Saturday, March 25, 2006

Racism = Prejudice + Power


My unapologetic intention when I teach is to open students' minds to ideas they may not have previously considered. If this sounds like something scary, keep in mind that the whole process of socialization--from birth--is exactly and nothing more than this. We're not born "gendered," for example; the attempt is made to carefully and with great intent turn us into "little girls" and "little boys"--for life. Similarly, one of the perfectly understandable difficulties with our legislative system is that virtually all of those who make it to Washington were born rich and have really no clue in Hell what the rest of us--the vast majority of U.S. citizens--are dealing with.

Anyway, by the time most young people get to college, they've had at least 18 years of non-stop exposure to the "party line." By this, I don't mean necessarily a particular political view, although that can certainly be part of it. What I mean is that this nation was founded on principles that are very, very intrinsic to its nature and pretty much consistent to the present. And youth being raised up under these principles and impressed with their veracity come to see them as the only way to think. This is what many people call a "world view." Every society has one.

Now, if the principles in question were the principles we hear touted all the time when people are running for office or selling a war--principles such as truth, peace, and freedom--there wouldn't be a problem. And I'd probably be somewhere rocking on a porch. But from the inception of this nation, we have talked out one side of our national mouth and barked orders out of the other without seeming to recognize or care that those to whom we are barking the orders are not confused about our motives one iota.

We rave about truth while telling huge and malicious lies and then simply shrug when confronted with reality. We smarm about freedom and have the hands-down worst reputation of all time for forcing our will on anyone who will stand still for it and literally millions who have fought us to the death (such as the Native Americans)--allies and enemies alike. And we pontificate sanctimoniously about peace while having built and maintained our nation on the back of a military machine that began with men shooting other men in the back from behind trees and has now become a force that will go down in history with the most infamous and misguided despotic societies that ever existed.

So it is that people who have been raised under this system have learned to say that they believe in one thing, and yet actually live their lives out very pointedly in directions that manifest something totally different. Such as, on one hand, screeching "just say no to drugs" at the top of our lungs, while popping every imaginable substance--prescription, street, or otherwise--at every imaginable opportunity. Whether it's crack, valium, Jack Daniels, or Starbucks, we espouse one theory and live another.

Similarly, people in the United States, and most particularly European-Americans, spout a supposed belief in "equality," whatever we think that is, while being unconscionably comfortable with the greatest gaps (between rich and poor, between White and Black) of any industrialized nation of the world. And we are so committed to this idealized belief in equality--as opposed to the actual practice of it--that people who look like me purport to be stunned when presented with the idea that the equal treatment does not, in fact, exist, however well documented this reality may be.

One way to protest or mask the reality of racial oppression and its ramifications is to use the word "racism" to mean any prejudicial attitude by anyone of any "race" anywhere who feels superior in any way to someone of a different "race." That way, a European-American can point at an African-American who has buckled under his or her grief, frustration, and discouragment, finally becoming filled with bitterness and maybe even hatred toward the White establishment and those it privileges--and call that person of color a "racist." Which, in turn, allows White folks to declare, "See--anyone can be a racist."

The reason this doesn't hold for me is that, to start with, as I mentioned before (see "'Black.White.' Part Two or Keep My Name Out Your Mouth," March 4th), Europeans expressly constructed the very concept of "race" in the first place. And they didn't do it to make it easier to identify someone in a crowd either. They did it to create a hierarchy wherein people that look like me would automatically get the most of the best and the least of the worst--primarily by stealing from everybody else in one way or the other--while whoever was left got what they could, if anything. This was done for the purpose of making a very specific group of Europeans extremely rich. And White-controlled science, White-controlled law, and White-controlled religion worked together to legitimate this construct by announcing in no uncertain terms that White folks are superior to all other peoples on the face of the earth.

In other words, the very social construction of "race" itself was the act of White oppressors for the purpose of exploiting and dominating people of color. Having gone that far, some Europeans took their grandiose new status and proceeded to immigrate to North America, dragging with them millions of Africans, who they brutally and violently forced to build a new nation from the ground up for the benefit of its White citizens. It goes without saying, of course, that all of this new nation's social institutions, then, were originally established and have been continuously maintained by those with the power to define the culture--White people and those they allow into the inner circle.

This has not changed to date. We no longer drink at separate water fountains, it's true. But African-Americans, as a rule and across the board, because they don't have the power to do anything about it, are still paid less than White folks, own less than White folks, are more likely to be unemployed than White folks, are more likely to go to jail than White folks, etc., etc., ad nauseum. And most White folks are convinced that this is because people of color are, in fact, inferior. Let me repeat that: most White folks, yes, most White folks believe that people of color are, in fact, inferior. Even as they say, "I don't see color. I just see everyone as a human being," by which they mean, they don't intend to acknowledge all the studies showing how exploited and dominated people of color still are in the United States because the White speaker has already decided that Black people's problems are the result of Black people's inferiority. "Some of my best friends are Black," they will say, while discounting what African-Americans themselves say about the quality of their lives in the good old U.S. of A.

This rampant perception that people of color are inferior creates such a mindset that it's actually part of our national world view. We've taught ourselves to believe it for so long that we now think it's the natural truth. And to make matters worse, we've taught people of color to believe it, as well, in the face of overwhelming documentation to the contrary. Why do you think we dare not treat "African-American history" as a regular part of the history curriculum in this country rather than just breaking out Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream" speech once a year in February? If people of color understood clearly who they are and what has been done to them, they would have long since burned this country down. And if White people were taught the truth of this nation's history and their own participation in and benefit from practices of White power and privilege, it would humble them so much that they might not recover.

