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Some Things You Need To Understand #1

An ongoing series. Here’s something you need to understand before engaging me in any debate:

Racism = Prejudice + Power

By definition, Blacks and other minorities cannot be racist because they do not have insitutional, systemic power. The term Minority doesn’t even refer to a minority of numbers any more (after all, minorities outnumber whites in many places, now), but instead to a minority of power.

So, again: Racism = Prejudice + Power

Reverse racism does not exist. It just doesn’t.

44 thoughts on “Some Things You Need To Understand #1”

  1. Wendi says:

    Do you mean that people of color cannot be racist as a whole or that they cannot be racist towards whites? I experience racism all the time from other minorities…so even if it’s an issue of power, I think that many people of color wield that power in their own way towards other people of color all the time…

  2. Just me says:

    Blacks and other people of color are in charge and have power. Maybe not the majority in the US, but this isn’t the only country in the world. Asians are extremely racist against all other people. Africans are racist against whites. Your living in denile if you think blacks/Indians/Asians can’t be racist. They’re people, racism isn’t prejudice+power, it’s hating someone because of the color of their skin, PERIOD.

  3. Ninja says:

    “Reverse racism does not exist. It just doesn’t.”

    It flourishes here.

  4. the angry black woman says:

    One of the markers of privilege is that, despite all evidence to the contrary, the privileged person violently insists that his/her view of the world is correct. because for them to be wrong would be to lose a bit of privilege, and they can’t have that. The two comments above are perfect examples of such.

  5. Just me says:

    In stead of addressing the FACT that Indians/Asians and Blacks have and run their own countries and so have absolute power in those countries, you just fall back on “blacks/minorities can’t be racist”.
    Blacks and other people of color are human and as humans are capable of hating others because of the color of their skin. That’s racism.
    The black man who walked into a New York eatery and threatened to set fire to “all the happy white people”, or the man who was convicted of a hate crime for killing a white woman “because she was a white devil”. Sorry but that’s racism and it has nothing to do with power, just hatred.

  6. the angry black woman says:

    Sorry, Just me, but you’re wrong and I don’t mind saying so. Putting aside the fact that this post is basically talking about America and not some other, unnamed countries run by Indians, Asians, and Blacks, I have laid out the definition of racism here and elsewhere on this blog. i suggest you look it up. because racism is not merely prejudice against other people. until you understand that, you’re going to continue being wrong.

  7. Just me says:

    Oh your right racism isn’t prejudice it’s hatred. When you say this post is talking about America that’s one thing, but you are stating that people of color “can’t be racist”. Your no longer talking about just America but the world. As for those unnamed countries. How about, Japan, China, India, Jamaica, Saudi Arabia and numerous African coutntries to name a few. These countries are run and controlled by “people of color”, Japan and Saudi Arabia are both powerful countries. Yes I saw your definition of racism, prejudice+power now look again at the countries I listed. Are people of color not incharge in those countries???

  8. yearzero says:

    “By definition, Blacks and other minorities cannot be racist because they do not have insitutional, systemic power.”

    By whose definition?

    Is this the understanding of racism enshrined in US law?

  9. the angry black woman says:

    “By whose definition?”

    By any definition. Economic – white males hold the majority of money in this country and in many other countries in the world. Economic oppression is a well-worn way to keep people down.

    Culturally – look on American television and what do you see, mostly? White people. Who gets the lion’s share of portrayals that would make one happy, proud, etc? White males. If the message that brown, yellow, non-American white male people are undesirable in some way — be it the way they act, the way they speak, the way they look, the way they smell, what they choose to eat, or wear, or how they choose to live their lives — is broadcast throughout the country not only does that have a detrimental effect on the brown/yellow people in question, but it has the effect of giving the whites more power in their own minds and in the reality/practice.

    That’s just two examples, shall I give more?

  10. yearzero says:

    Thanks for the reply ABW.

    “Thats just two examples, shall I give more?”

    You needn’t since you’re on the wrong track.

    The examples you give simply testify to the fact that black people experience racism. The first example could, in addition, lend support to the view that white people have at their disposal more opportunities to exercise discrimination. However, I have no wish to dispute either of these claims. My problem lies with your definition of racism – not what it includes, but what is excluded by it.

