Prejudice & Racism Are Not One and the Same… (a Facebook conversation)
In the last three weeks the conversations I have had with friends and associates have followed a consistent theme. It seems whenever I am involved in these types of conversations I am struck by how unclear our definitions of things are and how incomplete the positions we take on certain issues are.
I usually ask a series of questions:
1. Are Black people be racist? The answer is typically yes and usually there is no consternation or pause before answering.
2. Is there a difference between racism & prejudice? Here the answers become much more varied and there seems to be much more agony and thought given. But the answers run the gamut. From a simple “no” to “racism is an extension of prejudice” to “in order for prejudice to be racism, hate must be involved” to “racism just deals with skin color”.
I contend, that by human nature, we are all prejudiced. Prejudice encompasses the human experience. Some of us would rather LCD over a plasma screen (if the cost was similar) or vice versa, some of us would rather go to the University of Michigan for undergrad instead of Howard University or drive a Chevrolet instead of a Ford, or date someone with a job instead of a couch potato. PF Chang’s instead of Pei Wei. Bird or Magic or Jordan (sorry to you current Laker fans, Kobe is NOT in the conversation, lol). These choices are based on experiences, preferences and comfort level and everyone has theirs. And there is nothing wrong with it. But this is not equal to racism.
Racism is another level. When a prejudice that involves skin color is coupled with the societal power to manipulate social, legal and political constructs to demean, defeat, dismiss, belittle and dismantle a particular people for the overall benefit of another group…we have moved into the notion of racism. And I would contend that Blacks do not have this ability. It is at this point that the fights begin. In the void of a consistent definition and a media that tends to conflate the two, racism and prejudice have become intertwined. And it is now very difficult for people to grasp the idea that racism must have criteria that separate it from prejudice. To the point where Black people will “make-up” far fetched and far reaching scenarios that are not even based in reality and are not real experiences that have actually happened. Or if there is a real “incident” of Blacks making a decision based on a prejudice, in an instance at the job lets say, no one can show a demonstrable and evidence based case where this action has been repeated over and over and over and over and over again and has resulted in a demeaning & mean spirited “holding back” of an entire race of people. Without any real manifestations of these “made up” cases can they really be used to prove the point of racism?
To make my point further, I recently posted, on my facebook page, and article dealing with the latest and unbelievably stupid comments of Representative Steve King (R-IA) where he claims that Obama has a default mechanism where he favors the Black person in the dispute. You can read the original post here and here. Read the interactions I had with one of my facebook friends and tell me what you think.
I began the comments by stating:
Me: Huh!? Can somebody tell me what he is talking about? I’m also guessing he has no problem with the last 43 presidents (all white males) affording policies that overwhelmingly supported the majority culture in this country. I guess if I talked about that I would be considered racist. This is lunacy…
Facebook Friend: I read the article couple of days ago. He’s truly reaching at straws. If he took the time to recheck Obamas cabinet, and his Supreme Court appointees, he would see how racist Obama is. The guy is constipated.
Me: FF This is what happens when the definition of racism becomes the same as the definition of prejudice. Anybody can be racist if they bring up race. I have always stated that racism and prejudice are not the same. I will also posit that the fact that this guy can make a statement like this and ignore how those of his race have done, in demonstrable and legal ways for 400 years, the exact thing he is saying Obama is doing without ONE demonstrable fact is what white supremacy is all about. Black people do not have the “power” to be racist…
FF: Everything you said I agree with. There you go. But as long as a person has one head filled with a functioning brain, if he has the capacity to kill, steal, or rape, he can be racist. No matter the color of skin or the category that someone else places him in.
Me: Then you don’t agree with me. Racism = power & control. Blacks, on the grand scale, have neither. There are concrete manifestations of racism and whites DO NOT suffer from them. Blacks & Latinos do. Now who is racist!?
Under your definition, you agree with Rep. Steve King (R-IA)… Congratulations…good luck with that.
FF: By your interpretation I lose. By your defintion I win. Your interpretation requires quantity. By your defintion the ability to control someone by social, financial, mental etc. We deceive ourselves that a class of people have the monopoly to oppress, degrade, another person. Rascist acts doesn’t require a large quantity, just the will. This isn’t my definition nor my interpretation, with sin it is the way it is.
Remember, there is nothing new under the sun. Just different players.
Me: FF with your interpretation & definition you agree with Steve King, Rush Limbaugh & Sean Hannity, and we all lose. There is no deception that a class of people HAS, for 400 years, the monopoly to oppress & degrade another. That is not a deception. It is a fact. With your reasoning racism is just some figment of our imagination and it has no bearing on our lives…which sounds very much like what Rush, King & Hannity believe. “Just pull yourself up by your own bootstraps”, right!? Never-mind that we have no boots to pull up. It is this type of thinking that allows Blacks to just take the racism we endure daily and not say anything to those that impose it on us. We do ourselves a disservice by dismissing the power of racism and its concrete manifestations as if they are illusions and we also do ourselves a disservice by continuing to accept the notion that anybody can be racist when racism requires elements above and beyond mere skin color (ie, power & control). Either you believe power & control are essential to racism or you don’t. If you don’t then anyone and everyone are racist. I don’t buy that argument. It’s nonsensical.