Consequently, I (and I am not alone here) don't believe that it's possible for a person of color to be a racist. A Black person can be prejudiced against members of other groups, can be mean-spirited, can be cruel, can be hateful, can even be dangerous to members of other groups, but they have never had the power in the United States to define the nature of their own lives and therefore, to me, they're just being prejudicial, mean-spirited, cruel, hateful, and dangerous. The erroneous belief in White superiority and the inferiority of all others is directly responsible for the racist oppression that is entrenched and lethal in its daily application to the lives of people of color in this country today. It's no wonder African-Americans don't like White people. And since White people chose to construct the category of "race" in the first place specifically to gain from the denigration and destruction of other's lives, only White people, in my opinion, then, can be "racist."

66 comments:

Anonymous said...

here's a blog which I found interesting. I am curious to see the Wal-Mart movie at the next exam.

http://workingatwal-mart.blogspot.com/

Piscean Princess said...

Hey, why don't you send this one in for the Erase Racism carnival?

Changeseeker said...

I'd love to. I checked it out and couldn't figure out exactly how to determine the url for the particular post. And with the deadline eminent, I'm not sure I can pull it off. With your being on the same wave length, though (and WOW! do I feel GOOD about THAT!), I'll make another, more concerted effort. Thanks, Princess. Again.

Anonymous said...

My name is Lorraine. I am an anti-racist ally who stubbled across your blog by typing "Racism = Power + Prejudice" into Google.

It really thrills to find another white woman who has many of the same beliefs on racism as I. This had been a week of frustration for me, racism showing up everywhere and me having to talk about it, or defend my beliefs on it. I just recently saw the Michael Richards/Kramer video.....and people comments on that and their defense of his actions has really got me down.

I almost makes me cry to know that there are others like me out there, other whites who "get it." I have been active in my race and racism education for almost 6 years now, reading and learning all I can. I had my denial phase, my acceptance phase, and now I'm becoming angry....militant, if you want to use the word. I'm disgusted at my educational system for lying to me, I'm disgusted with my government for continuing to lie to people about race and racism, and I'm forming an ever-growing disgust for other white people and their attitudes towards race, and their lack of desire to be educated about it, to blow it off. I recently dismantled a friendship because a white friend of mine said something racist and I called her on it, and she actually said "Oh, whatever!" to me. It's been very hard, and I admit that I'm becoming just....mean to people because they don't want to understand, or even sometimes just because they don't understand. I don't believe that education can be done from a place of anger, and that's where I am right now.

I don't know how to "get over it," so to speak. But, regardless of that, it is an honor to meet you. And, I would really like to get to know you better. Even though you didn't do it on purpose, thank you for brightening my day. I feel better knowing there are people out there on my side. It reminds me that I can affect change.

Thank you for your work, your education, and your words. I will not forget it.

Changeseeker said...

Lorraine, your words--and your presence--are every bit as important to me as mine are to you. Believe me, much of the time, I'm in more or less the same space you are. My fuse is pretty short when it comes to the manifestations of White racism. Which is why I won't "discuss" it or "argue" with it on this blog. There's no point ("they" don't really want to listen) and it makes me crazy. Just imagine how people of color feel...

Anonymous said...

I am also in the same boat as Lorraine. I have just begun my journey toward wanting social change in society today and I know I have much more to learn about creating social change.

Sometimes I just want to scream at people, tell them why they should care and how one horrible act of racism, gender inequality, "wilding" ect, ect. can effect everyone. I have tried to explain to friends about what I have learned in my classes and how angry I get when I leave class knowing that I can't do much about the wrongs in the world because not even my friends will listen and take me seriously.

I also feel hurt knowing that the way i grew up (the paradigm)everything I was taught almost, was just a lie. My own country, that I was taught and grew to love, has no problem lying to me, exploiting my family who work for them and leaving them out to dry becasue they can just pick up, outsource, and pay other nations less. How can one voice attempt to tumble an entire lifetime of lies and indescretion? Is just seems an impossible task, even for the strongest of us all.

Jason said...

I feel some of your points are valid, mainly that "rich" europeans are the main cause of the problem at hand. But I feel your statement "Consequently, I (and I am not alone here) don't believe that it's possible for a person of color to be a racist." is exceptionally far from the truth. Any person can be racist no matter their color. Your view will continue the problem and only make the situation worse. Everyone needs to be treated as equals concerning race, ZERO exceptions! As for some of your comments concerning work and jail; your information appears to be tainted. I have witnessed many African-Americans come into a workplace for an interview at a blue collar job. Many time they arrive with their street clothes, pants sagging down the back, a hat on crooked with their best jewelry. By all appearences they do not care that they have a chance at something better. Many of those that are hired are eventually released due to poor work ethic (validated). Of those that apply from other races, they arrive in a professional manner. Why is this? As for being jailed, many minorities can get away with almost anything as long as the "race" card is pulled. Why is this? You say you have learned the truth of our country? I know you have just chosen the opposite view of the norm. Your viewpoint will perpetuate this problem to another civil war. What is needed is equal treatment under the law.

Cero said...

