I am exploring a couple of view points on the subject of race and writing on them. Now whilst I believe the concept of race is socio-economic and not scientific I have always found this debate interesting. I am constantly learning and think the subject is incredibly dynamic. The issue of whether or not blacks can be racist is one that came up whilst looking at some tweets today and also reflecting on an this article about Being White In Philly (will address in another post)
According to the dictionary there are about three definitions for the noun. I think that it is sensible to address the key question of this article in the context of these definitions.
1. a belief or doctrine that inherent differences among the various human races determine cultural or individual achievement, usually involving the idea that one’s own race is superior and has the right to rule others.
2. a policy, system of government, etc., based upon or fostering such a doctrine; discrimination.
3. hatred or intolerance of another race or other races.
Now before we delve in, based on the first definition I think that blacks (Whatever that terms actually means) can be racist. They can hold onto beliefs that blacks are more superior as it is for any other racial group. Black supremacist ideologies have existed for many years all over the diaspora, most notably seen in separatist movements like Marcus Garvey, New Black Panthers, 5 Per Centers and the Nation of Islam. To claim otherwise would be false and small minded.
That said I can actually understand why some people do think that blacks can’t be racist, especially in Western nations where they are a minority.
Racism and Power
The second part of the race definition focused on policy and governance to enforce separatist and race superior ideologies.
This is where it gets a bit tricky and I beg to differ with posters like Michael Eric Dyson (pictured) and what I thought was a great write up by the blogger known as media assassin who believe that blacks can’t be racist.
Now take the UK or US. The ruling class ( I will come back to this point) are in the main white upper or upper middle class. Yes I know people are going to mention Obama, Rice, Powell and Clarence Thomas as prominent black leaders in the US, or Afriye, Unumma, etc in the UK but I am talking about the majority. The decision makers by and large.
Institutions such as education, health, crime and policing, media and big business are headed up by such a demographic of mostly white middle class males. Within these institutions there has been a history of institutional bias, some say racism, that was overtly present for millennia and probably over the last thirty or so years a lot more subtle but present none the less. Others would more explicitly define this as white supremacy. A term I still struggle with. That is not to say in any measure that all people in those institutions are racist but structurally such systems have been designed to disadvantage those not in the group.
It is usually at this point that people jump up and say but blacks can be racist too, look at Robert Mugabe in Zimbabwe. OK so I take this one example. Give me another. [tumbleweed]. I think most people would be hard pressed to find another black led sovereign state that is overtly racist or has institutions that perpetuate that thinking. Even South Africa with its problems and troubled past still realises that most of the economic wealth lays in the hands of a non black populace. Again I am happy to be corrected and pointed to sources that refute this claim but in my worldview post colonial countries of colour still have a strong sense of loyalty to former imperial masters either through existing governance or coups which have overthrown those who would object to such power (Sankara, Biko, Lumumba, etc)
Class or Race?
It is this point of class that leads me on to cultural hegemony.
Now this is a term coined by the Marxist philosopher Antonio Gramsci, that a culturally-diverse society can be ruled or dominated by one of its social classes. In Europe and North America this class tends to be those who are part of a lineage of corporate icons and royal families.
When one looks at the institute of education the largest group for underachieving are white working class boys. White working class are the largest group affected by poverty too. This would stand to reason in a country where whites are over 80% of the population. However when we look at crime and policing blacks are over represented in stop and search, and for receiving custodial sentences for possession of drugs. Something about the way certain institutions will treat groups based on both class and race that leave me scratching my head.
Yet I guess there are still those who don’t believe it is about class and primarily race.
This is still a journey for me and whilst I believe that minority groups, such as blacks, in countries like the UK and USA, etc can be racist on a micro level to other groups, I think the bigger issue is that they cannot have structural racism which affects perceptions of intelligence, education, crime and policing and media. Thing is I also don’t think you have to be white to perpetuate such structural racism but without a shadow of a doubt such widespread thinking of structural racism has been ingrained by the ruling class in such countries which by and large tend to be white.
It’s a tough one and one when debated ends up with people throwing blame around. For me I yearn for progress. I don’t think all white people or any other racial grouping by default are racist. However I do believe if we take a deeper honest look at those institutions that promote models of intelligence, beauty and model citizenry we will have to honestly question how much race does influence us all on both a conscious and subconscious level and mostly not for the good.