2009-09-15

The Definition of Racism


On this blog I have defined myself as racist. People have run with this, thinking of racism in an obviously completely different context. Someone over at another blog, indicated my racism makes their stomach turn. I think that, and this is going to be racist, people of color have a different definition of racism than white people do. There I said it. Now I am awaiting for someone else to tell me they are concerned for my child and/or hope they die.

According to Merriam-Webster, racism is defined as:

Main Entry: rac·ism
Pronunciation: \ˈrā-ˌsi-zəm also -ˌshi-\
Function: noun
Date: 1933
1 : 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
2 : racial prejudice or discrimination


I practice racial prejudice at times. As I have said before in previous posts:

-I admit when I hear White people make gross accusations about affirmative action, I assume them to be the White people who feel they are entitled, and always think for every black person in college, there is some White person who deserved it so much more, regardless of IQ, SAT scores, GPA, and whatever else that black person has.

-I sometimes think white people have a belief they are entitled to opportunities in life, and that blacks who are "allowed" these opportunities are inferior.

-I think asians and other races of folks look down upon black people in general.

-I think many other races of people (Asian, Indian, Hispanic, etc.) aspire to be white and fit into mainstream society.

-I think many Asian women suffer from what some Black men suffer from, which is "anything white will do" syndrome.

-I think that Hispanics, in particular Mexican folks are some of the most racist people around.

-I think that most White people are racist, but they can't accept or acknowledge that fact because it would be seen as negative in this day and age to be so.

-I think that for White people when it comes down to certain things, race plays a bigger factor more than they care to admit, consciously or subconsciously.

-I think that white women assume they are automatically more attractive than other races of women.


I have also said before that I know these are sweeping generalizations that aren't fair. My goal in life is to work on them. I work on them everyday. I know not all white people are evil and hate or even dislike black people, I know not all asians, hispanics, etc. all fit in the same box.

I think it is possible to be racist towards your own race. I see it all the time with black people. There is a segment of the black population that believes all the black stereotypes. People who believe most black people want to be rappers or athletes. Most black people are poor, or violent, or less intelligent than other races of people. They believe that other groups of people are inherently superior to black people. I will admit when I see black folks fulfill these stereotypes I cringe. I swore I saw Lil Wayne the other night while shopping at Kroger. I live in overwhelmingly white, republican suburbia, I cringe when I see this because I am painfully aware that white people will see the Lil Wayne clone and think that is what most black people all look like. I cringe because my racist mind assumes most white people use the example of one or some to apply to all, and use it to legitimize their own racist beliefs.

Now when I say racist beliefs of white people, I am going to the "prejudicial racism" definition. They believe that what they see on television and/or the relatively few black people they interact with, represent all black people. Do I think these are the people who will come and lynch a black person or burn a cross in your yard? Nope. I do however think they hold racist thoughts and since it is not acceptable to be called racist, unless you are a KKK or Aryan nation member, refuse to acknowledge their prejudices or racism.

It doesn't always have to be about the negative, "prejudicial racism" can be about something as simple as a name.

Do I think some white people fall into the first definition, in which they believe they are inherently superior? Most definitely, but many black people do as well (think Black Hebrew Israelites).

I usually see the "superiority racism" when I hear about the upset in Affirmative Action. Why do you assume some or even the majority of people of color (excluding asians as they have the "positive" stereotypes) are there with lower grades or SAT scores than a white person who didn't get in? Why can it not be assumed that they are just as smart as you, or maybe even smarter than the white person that didn't get in? If the grades aren't the same, maybe that black person who got in got in for other attributes, maybe they were good at basketball, football, baseball, or even golf or swimming? Maybe they transferred in with great grades from a community college, maybe they were involved in activities that look good to a college admissions person. People tend to celebrate when a white guy gets into college because of a football scholarship and frown when a black guy does it, and it is assumed that the white guy must have been smart and athletically gifted, whereas the black guy was just athletically gifted. As a black woman who once dated a white guy with a basketball scholarship, I know not all white guys in athletics are smart. Sometimes, they like the black, asian, or hispanic guy are just really good at their sport of choice.

Another way in which I see "superiority racism" is in beauty ideals or standards. I once had a white woman who was married to a hispanic man tell me that she wished her brother in law, who is hispanic, would date white women, so that he could get a "real quality woman" instead of just a black or hispanic woman. I guess in her mind quality was equal to white. She didn't like my response or reaction to that. She also didn't fully understand why I thought what she said was offensive. She probably still doesn't to this day. You also get this with other races of women.

There is also the racism that counts as both. A concern about the unfair double standards that exist that people feel benefit people of color, such as black power vs. white power, right to use the n-word, the "why can't black people get over slavery" arguments. These are prejudicial because assumptions are made about whole groups of people, and they also express superiority because they fail to acknowledge the history of racism and how it still affects people.

Racism in the traditional definition is bad, I know this, that is why I work on mine, but to fail to acknowledge racism is a grave injustice and it continues to stall race relations. Until people fully acknowledge and accept racism in all of it forms, even the "innocent" racism, I know that we are never going to improve. Maybe the answer for some is to find escape in tribalism. For people like me, who have married interracially or had biracial children, that can never be an option, and we are stuck with figuring out how the world indeed can fix the current mess it's in.