"Let me repeat that: most White folks, yes, most White folks believe that people of color are, in fact, inferior. Even as they say, "I don't see color. I just see everyone as a human being," by which they mean, they don't intend to acknowledge all the studies showing how exploited and dominated people of color still are in the United States because the White speaker has already decided that Black people's problems are the result of Black people's inferiority. "Some of my best friends are Black," they will say, while discounting what African-Americans themselves say about the quality of their lives in the good old U.S. of A.

This rampant perception that people of color are inferior creates such a mindset that it's actually part of our national world view. We've taught ourselves to believe it for so long that we now think it's the natural truth. And to make matters worse, we've taught people of color to believe it, as well, in the face of overwhelming documentation to the contrary. Why do you think we dare not treat "African-American history" as a regular part of the history curriculum in this country rather than just breaking out Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream" speech once a year in February? If people of color understood clearly who they are and what has been done to them, they would have long since burned this country down. And if White people were taught the truth of this nation's history and their own participation in and benefit from practices of White power and privilege, it would humble them so much that they might not recover."

These are key words, and this is a great & really useful post.

Changeseeker said...

Thank you, cero. In truth, I think this post, written just three months after I started blogging, might be the cornerstone of everything I've blogged so far. And your zeroing in -- sorry, I couldn't help the pun :^) -- on these two paragraphs is no accident. They are, in my view, the crucial element at the base of the theory and praxis concerning the socially-constructed, political notion of "race" in the U.S. and always have been. One of my mentors, Korean sociologist and race theorist Won Moo Hurh wrote that as long as White Americans remain stuck, as it were, in what is apparently some manifestation of low self esteem, they will continue to NEED to designate "inferiors" as a mechanism to hold off descending into despair (or self-hatred?). I think I linked to this post the other day to re-center the blog and perhaps to encourage myself to think about this some more. Thanks (again) for stirring the pot.

Chicken Hammer said...

Wow what a reach. Only when we ALL treat each other equally will there be real equality. Making excused for the actions of one or another group does nothing to bring real equality to the table.

Changeseeker said...

Nobody's making excuses for anybody, Chicken Hammer, but when one group is standing on the neck of another group, to suggest that they both have to make nice is to ignore reality. Group Two may have to promise not to kill Group One for five hundred years of continued oppression, but Group One needs to get off Group Two's neck. It's no where NEAR the same.

See what I'm sayin'?

Anonymous said...

Great post.

If anybody wants to laugh out loud at hypocrisy and falseness (and also feel like one is watching Jerry Springer show online) check:

http://angrywhitedude.com/

XD

Jon said...

I've only given your entry a cursory reading (it is late, I'll read it for real tomorrow), but it seems interesting.

Having not read carefully enough, I'll take a risk and run my mouth. While the entry is interesting it also seems slightly myopic.

Please explain how only white people can be racist in asian countries. Or is it that racism does not exist outside of the west?

Changeseeker said...

Europeans crafted the socially-constructed, political notion of "race" in the first place five hundred years or so ago and have been maintaining -- with the help of their European-American cousins -- White Power and White Supremacy as social institutions ever since, I focus primarily on the binary issue of Black/White relations in the U.S. (what I know best). Europeans and European-Americans have spread this form of oppression very effectively and to great financial benefit. That others have learned and adopted the concept goes without saying. China, for example, is the new colonizer of the continent of Africa. But it doesn't change the basic realities of my analysis. My understanding of "race" is sound and once you fully grasp my ideas, they're easy to apply to a continuum of scenarios. Using the binary (Black/White) model gives folks a simple place to begin.

Anonymous said...

Great post! I very much agree with you.
I have one question for you, however. Since you've mentioned that you don't believe that black people can be racist (agreed, prejudiced yes, racist - no) would you extend the same sentiment to women? I mean the construct of 'race' and 'racism' was created by white men- for men, to emasculate 'other' men - with women never being considered equal. Do you agree?

(I'm like 3 years too late but I just came across this post)

Changeseeker said...

I never thought of it like that, Anon 7:03. I'll have to mull that over. It certainly is true that the White male power structure established and has maintained the social institutions (including institutionalizing both racism AND sexism in the U.S.), so in that sense, women were out of the loop. Nevertheless, women that look like me (no matter what their actual heritage) have benefitted greatly from the system of oppression against people of color and continue to do so to the present.

On the other hand, I always find it interesting to note that statistically, those African-American men who are allowed to have jobs make, on average, more than European-American women. White men are at the top with Black men second, White women third and Black women last in median income. So in the case of income, gender trumps race. Though, as I already pointed out, that only includes the Black men allowed to get jobs, stay out of prison, etc.

Anonymous said...

I cannot believe how incredibly skewed this view is. Only white people can be racist? Please. I can think of 5 people right now that don't like me because I'm white. I went to inner city schools as a kid. And don't even begin to pretend you have any idea of what true equality is. Equality is treating people EQUALLY, not treating one over the other, as you suggest. Not only will the view continue to perpetuate active as well as passive racism, but you are hurting your own cause by doing so.

Changeseeker said...

First of all, Anonymous 8:38, I don't have any "causes." I just believe in justice. You didn't get the point of this post because you sound as if you're stuck on wanting to keep things the way they are -- firmly entrenched in White privilege. Usually, when a really new idea is thrown at a person, it helps if they veeeery carefully read through the idea more than once until they understand what's being ssid (whether they agree with it or not).

For example, you apparently missed the line in my last paragraph that reads: "A Black person can be prejudiced against members of other groups, can be mean-spirited, can be cruel, can be hateful, can even be dangerous to members of other groups, but they have never had the power in the United States to define the nature of their own lives and therefore, to me, they're just being prejudicial, mean-spirited, cruel, hateful, and dangerous." From what you say, that's been your experience. I'm guessing that your attitude is at least partly WHY your experience has been that way.

