Black people can’t be racist. In order to assess the veracity of this statement, I suggest you first establish points of clarity and collective understanding of racial terminology. Race, racist, and racism are the most misused and misunderstood words in many racial discussions, note the following objective-based definitions:
Race: An ideology of racial classification systems developed in the 1600s, as Europeans explored and colonized the globe and found there were physical differences between people. These classifications were used to justify colonization, conversion, slavery and genocide. According to these systems, white skin was the standard, and dark skin was associated with intellectual inferiority and slowed development.
Racist: A practitioner of the ideology maintaining the hierarchy of color for social exploitation.
Racism: The application of race ideology in all systems of service i.e., employment, education, health, public safety, financial.
It may interest you to know that Merriam Webster’s is in the process of updating their definition of racism. Merriam-Webster’s first definition of racism is “a belief that race is the primary determinant of human traits and capacities and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race.” Merriam-Webster’s editorial manager Peter Sokolowski told the BBC the wording of the second definition of racism will be “even more clear in our next release.” “It could be expanded to include the term systemic and it will certainly have one or two example sentences, at least,” he said.
The people working on the new definition will be consulting the work of experts in Black studies, he said, adding the revision could be done by August.
Based on these definitions I submit to you the following assertion: Black people can be racist as long as it supports the ideology of white supremacy. Think about it. Can you think of a place anywhere in the world where there is systemic oppression of the white community by any nonwhite community?
Often when we talk about race, we only go skin deep, when in actuality it is brain deep, deep in our subconscious where our belief system lies. Race is not about skin color; it is about the ‘belief’ in skin color. So, what are some tangible ways that members of the Black community maintain oppressive limitations on each other? I can think of two for starters: 1. colorism and 2. economic flight.
Colorism:Discrimination based on skin color, also known as shadeism, is a form of prejudice and/or discrimination in which people who share similar ethnicity traits or perceived race are treated differently based on the social implications that come with the cultural meanings that are attached to skin color. Georgina Lawton in the Independent, her 2018 article, decried the role played by the “global white supremacist capitalist patriarchy” in pushing an overwhelming “eurocentric beauty hegemony.” People of African ancestry, she argued, have been encouraged to value lighter skin because Western slavers treated darker and lighter slaves differently: Darker skinned slaves were subjected to harsh fieldwork, while lighter skinned slaves were afforded less burdensome housework instead.
Economic flight: A very relevant concept in recognition of the 100th commemoration of the bombing of Black Wall Street. Today, a dollar spends 28 days circulating in the Asian community; 19 days in the Jewish community; 17 days in predominately WASP communities; and 7 days in Hispanic communities. A dollar circulates for only 6 hours in the Black community. In other words, when a Black person earns a dollar, it is typically not spent with a Black-owned business. Ninety-nine percent of our 1.3 trillion dollar buying power is spent outside of our community. Blacks spend less money in Black-owned businesses than other racial and ethnic groups spend in businesses owned by members of their groups.
How do we as members of the Black racial demographic community, justify our own statistically collective treatment of each other in the two above mentioned areas involving skin color and economic prejudice? In view of these two self-limiting behaviors alone, are we not maintaining our last place position in the racial hierarchy created by the European? Can any government policy overcome the disparities that we are placing on ourselves? Support the Indy Black Chamber of Commerce as we aggressively address growth of our economic development.
George Middleton is a mental health counselor and author of three books addressing the connection between mental health and the social impact of the race construct. Contact him at email@example.com.