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Defining Racism

I watched ‘Dear White People’ awhile back and it made me realise that racism is actually deeper than we think. What particularly caught my interest was when the protagonist explained that black people couldn’t be racist. I was very surprised and thought she didn’t know what she was saying. She explained her reason for saying this, but there were too many words.

So I went to the trusty Internet and Googled “Can black people be racist”. And it turned out that no, they cannot.

If you go by the dictionary meaning where racism is defined simply as the hate/feeling of superiority of a race towards another, then yes, a black man can be racist.

However racism goes beyond that, in the opinion of some people. There has to be a system in place for oppression to occur for racism to not just be prejudice (which is actually what the dictionary meaning really means).

A black man cannot be (fully) racist, because he has no means to oppress another race socioeconomic wise.

It’s an interesting thought really and I oversimplified it, I think, but I feel it is valid. Many people will disagree with the above perhaps in trying to have some degree of self-righteousness of some sort. If it’ll help, perhaps replace ‘racism’ with ‘homophobia’, which is not merely hate but also oppression. Do the same with ‘misogyny’. Tribalism in Nigeria would be a huge problem if there was a system in place to oppress certain tribes. I think Igbo people feel oppressed though, from a few things I’ve heard sha.

I think that definition adding oppression arose because people would try to trivialize the importance of racism by saying a black man can be racist, but darling, black men aren’t being picked over jobs at the expense of white men, and black kids aren’t being shot for being at the wrong place at the wrong time. It’s kind of a bit like Black Lives Matter vs. All Lives Matter. Yes, all lives do matter, but right now, black lives are in danger. ‘All lives matter’ is just a red herring. It’s detracting from and trying to bury the Black Lives Matter movement.

And I’ve also heard many Nigerians say that the basic African American’s wahala is too much. That every small thing, they shout racism. And I also used to feel the same. But then, I got a bit educated.

My favorite analogy to use in cases like this is a white man beating a black man with a whip for many years. Now, the white man is sorry, but the scars and wounds are still there. Is it wrong for the black man to want to ensure such never repeats itself or that the seriousness of the situation shouldn’t be made light of? You can’t blame the black man for having PTSD.

This is why I felt no sympathy for Ellen DeGeneres when she made the Usain Bolt joke. I love Ellen to bits but she pressed a sore spot, even if she didn’t mean to, and the reaction she got from black people is VALID. Sure, she was joking, but if you’re joking and hit somebody where it hurts, then whether or not you were joking should take the background. I’m glad she apologized. That was the right thing to do.

It does make me wonder though if the sins of slavery can or will ever be forgiven, because all you have to do is look at pictures or read stories for you to be saddened by the degree of suffering the black slaves went through. It makes we wonder if they didn’t know better? Didn’t they see it in our eyes that we were human like them and intelligent and could be so much if we worked together?

Why did it have to turn to us vs. them? I wish it’d stop being us against them; however many of them still insist of having high levels of prejudice, so I guess we have to fight back.

I saw a comment that quoted an excerpt from an article along the lines of: “…maybe people supporting Donald Trump is them trying to take back a country they believe is leaving them behind.” And I can’t help but wonder why they think persons of colour trying to catch up to them is them leaving them behind. White privilege people. White privilege.

There’s a possibility all I’ve said might seem high-ended and gives the vibe that the black man can do no wrong. But a black man hating a white man is a bad thing too. All in all, it’d be nice if you could keep it at the back of your mind that the dynamics run deeper than just hating when it comes to racism.

Written by IBK

About shakespeareanwalter

Walt Shakes(@Walt_Shakes) is an award-winning Nigerian writer, poet and veteran blogger. He is a lover of the written word. the faint whiff of nature, the flashing vista of movies, the warmth of companionship and the happy sound of laughter.

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  1. When Chimamanda Adichie chastised that irrelevant white man about white men not being able to define racism, I couldn’t understand why people came against her for her comments. She was right. White people cannot define racism, not really. I mean, they of course understand what racism is about, but they can’t really speak to what racism is about. Just as a straight person cannot fully get the scope of how oppressive homophobia is. And how (forgive me) trans women can’t fully grasp the struggle of women. #justsaying

  2. Racism is too deep. Way too deep.

    I agree with IBK, but then again, it will always be about self preservation. After you, is you again. Who cares what happens at the end of the day to the one always considered as the outsider? Actually, no one.

    It’s funny, how the thought of hating back is considered inhumane. But the thought of the first hate is thought as racism.

    What am I even saying? Before I continue to spit gibberish.

    OK. Bye.

    PS: Great post IBK

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