Anonymous said...

Hi, just wondering whether people agree with me that "power" may be RELATIVE between marginalised groups. For example, African Americans arguably have greater collective cultural/political currency than Asian Americans (the former being seen as being "real" Americans and having more powerful representative organizations and greater media representation). Power differentials can be exploited between marginalised groups, and that extra power can be added to prejudice. Don't you think that marginalised groups can have degrees of power over each other? In any case what do you think of this article?
http://97.74.65.51/readArticle.aspx?ARTID=21987

Anonymous said...

If minorities cannot be racist, then shouldn't it follow that white women cannot be racist because they are subjugated to the white patriarchy? Also, are you saying that racism does not exist anywhere in the world where there are no white people simply because the world economic system and globally dominant political and cultural institutions are controlled by white Europeans? Are you saying that, unlike white Americans, African Americans do not benefit from US world hegemony which is responsible for many of the worst atrocities against POCs around the world?

Anonymous said...

So if a non-white person cannot be racist, what about a person who has a degree of whiteness? For example, can someone with one Black grandparent be racist? Can a person with one Asian grandparent be racist? Can a person with one Native American grandparent be racist? What about one non-white great-grandparent? How about people who aren't white but can visually "pass" as white? Can they be racist? Does it make a difference if they can't speak much English (and face discrimination on that basis)?

Changeseeker said...

I'm assuming -- rightly or wrongly -- that the last three comments from Anonymous are all the same person in fairly rapid succession. I have read the article mentioned and prepared to post my response, Anonymous, but it's going to be much too long to write here. I have a book to review as a blog post by Friday and then I'll focus on your questions, which are excellent. I appreciate your asking them and I assure you that I am paying attention. I will address them in a complete blog post of their own soon.

Anonymous said...

I once was the type of person who believed all "races" were capable of being racist, until someone explained to me the concept of "Racism = Prejudice + Power". I had always (wrongly) ignored the "Power" part of the equation.

My problem now is, how do I respond to the point that Barack Obama is the most powerful man in the world, and yet people who prejudiciously criticize him are still called "racist"? I'm sure they ARE being racist, but it doesn't fit the Racism equation. There are extremely poor, powerless white people who do not have the power of the government behind them (in fact, I work with many who believe the government is out to get them), and yet they still make racist comments about Obama, the world's most powerful man who has the full force of the government behind him (at least until the Republicans erase the supermajority).

Any input is appreciated.

Wayne

Changeseeker said...

This is a great question, Wayne, particularly in the context of the topic as presented in this post. In order to understand the phenomenon before you (an African-American U.S. President and poverty-stricken racist White folks bad-mouthing him), you have to first remember that the problem is never individual in nature. It's systemic. In other words, even White people who have a clue and want very much to dismantle racism find it impossible because the oppression is so deeply embedded in the social institutions (family, education, religion, politics and economics). This is why we call it "institutionalized oppression" or "institutionalized racism." The entire society is swimming in an ocean of White Supremacy without even having to be consciously aware of it. This is why, immediately after Obama's election, the media could report such incidents as a busload of elementary school children chanting "Kill Obama" (a treasonous felony threat) and there were no repercussions. He may be the President, but in the U.S., he's still a Black man.

As for the "powerlessness" of the poor White people, as individuals, it's true, they have no power. But as a GROUP, White is right in this nation. One of my favorite quotes is from James Baldwin: "You can learn everything you need to know about race in this country by asking a White man would he want to be Black." And Obama's skin-tone does not change that.

In point of fact, I don't believe the President of the U.S. is, in fact, all that powerful. He has great prestige, but when it comes right down to it, I believe he takes orders from those with the Power-To-Define, just like the rest of us. If he hadn't been willing to do that, I don't think he'd be where he is today. This explains why he has distanced himself so severely from any addressal of the desperate disenfranchisement of African-Americans, as if it doesn't exist.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the response, CS. Indeed, as a group, "white is right" in America. And good point about a President not necessarily being powerful as an individual (though I think we should be careful not to overly diminish a President's responsibility for the things that happen while s/he is in office and the tone s/he sets. To do so would let Bush and all predecessors off the hook. But I know you don't mean to completely diminish the power a President has, but rather to be realistic about it.)

Thanks for the input,

Wayne

Changeseeker said...

Of course, you're right, Wayne. A U.S. President has great ability to affect much in the world -- inside and outside of the nation. Unfortunately, the leeway (from what I can gather) seems to be restricted to perameters set and monitored by those with the most to lose financially if they don't hold onto the power to define life as we know it. Consequently, a man like George Bush can set frightening precedents and do great damage by leaning ever farther in the direction of supporting the interests of the military-industrial complex, but a president that even wanted to swing the pendulum in the opposite direction would be hamstrung to take it anywhere those with the REAL power truly resisted.

Anonymous said...

If a person of colour can't be racist, does it mean that when you read an anonymous comment on the internet, you don't know whether it's racist if you don't know the race of the person making the comment?

Changeseeker said...

That might be a clever question, Anonymous 12:38, except that, honestly, commentators virtually always make a point of declaring their race. Announcing where one is socially located is part of our socialization. Particularly in the U.S., where one's "race" (skin tone) is the single most important identifier.

Anonymous said...

