or simply even doing your job or looking like “you don’t belong” in your own neighborhood.
And that’s a short list.
A very short list
This is why being a white person and hearing “honky” or “cracker” from a Black person does not equal a Black person being called the N-word by a white person. White people, by and large, face little danger and threat from Black people as a whole. But Black people face all kinds of serious threats from white people, from being fired for your hairstyle (that is actually appropriate to the texture of your hair) to being falsely accused of crimes or other misbehavior by white people (and those white people largely being trusted even when evidence doesn’t exist) to actually being killed by white people for no good reason (like being injured and knocking on a door asking for help) and no punishment befalling that white person.
Black people, however, do not generally have the opportunities to exert power and threat over white people throughout society. White people, however, can make Black people’s lives hell with relative ease and often without repercussions.
Yes, there will be the occasional white person who goes on some Twitter or Facebook tirade filled with racism and hate, and they will lose their job. But it’s not that common an event, really, especially when you look at how many white people are out there with pretty racist views. And still holding down their jobs.
And when you get right down to it, most white people have seen very little harm, if any, at the hands of Black people—yet they feel justified in seeing them as a threat and see no racism in such baseless views. Black people, however, regularly suffer harm, from repeated insults to their character to actual threats against their livelihoods or lives, and are called reverse racists (or just racists) if they label a white person as doing something racist. If you can’t see how twisted and unjust that is, chances are you are white and you are a racist.
The truth is that the horrible things that so many white people feel toward people of color (Black or otherwise) are almost never rooted in any kind of statistical truths or often even any lived experiences. And that’s why it’s racism. The reason it’s not racism when people of color expect the worst from white people and express that (aside from their relative lack of societal power) is largely because we white people have actually been doing the worst on a regular basis to non-white people. And when we aren’t the ones doing the worst, we’re often the ones looking the other way or remaining silent.
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