    Why shouldn’t racism be understood more simply as attitudes and behaviour arising from hatred of a particular social group, in much the same way as homophobia or anti-semitism? This isn’t to deny that power-relations form an important channel for the expression of hate. But is there any more justification for *confining* the charge of racism to those instances in which the perpetrator has more power, than there would be in placing similar restrictions on charges of homophobia, or anti-semitism?

    By the way, you didn’t answer my other question: Is the definition of racism you give above recognized in US law?
    (I’m not an American, I live in the UK – so I really don’t know; but, to be frank, this definition is so nonsensical (and um…racist) that I would be astonished and appalled if it were)


  11. michelle says:

    Racism is an attitude. It is how you feel about
    another person. And its how you treat that person with that attitude.
    I have noticed a growing trend of the how we all carry an attitude and “make someone pay…” in more ways than one.
    I am sick of the religious attitude many people say they have and not working it out in this area.

  12. the angry black woman says:

    Michelle, Racism is NOT just how you feel about another person.

  13. Victor says:

    Something about the above post comparing racism to Homophobia or Antisemitism, struck me as interesting on several levels. First off being black in America is not belonging or being involved with a “social group” as mentioned above. Second being Homosexual or Jewish are really two different things and begs the “apples and oranges comparison” in my estimation.

    Racism is confined to race since it deals with race. And as far as it being recognized as law in the US is almost a laugh out loud moment as last time I checked no words are defined in our legal system that’s why we have a dictionary.

    I can see the point of what some are saying that people of color can be prejudice. However, I believe what is trying to be conveyed is that while I can be prejudice as can any person, there is a certain group that has the power to enforce those views. As such power + prejudice = racism. I will say that the definition in that sense could also include classism as well in my opinion.

    Reverse racism is also comical in the sense that perhaps folks of the majority have experienced prejudice but have never experienced racism. See there is a misinterpretation in that history shows all the way to the present that there has been a systematic oppression of those that do not belong to ruling class(race). So you may feel that you are the victim of reverse racism but have you not received a job because of it, got a higher interest rate on your mortgage loan because of it, received harassment from law enforcement because of it, couldn’t get a fair trail from it, got different service because of it….for your whole life?

    See I hear you I understand sometimes people in general can be assess no matter the color however, racism is an institution a religion for some. In America it’s what this whole country was built on! Peoples fortunes can be traced back to the racism that proliferated slavery that garnered them riches that was never dispersed to those that worked(slaved) for them. Several generations later we see the power that the wealth has built and where that has left those with and without. I could go on for hours on this but we’ll see who even reads this.


  14. Julia says:

    I think that the reason many privileged people use “prejudice” and “racism” as synonyms is that they don’t understand that there is a need in our US lexicon for a word such a “racism” as defined in your post. They don’t really understand the difference between isolated instances of prejudice that happen to everyone, and the institutionalized inequities that come from racism.

    Here are two examples taken from my personal life that illustrate for me the difference between racism and prejudice. As background for these anecdotes, I am a white woman who has lived in a majority-black US city for the past 10 years.

    Prejudice: Sometimes in the grocery store, a black cashier will be friendly and helpful to the black people on line ahead of me, and then aloof and cold to me when it’s my turn. I am left to wonder whether this is because the cashier has a problem with white people or did I personally do something unintentional that offended him/her. The key concept: everyone knows how it feels to be given the cold shoulder by others for superficial reasons, and everyone resents it.

    Racism: For my work, I used to visit the jail in my city about once every two weeks. I rarely saw another white person there, and almost all of the inmates and staff were black. I’m not exaggerating. This isn’t because all of the criminals in my city are black. They aren’t. It’s partly that the white criminals are more likely to get sentenced to punishments other than jail terms. It’s partly that white defendants are more likely to afford good lawyers. It’s partly that the drug offenses that tend to lure black people are prosecuted much more severely than the drug offenses that tend to lure white people. There are more parts too… like a cancer that’s metastasizing everywhere. These are just a few reasons for the inequity. The key concept: in the US, only black people know how this feels, and everyone else can only imagine the psychological effect, and if they don’t want to bother imagining anything, they haven’t got to because there is no disproportionately white US jail (except maybe for that special wing where Paris Hilton stayed? haha).

    You just can’t describe occasional public rudeness with the same word you use to describe the kind of appalling situation that exists in that jail. They’re related concepts, but not even close to synonymous.

    At any rate, ABW, I stumbled on your blog completely inadvertently and I have to say that it’s one of the most pleasant surprises I’ve ever found on the internets. I’ll definitely keep reading!