In the case of a film like "Norbit", would you say that the POCs who made the film (including Eddie Murphy) were not "racist", while the white people who were part of making the same film were racist? By the same token, the Indian guy doing the blackface skit on the Australian show "Hey Hey it's Saturday" was not racist, but the white people involved were? The guy doing blackface is racist, but stops being racist when he takes the blackface off and you realise that he's Indian? Can a person-who-can-pass-as-white say "hey you can't call me racist, my grandmother was a POC"?

Anonymous said...

Changeseeker, look at all the racist anonymous comments made, for example, on Youtube (in the comments sections). A lot of race-hate stuff online is written by anonymous people, but of course not all of the authors are white. But the comments are easily recognizable as textbook racism.

Changeseeker said...

You're missing the point, Anonymous 8:42 and 8:53. "Racist" is a word. It's a symbol that means something. That's all. My perspective is that "racist" and "prejudiced" don't mean the same thing. My perspective is that in order for "prejudice" to be "racism," it MUST be paired with power. So a person of color (lacking the power to even define their own life under the world system of White Supremacy) could not, then, be a "racist." A person of color CAN be "prejudiced," "angry," "unreasonable," "mean-spirited," "insulting," "hostile," or even "dangerous" where White people are concerned, but using my definition, a person of color cannot be "racist." The problem you're probably having with all this is in admitting that White Supremacy is the default position in the world, giving White people privilege and power people of color don't have. It's a matter of public record and White people know it only too well.

Anonymous said...

So... can Jews be racist? What is your theory on how much power Jewish people have?

Changeseeker said...

Karen Brodkin wrote an interesting book entitled How Jews Became White Folks. I don't see them as a different "race."

Anonymous said...

So, Changeseeker, if you see Jews as white folks, and by your definition white folks can't be victims of racism, would you be prepared to stand up and declare that racism against Jewish people does not exist?

Changeseeker said...

What you refuse to recognize, Anonymous, is that you're arguing semantics, so you can't win. People who are not a "race" cannot be victims of "racism." They can be the victims of prejudice, discrimination, hostility and violence, however.

Jews are, depending on the standard you use, either a religious group or a national group. They can and have been the victims of all manner of oppression based on the premises and principles of White supremacy, but as there is no Jewish "race," so using my definition, they would be victims of White supremacy, not racism.

Lee said...


Consequently, I (and I am not alone here) don't believe that it's possible for a person of color to be a racist


Racism is like other -isms: Communism, Authoritarianism, Fascism, etc. and can only understood in it's social context. I agree with a definition of racism as the enforcement of racial prejudice with power - be it political, cultural, religious or financial power.

However in the common vernacular the term racist is synonymous with prejudiced. The vast majority of readers will interpret the sentence "people of color can't be racist" as "people of color can't have prejudices", a statement so absurd on it's face that they will summarily dismiss the rest of your arguments - even though you clearly state that people of color can be prejudiced.

This confusion of racist with prejudiced also effects people of color - where "people of color can't be racist" reinforces existing racial prejudices on the part of the POC.

Lee said...

I was struck by a singular thought while reading this article (I am often struck in this way when reading any commentary on race): the ideas presented are archaic and out of touch.

I will elaborate through a series of challenges:

First, the idea that White Supremacy is the default posture does not square with my experience. To the best of my knowledge I have experienced no advantages as a white male. Everything I've gained in life I have earned for myself. Nothing has been handed to me - be it in business, education or personal relationships. Where is this shadowy White Supremacy? By what machinations has it been subtly pushing me to success while persons of color are trod underfoot?

Second, my friends and foes are not determined by their genes - your skin color, hair color, sex or sexual orientation can not dictate the nature of our relationship. Basing interpersonal decisions on something as banal as the accident of one's birth is patently absurd. This also holds true of the business relationships I've established with people of all shades. None of these relationships were forced under the aegis of an overweening White Supremacy. Rather, they were forged by fully realized individuals with shared goals and interests, irrespective of race. What shadowy racial forces could possible cause any of these individuals to act otherwise?

Third, I do not identify with a racial group. I do not see myself primarily as a white man: I see myself as an individual who incidentally happens to be white. The tone of your article implies that identity and social standing in the U.S. depends primarily on race - an assumption that is boorish, dumb and insulting to any true individual. By making race the focal point you're missing out on the true racial revolution - millions of men and women like myself who have moved beyond race and refuse to let it dictate how we live our lives.

I'm sorry sir/ma'am but you're outmoded - welcome to the 21st century.

johnnykaje said...

"To the best of my knowledge I have experienced no advantages as a white male."

"To the best of my knowledge I have experienced no advantages as a white male."

It was right about here that I stopped reading. Of course you're not aware of the advantages you have. That's yet another privilege privy only to white people.

Sheesh, I'm white, but even I can see the flaw in that line of reasoning.

Go back in time to your youth, do a "Black Like Me" experiment for your entire life up until the time you posted this comment, and then tell us you didn't have any advantages growing up white.

Anonymous said...

http://au.news.yahoo.com/a/-/mp/8368538/spike-in-jewish-racist-abuse/

Changeseeker said...

Lee: You speak of "common vernacular," which is, of course, a euphemism for the language determined by whoever is in power (and that, then, would be why you don't "notice" any of the things I discuss on this blog as being reality in the 21st century). In Nazi Germany, for example, "common vernacular" exhibited a lot of ugly words and ideas related to people of color.