FF: You and I both agree that there is institutional racsim in this country. It’s currently done by a group of folk that has been labled white. We agree that it has been going on for over 400 years. I also believe that you and I would agree that any acts of prejudice or racist at a macro level or micro level, it is wrong. I agree with you that racism requires power and control. These actions were done and are currently being done by species called humans. You and I have both learned that man came up with color schemes, the categories for which they want to place us. So I ask you, if we black folk were the one in control with power, will it be ok then? My head is not in the sand, my run ins with white cops, getting into fights over the “n” word, harrassed at work (Living in NC), I don’t live in la la land. Because I have been hurt, attacked, mother almost killed by bugular in the house (all these folk Black). All bought pain, suffering. Am I supposed to let the black folk off the hook because they did it due to self-hate towards me. The difference between us is this point, you requirements of racism has to be large and grand scale. I don’t. You asked me once for an example when “We” were racist, after the movie Roots was done, boys from Burroughs Jr High, came to my elementary school for about 2 weeks, jumped, and beat down kids, 4 to 6 years younger than them. Those kids were denied the right to come school with out being harmed. It got so bad, that they chased this boy into the street causes him to be hit by a car. If this isn’t the use of power and control, I guess I am lacking knowledge.
Me: FF the question you ask, “If we black folk were the one in control with power, will it be ok then?”, is not a valid one because it is not based in reality. In that fantasy world and in this one we currently reside in, any group that uses their power & control to demean, degrade and hold back another group of people lawfully & morally is wrong. But there is NO demonstrable evidence that this happens to whites by Blacks or other minorities on any scale that even remotely approaches what has been done to Blacks by whites for over 4 centuries.
No one should let Black folk off the hook for negative behavior that we exhibit toward ourselves and each other…but that is not what we are talking about here. It is not the subject of this post. This post deals with a white republican congressman who claims, with no demonstrable facts, that the President is applying policies for the benefit of Blacks over whites when we both know the President flees from any mention of race or racism with the quickness of Usain Bolt. As much as those in the Black community want targeted programs in our community to fight the double unemployment that Blacks have suffered through for decades, the President refuses to do so because politically he knows it would be suicidal. So how can he be called a racist when the FACTS clearly show he is not. He can be called a racist when you buy into a definition of racism that denies the presence of the power and control needed to demean and degrade another race. You can be called a racist, by those who politically want to control you and the perception of you, just by mentioning race, even when you are pointing out the negativity that is being done to you. By denying the power & control used to negatively impact an entire community based on skin color, you are equating racism with prejudice. And in the real world, prejudice does not equal racism! The two are not equal.
My definition of racism happens on both the micro & macro level. My definition is not even limited to a grand scale. I only added the “grand scale” caveat to argue against those folks who, by virtue of their racism = prejudice argument, try to make up these fantastical and involved scenarios where a Black person “could” be racist, usually without any real demonstrable facts or elements of realness and usually in an attempt to continue on with their misunderstanding of what racism & how deeply it affects them. Even I would agree that Blacks, given a particular scenario, could be racist…but where does this happen!? Where do Blacks have the power & control to demean, degrade and hold back any person on a spiritual, mental, physical, emotional, municipal, federal or corporate level and then actually do just that????
And its not even an argument against King in this particular post, per se. My argument against King is much more straight forward. He has bought into the aforementioned racism = prejudice argument because that is the only way you could come to the conclusion that Obama has been biased towards Blacks or, as Glenn Beck has argued, that Obama is a racist. Either argument is lunacy. And both arguments prove my point.
Furthermore, can someone please explain where Whites, Latinos or Asians are degraded, demeaned and held back by Blacks in Detroit (1 city). I still see monied & very influential whites with great control and power over the city and its movement toward the future. I see all types of ethnic minorities running businesses and living inside the city. I see no hard evidence where anyone is kept from doing business or living or working or playing in the city based on their skin color and the ability of Blacks to keep them from their goals. A concrete example from you will suffice. And if by chance you have an example, do you have two or three that you can say happened in Detroit?? Do you have 20?? Do you have 100?? Do you have 10,000?? How about 400 years worth… And by your standard, can the same be said for communities like Livonia or Grosse Pointe or Westland or Dearborn, or Warren, or Madison Heights or Brighton or Novi or Farmington or Chelsea, or St Clair Shores or Auburn Hills, or Traverse City or Howell or Fenton or Bay City or Grand Rapids or Paw Paw or Petoskey or Cheboygan or Grayling….??? I think you get my point. (Atleast I hope you do) At this juncture I can’t make it any clearer…
It is my contention that context is key. Your thoughts are welcomed…