Well, to try to answer this question, let’s visit the fundamental definition of USA racism, which, for some reason, is greatly mis-understood by a majority of white people in the USA who have expressed that they were a recipient of racism from a Black or Brown person. They use the word ‘racism’ when actually they are describing a situation in which the Black or Brown person was expressing something, or doing something, that is different than the fundamental concept of USA racism. (Updated June 1 2013, 22:44 PST)
What USA Racism Is
Being ‘racist’ means that your behavior or attitude towards people will favor an outcome that privileges white racialized people; that privileges a white supremacist value system in the USA. USA racism means that USA society has built, and continues to organize, hierarchies of power around a white supremacist value system. Such a system means white racialized people end up collectively benefiting from this structural/systemic/institutional arrangement of power, privilege, and resources. This is how the USA canon of critical race studies and critical whiteness studies fundamentally define ‘racism’ in terms of systems and institutions within the USA (Crenshaw 1995; Allen 2001; Flagg 2005; Lipsitz 2006; Sullivan and Tuana 2007; Chapman 2010; Martinot 2010; Razack et. al 2010)
Within the context of the USA’s history of a racial caste system/racism in which white supremacy is center, if a Black person were ‘racist’ towards a white person or white people, their actions would help to create more favorable outcomes for white people than non-white people. For example, to be ‘racist’ towards a white person who is is being interviewed for a job by a Black person, this would mean that the Black person would desire to hire this White candidate because they are white; because they fundamentally believe in the white supremacist notion that White people are superior to non-white candidates. This would be the true definition of USA racism which derived from and is still shaped by a racial caste system in which white supremacy is center. I think it is important to understand that how I am articulating racism is not exactly the same as ‘racial discrimination.’ If a Black person does not like a person who white because they are of the ‘white race’, this is racial discrimination but not ‘racism’. It is nuanced. I’d argue that neither is okay, but wanted to really flesh out how ‘racism’ is often used by white people in the USA when they experience prejudice against their racial group by a non-white person.
What USA Racism Isn’t
I have had white people tell me that they are angry that they cannot participate in a healing event for people of color that acknowledges the pain and trauma that racism have caused to people of color. The other summer, I participated in a healing retreat for women of African descent. I received quite a few rants from white Buddhists who said the event was ‘racist’ and I was too, for participating in it. Because the event focused on the healing needs of women of African descent who seek to resist the pains of racism-sexism ( due to white supremacist structuring of society) this event and my participation in it was not racist. If the event were racist, then it would have functioned in a way that would have allowed white people to participate and the two teachers would have taught everyone that a white supremacist value system is superior and that black women should know their ‘submissive’ place in it and not talk about their racism-induced suffering.
I have also been told that it is ‘racist’ to engage in research about how racialization and race affects people’s thoughts, actions, behaviors, etc. Sorry, but this is not racist. It is racist to deny that race is an organizing principle in the USA and claim that we live in a ‘post-racial’ society. Wanting to ignore or deny the reality of how resources, power, etc, are shaped by white supremacist value system (backed by a canon of social-science based research and legal studies that supports this) is racist; racist because this ignorance, dismissal, and/or denial does not dismantle a white racist value system, but simply upholds it.
Don’t get me wrong. It drives me nuts that I have had Black people come up to me an tell me they are angry, disgusted, annoyed, etc that my husband is white. This is not racism, but it is annoying as hell and something I also do not condone. Yes, it is prejudice and another form of hate, however, it is not racism (and like I mentioned before, I am speaking within the context of USA). And no, I do not support this prejudice or hate against white people from black people, as I don’t believe that the hate or prejudice against any group or people will every create a harmonious and loving world. I try to understand these strong hateful feelings within the context of a very messed up history of white colonialism, racism, racialized-capitalism, and imperialism that has produced what can be understood as “the hate that hate produced” amongst some Black people in the USA.
So, what are your thoughts about all of this?
(UPDATED January 12, 2014)
I was hoping that this piece would spark critical dialogues amongst people who would not be bullies, verbally violent, dismissive of everyone’s suffering. I was hoping that trolls would also not come on board. However, it seems that most of the people commenting here have either not read the goal of the Sistah Vegan Project, do not understand the goal, or have read it but don’t care to respect it. Furthermore, it appears that most have no fundamental understanding of what critical race/critical whiteness studies are. These two disciplines/canons are not ‘academic jargon’ or ‘masked racism against white people.’ These canons are not about judging people ‘because of the color of their skin.’ These canons represent a reality that does apply to our real world. My use of these canons to understand USA-Based racism/racialization/race relations, comes from decades of research from scholars and activists who have analyzed the lives of people in the USA (and beyond, but I’m focusing on the USA). Using social science methods/methodologies, as well as critical legal studies, the canons of critical race studies/critical whiteness studies employ testimonies, narrative research, surveys, ethnography, and discursive analysis to name a few, in order to create explanations and literacies around how white European colonialism/racism/imperialism have affected USA society from the micro to the macro scale; from individuals, to structures, systems, and institutions.
I also want to remind people of this: just because someone comments on a blog and claims to be a certain identity, doesn’t mean it is true. For example, anyone can come on here claiming to be a Black woman who doesn’t believe that racism exists when in reality, they could be a bored 12 year old boy using their spare time to troll.
FROM NOW ON, I WILL NOT APPROVE ANY COMMENTS THAT COME THROUGH IF THEY ARE CRUEL, NASTY, BULLYING, TROLLING, ETC. I RARELY CENSOR, BUT I WILL FOR THIS BLOG ARTICLE’S COMMENTS.
If you enjoy these types of dialogues and want to keep on supporting the Sistah Vegan Project, feel free to donate what you can by clicking below on gofundme. You can find out all about our goal to turn the Sistah Vegan Project into an official 501 c 3 non-profit organization!
Allen, Ricky Lee. 2001. The Globalization of White Supremacy: Toward a Critical Discourse on the Racialization of the World. Educational Theory 51 (4):467-485.
Chapman, Thandeka K. 2010. Critical Race Theory. In Handbook of research in the social foundations of education, edited by S. Tozer, B. P. Gallegos, A. Henry, M. B. Greiner and P. G. Price. New York: Routledge.
Crenshaw, Kimberlé. 1995. Critical race theory : the key writings that formed the movement. New York: New Press : Distributed by W.W. Norton & Co.
Flagg, Barbara J. 2005. Whiteness as Metaprivilege. Washington University Journal of Law and Policy 18 (1):1-11.
Lipsitz, George. 2006. The possessive investment in whiteness : how white people profit from identity politics. Rev. and expanded ed. Philadelphia: Temple University Press.
Martinot, Steve. 2010. The machinery of whiteness : studies in the structure of racialization. Philadelphia: Temple University Press.
Razack, Sherene, Malinda Smith, and Sunera Thobani. 2010. States of Race: Critical Race Feminism for the 21st Century, Between the Lines. Toronto, Ontario: Between the Lines.
Sullivan, Shannon, and Nancy Tuana. 2007. Race and epistemologies of ignorance, SUNY series, philosophy and race. Albany: State University of New York Press.