You also call my ideas "archaic and out of touch," which is ironic when you consider that the underlying tone of your perspective could have come straight out of most writings and conversations of White people back in the 19th century. The problem with it being, unfortunately, that it's still the party line. Sigh.

You write of "earning" everything you ever got and you may have worked hard, but many people of color work harder, longer and smarter than anybody else and never receive a payoff. That's the part you don't seem aware of. And you can only make relationships with those people of color the social institutions allow to reach you (without you ever having to realize that there are, in fact, institutionalized obstacles that keep many people of color from coming into your "deservedly" exalted purview and that even those folks who make it all the way to wherever you are have paid more dearly in the process than you can ever know).

You do not see yourself primarily as being White and male, you say. And, it is true that you don't have to because everybody else will, regardless -- and better, if I don't miss my guess by much. Your arrogance comes through loud and clear and certainly that is -- without question -- the hallmark characteristic of all White Supremacists.

Changeseeker said...

JohnnyKaje: Your comments were why I could take so long to respond to Lee. Thanks for putting in your very astute two cents. Welcome back anytime.

freeyourmind said...

Wow, this is an awesome post (and blog). I'm a sociology major (non-white) and have read about everything you discussed. Honestly, I wish you taught at my school! Some of our sociology professors are full blown idiots. I've only had one or two that I learned a lot from.

Also, in your comment to Anon 7:03 you said "On the other hand, I always find it interesting to note that statistically, those African-American men who are allowed to have jobs make, on average, more than European-American women."

Based on statistics I have read in practically all of my classes, this is false. Actually, on average WHITE WOMEN make MORE than Black men/women. I can ask my professor to forward me the source.

Changeseeker said...

Thanks for the kind words, freeyourmind. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, in 2006, the median income for White men was $40,432; for Black men was $30,549; for White women was $26,636; and for Black women was $25,435. This means that Black men, on average, make about 75% of what a White man makes, while White women and Black women make about 66% and 63% respectively. For at least the past 25 years, it's been that way. I'm not sure where your professor got information to the contrary.

Anonymous said...

Good and honest post Lee. But as you can see, you can't beat the new anti-white racist ideology any more than an Alabama slave could convince his white master that all people were children of God.

You see, you and other white people are forever tainted with whiteness. You know, before white folks came on the scene, the world was a virtual paradise of poeple of color in perfect harmony. And, because of the sins of previous white folks you (and I) will need to regurgitate our apologies to pocs on demand. So even though you worked hard and lived well you must have "stolen" it from someone of color.

I find it interesting that changeseaker speaks of a common venacular. The venacular of the white privilege movement was quite the thing in Stalin's time. During those wonderful times someone was guilty for things said, unsaid or maybe said in the future. Now people such as changeseaker probably won't shoot white they'll just bore us to death with their inane arguments of privilege.

Anonymous said...

Some white privilege comments/questions.

1. privilege has no color-so how can it be white?
2. supposedly there is no white race so how can you have white priviledge?
3. does an Arab man in Iran have brown or white privilege?
4. why are the majority of countries run by pocs rampant with racism, sexism or homophobia?
5. name one country where one particular ethnic or religious group has more privileges than another group.
6. who determines if a so-called privilege is white?
7. if pocs can't be racists then why are many Japanese or Chinese racists?
8. how do you differentiate between privilege and ability?

By the way I'm keeping my privileges and have no guilt regarding slavery, sexism or genocide.

Changeseeker said...

Anonymous: Your "questions" are not attempts to learn something, but to pose riddles that ostensibly prove your point. They don't, however, prove your point to anyone who doesn't reflect your same perspective (that you are deserving of privilege because of your superiority and needn't care about humans other than yourself). We all get to decide how we're going to live, Anonymous, but we also get to learn that what goes around comes around, too. Good luck with that.

Anonymous said...

Changeseeker: certainly you know the difference between riddles and questions?

My questions were not meant to prove any points-just to open a dicussion of what the word {privilege} means and to whom. Lately the word {privilege} has developed a nasty connotation, and those who supposedly have more privileges than another, are judged in a negative light.

Ah! "the statement of what goes around comes around" now that's what it's all about isn't it? No intelligent discussion of race just the idea that one day white people will get {theirs} until, of course, it goes around again and.....will get theirs back.

Changeseeker said...

Not "White" people particularly, Anonymous, but humans in general. I've lived long enough now to become personally convinced (and you do not have to agree) that -- for good or ill -- what we plant grows. I believe that when a person (regardless of who) exhibits arrogance or self-centeredness or powermongering or cruelty (or any other negative characteristic manifested as behavior), they will "reap" what they have "sowed." Call it kharma. Call it just desserts. Call it comeupance. Call it judgment day. Or don't believe it's true. But this idea is pretty much demonstrated throughout history and is consistent with most philosophical or religious systems of thought. And White people as a group (though not all of them obviously) have historically manifested a horrific record of doing damage to others without apology. This is very uncool if there is, in fact, an eventual accountability built right into our choices.

Anonymous said...

You are a racist in denial.
Have fun with your shitty worldview.

Anonymous said...

Changseeker you definitely made clear who the racist person was in that exchange with "anonymous" Kudos to you.

Anonymous said...

Author seems racist to me

Changeseeker said...

Then you would obviously have a different definition of racist than I do, Anonymous 4:49 AM.

luke said...

Part 1 of my response to this racist blog.

Your view is illogical, immoral and racist.

This nonsensical redefinition of the word(which you are stating as an accepted fact but is no such thing) really needs to be put to the sword.

