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Black People cannot be Racist and Other Truths We Must Accept

July 3, 2012

A rant simmers. I can feel it’s unhealthy, impolite and silent implosion. Wait. No. Let me gather together (and pull apart) the different strings of botheration. It’s all so prickly.

Some truths.

Black people cannot be racist to white people. Women cannot be sexist to men. Dalits cannot be casteist to upper caste people.

When these truths are denied and statements about “reverse racism” are bandied about like so much helpless confetti of bullshit, what is happening — what is meant by them is the following. Black people have some prejudices based on race. Women may have prejudices based on gender. And Dalits hold worldviews that are consistent with the caste system.

Those two paragraphs, however, are not the same. Racism, sexism, transphobia, casteism and every other *ism of the world — are very shitty constructs because they are part of an oppressive whole. In other words, there must be power attached to these ideas in order for them to be an act of oppression and violence. In the absence of this power, equating —- say “Dalit people’s casteism” — to the same casteist social conditioning of the upper caste worldview is not only false, but dangerous.

No political narrative on equality can start from a premise that omits, denies and silences inequality. When we claim that black people can be racist too, the subtext is clear:

* Marginalized communities are not allowed to react to, resist or be affected by oppression.
* The feelings of privileged people is far more important than the lives of marginalized communities, including unemployment, housing crisis and healthcare concerns that dis-proportionally affect those with less power within a system.
* The discomfort of facing one’s own privilege matters more than the violence faced by those who do not benefit from a particular system of inequality.

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