It originated (decades after the word racism was first coined) in a book by Pat Bidol titled "Developing New Perspectives on Race" in 1970

This butchery of a perfectly good word was carried out for the express purpose of shielding minorities from accusations of racism.

It is a cynical political hatchet job on one of the most important words in the English language.

Over the decades it has gained traction in certain obscure Marxist and left wing intellectual circles; but due to it's illogical and racist implications it has never caught on in wider society. The dictionaries still reflect the real meaning of the word.

The problem is this mangled definition of the word has flown the coop of obscure Marxist theory and is being touted as gospel by certain "anti racist" organisations, far left activists and many in the black community.

It is a concept which is not only dividing humanity it is damaging the credibility of left wing/progressive causes.

Just think about what an amazing example of Orwellian doublespeak the "racism = prejudice + power" formulation is.

The word racism has always meant the racially based prejudiced of one person to another based on their racial difference regardless of the political power or of which racial group the perpetrator comes from. No more no less.


But Pat Bidel's Orwellian twisting of the term creates a world in which a Moroccan man in France can grab an 8 year old Jewish girl by the hair point a 45 calibre gun into her terrified face and shoot without being accused of racism because he comes from an oppressed minority.... To be continued

luke said...

Part 2....

if you were being honest it is not even about power as the formula suggests it is about race.

The proponents of this formula always go on to claim the "white power structure" is global so a racist attack carried out by a black man in a black majority country still isn't racist because the power of the "white supremacist conspiracy" is global in it's reach and supersedes the black power structure of that nation.

If you still cannot see the illogicality, racist and Orwellian implications of this theory you just are not looking.

Your view is racist because it singles out one particular race for the crime of racism.

For you racism is reliant on the prejudicial party being part of the "power construct" and not just any power construct.

One must specifically be part of the racial group which benefits from and is responsible for the past crimes of European colonialism and the transAtlantic slave trade.

The implication of this is that anyone who is within the power construct is to some extent guilty of perpetuating racism regardless of how they think or feel because racism is structural and they are a part of the racist order of society. It matters not a jot how low their economic or social status is; as members of the power structure they hold some responsibility of perpetuating the racist status quo.

A black hedge fund manager with an abundance of riches who is on first name terms with powerful politicians and has the world at his feet can not be racist despite being near the top of the very power structure which you deem to be the root of racism.

An antisemitic attack carried out by Asians or Africans ceases to be racist because the Jewish community has more political power than that of their attackers. But an identical attack carried out by a Neo Nazi for identical reasons is racist not solely because of the racial motive but because of the perpetrators racial identity.

Anyone should be able to see that this turns the word racism itself into a racist doctrine in its own right, Orwell’s Big Brother would have been proud of you.

PS: I am staunchly left wing, anti racist, anti sexist and anti homophobic. That is why I oppose the racism which it "Racism = prejudice + Power(white skin)"

laproboy said...

I really like this post. I came to it a couple years ago as it was linked to from 'stuffwhitepeopledo' blog. Its an idea that I've thought about a lot since. I like your idea of 'Racism = Prejudice + Power' and I think you could also substitute 'racism' with 'sexism' or 'cisism' to an extent, which is an idea I think other comments may have been getting at.

I think its easy to get caught up in the semantics of the definition of 'racism,' but that I don't think is as important as the idea your trying to convey.

I am a gay male in a interracial relationship so I like to have this general idea of myself as transcended from social structures like gender and race, but who really knows if that's possible. My boyfriend and I make racist jokes to each other very often so we don't take it as seriously as maybe we should.

Keep up the good work :)

Changeseeker said...

Luke: Your claim that you are "staunchly left wing, anti-racist, anti-sexist and anti-homophobic" made me think, "Wow. No wonder it's ao hard to move progressive ideas forward." Sigh.

Nevertheless, let me address one of your arguments as an example of how you're misunderstanding what I've written here.

A rich Black man who's in cahoots with powerful White men is full of "racism," yes, but it's internalized racism (or internalized White Supremacy). In other words, while the rich, powerful White men's racism attacks Black people, the rich Black man's racism also attacks Black people. So his socialization through education, media, etc., has been used by those with the power to define to ensure that White Supremacy will maintain its position.

What I'm discussing in this post is that, using my definition of racism, Black people cannot be racist against White people. I discuss this expressly because so many White people think otherwise. For some reason, you feel so emotional about some of the points I'm making, you wind up sidestepping them entirely.

Changeseeker said...

Laproboy: thank you for getting it. And thank you, too, for adding the idea that oppression is oppression. Any time one group seeks to reduce and exploit another group to increase their own power and/or money, the techniques, mechanisms and repercussions will always be roughly the same. That is the heart of all oppression. It is why oppressed peoples in general have so much in common, why the Power Structure works so hard to keep oppressed groups separated from each other, and why the bulk of the real power in the world is held in hands that look remarkably like each other.

Anonymous said...

So, by your logic, the people who murdered Ross Parker and Kriss Donald purely for being white are not racists?

Racism is prejudice or discrimination against people because of their race. That's it. There's no "plus power" qualifier. It doesn't matter what the race of either party is.

If you think that prejudice against some groups is more acceptable than prejudice against other groups, then guess what? You're a racist.

Changeseeker said...

Anon 7:20 PM: I am horrified by the murder of anyone anywhere because of their race, ethnicity, nationality, socio-economic status, religion, gender, sexual orientation or any other immutable personal characteristic. I am simply suggesting the use of a word in a particular way. The fact that many "White" people would rather arm wrestle over a term than face, admit, and work to get rid of racial discrimination, racial attacks, and racialized policies that daily brutalize people of color as a group in the United States never fails to fascinate me.

The murder of anyone is a tragedy. But a handful of White deaths at the hands of Black murderers do not instantly counterbalance the brutal daily accounts of Black men and women murdered by Whites (even the police) and typically without recourse. If Blacks had the power in this country to rack up the kind of death and destruction on White people as a group that White people routinely visit on them without apology, you might better understand my point.

In any case, racism involves a great deal more than just murder. It involves the daily life experienced by millions of people of color treated as less than full citizens in the land of their birth.

Anonymous said...

Racism : Prejudice based on race.
Prejudice: opinion not based on reason.

So your telling blacks can't have an opinion on whites that isn't based on reason? That's down right dumb. I see your argument but maybe you should come up with a new word to use because racism is a defined word that has nothing to do with power.

Changeseeker said...

There's a reason dictionaries have multiple definitions for most words, Anonymous. Not to mention changing definitions from time to time and adding or subtracting words from the dictionary entirely on an annual basis. Language is constantly in a state of development. Shakespeare alone invented 1700 words we commonly use today. I was born in the mountains of Kentucky where they use words dating back to Europe in the 1500's, but which most people in the U.S. don't even recognize. It's just language. Get over it.

IhadTOsignUPjustTOpostAcomment said...

Question:

Are your specking specifically about the relationship between black and white citizens in the USA when you say that only white people can be racist under the definition of Racism=Prejudice+Power or do you really go so far as to claim that as a universal truth, globally and for all time?

IhadTOsignUPjustTOpostAcomment said...

Ah, I see in another comment that you both confirm and contradict that position...

You say, "using my definition of racism, Black people cannot be racist against White people. I discuss this expressly because so many White people think otherwise. "

It is not only white people who think otherwise. Most people, regardless of ethnic background would, would define racism in a similar spirit to those definitions you'd commonly find in dictionaries. They'd agree without hesitation that racism is not, has not, and will not always be exclusive to whites. There is a reason that the racism = prejudice plus power definition remains an exclusive definition used only by a small proportion of people - it does not stand up to logic!

Within your response to comments you say, "A rich Black man who's in cahoots with powerful White men is full of "racism," yes, but it's internalized racism (or internalized White Supremacy). In other words, while the rich, powerful White men's racism attacks Black people, the rich Black man's racism also attacks Black people. So his socialization through education, media, etc., has been used by those with the power to define to ensure that White Supremacy will maintain its position."

So, you agree to some extent that non-whites can exercise racist actions but deny agency to those people by saying that it is white racism by proxy. I guess you'd say that a black police officer in the USA, with power invested in them by the white ruling class (with a black president), can't really be racist when abusing that power to enact their racial prejudice against mexican immigrants. The officer isn't really responsible since the power they have was given to them by whites along with racial prejudice. Any racism here is really the racism of whites right?

The problem with the prejudice plus power definition is that it emerges from an inherently US centric position and fails to acknowledge that power is not a monolithic thing unique only to the empire building whites from Europe. It is a definition that denies agency to non-whites and wilfully downplays or ignores the long history of ethnic conflict all around the world in which whites or white ideology play little or no role.





changeseeker said...

What you ignore, IhadTOsignUP, is that those with the power to define in this country, those who decide who's going to get the most of the best and the least of the worst, those who set up the social institutions in this country two hundred years ago and continue to control them today, are White. The oppression that is visited on Black people and their inability to prevent it without going to war is a direct function of that power. White people know it and Black people know it. Feelings don't really matter in the face of this reality. It's a system designed 500 years ago to do exactly what it's doing and it utilizes the ideology of White Supremacy to make it all look "natural," and "reasonable," and "logical," while it is none of these. James Baldwin once said, "You can learn everything you need to know about race in America by asking a White man would he want to be Black." All the rest is semantics.

IhadTOsignUPjustTOpostAcomment said...

Changeseeker... In this country? What country? Your country? The USA? I already mentioned the problems raised from applying Americancentric outlooks to this issue. I do not live in the USA and where I am whites are a small minority. The country has a government of politicians made up of people of African or Indian heritage, no whites. The police force and army is the same. The power here is indisputably with those people and they can and do exercise that power and racial prejudice against migrants from China, Japan and Latin America. It is nonsense to claim it is not racism because they are not white.

changeseeker said...

You're correct, IhadTOsignUP. I didn't read your comments carefully enough (which is not something I normally fail to do). I apologize. You don't mention what country you're in, though I can guess from what you write. In any case, I was, as you point out, referring to race relations as they occur in the United States, where, I assure you, even a Black President is still widely disrespected by many of the citizens of his own country because he is Black. As a result of our interchange, I will be certain to clarify this issue when I speak or write about it in the future. Thank you for returning until I understood what you were trying to get across.

On the other hand, you make my point when you write that those in power in your country use that power racially. Being prejudiced as a Black or White person is only individually problematic unless the prejudice is paired with power. In your country, the power is held by Black people. In mine, it is held by White people. So using my criteria (racism = prejudice + power), Black people can be racist in your country, but not in mine. By that same reasoning, White people in the U.S. can be both racist and White Supremacist, but in your country, they can only be White Supremacist because they don't have the power to force their will on Black people institutionally.