  15. will shetterly says:

    Power equals a fist, a gun, simple superiority in numbers. When blacks beat someone they see as “white”, they have power, and they are prejudiced, even by your definition.

    That’s not reverse racism. That’s pure racism.

    And, yes, I’m posting this because someone in the f&sf community was beaten for being in a black neighborhood. Maybe his case will prove to have been something other than racism–the police maintain that the Newsom-Christian case was not racially motivated–but the idea that no black has harmed a white for racial reasons is naive at best. If you see the world in racial terms and hurt someone for the simple reason of being of a “race” you hate, you are racist.

  16. the angry black woman says:

    but the idea that no black has harmed a white for racial reasons is naive at best.

    Way to completely miss the point, Will.

    I can’t even get up the energy to try and explain to you why you’re wrong. You never, ever listen.

  17. Michael says:

    I think its becoming very concerning to me that, by the spirit of the posts, blacks can seem to claim racism in myriad instances, and then run for cover under the over-intellectualized definition of racism (hiding behind the notion that they can’t, by defnition be racist). This discussion seems so disengenuous to me when black children are openly taught to be suspicious of white people, even going as far as teaching thier children that the white race, and all its dealings, companies, social and economic systems are all set up to do nothing but hold down the AA community. BS! Black comics openly make fun of whites in thier routines. As recent as Juneteenth, the day was marred by several instances of white people being pulled from thier cars and beaten on TV in front of God and everyone, nothing but pure hatred and racism drives a person to do that. The issue I am having with this conversation is that from the tone of the posts, you’d think the AA community has given itself plausible deniability instead of admitting and addressing that its actually being part and parcel in perpetuating it Now before you all post and call me a racist, obviously there are extenuating circumstances in all violent interactions between races. No amount of flowery over wrought definitions can overcome the fact that in our nation, our young people, black and white, are being taught racism from thier parents. We simply need to admit the fact that all races can and at some points are absolutely racist against others. Hate is hate, and to somehow think blacks can simply back away from responsibility under cover of a definition written purely to give that insulation is an insult to my intellect. Its as if we’ve become so accustomed and numb to the fact that everyone points to whites as the big hairy racist in the world, that we almost give all others a pass. Good discussion as always!

  18. the angry black woman says:

    Here’s a thing you don’t seem to understand about this site, Michael–it’s not about What’s Wrong With Black People. You are all about What’s Wrong With Black People (henceforth labeled W3BP). And while there is a time and place for W3BP discussions, this isn’t that place. Not to say that W3BP discussions don’t and shouldn’t take place. Especially considering that black people, just like white people and asian people and, really, any people, have a long ways to go before they are perfect. There’s a lot that needs done in our community, no doubt. Just like there’s a lot that needs done in yours.

    Thing is, white folks are often not invited to take place in W3BP discussions because, well, most of you don’t actually KNOW what’s wrong with black people. Most of the things you think are wrong with us aren’t actually wrong, it’s just stuff you don’t like or stuff you make up. And, to be honest, most white people haven’t done the personal work necessary to take part in W3BP discussions without coming off like assholes or racists. There are plenty of white-led W3BP discussions out there on the internets. I’m sure you can find them.

    But for this blog, we’re not interested in your W3BP thoughts. Not because we don’t like dissent, but because you’re unwilling to listen. You come here to lecture us and to W3BP us to death instead of engaging in a dialogue. All attempts, thus far, to reveal our point of view to you have resulted in a stunning example of what happens when water meets a duck’s back.

    It never, ever fails to surprise me that white people reading this post often don’t actually read it. They see “Black people can’t be racist” and don’t read the part where I say “Black people can be prejudiced”. For all your whining about “over-intellectualized definitions” you seem to have missed the very simple point that, yes DUH black people engage in race-based prejudice. The point being that prejudice is not exactly the same as racism. And if we over-intellectualize things, oh forgive me! I’m sorry that my ability to think deeply about issues that concern me and mine offends you.

    God damn, why do people have to be so farking stupid? It just pisses me off.

  19. will shetterly says:

    Here’s the American Heritage on “racism”:

    1. The belief that race accounts for differences in human character or ability and that a particular race is superior to others.
    2. Discrimination or prejudice based on race.

    You really think those don’t apply to blacks who target people of other races? I am trying to listen here, honest.

  20. the angry black woman says:

    jesus, will, are you fucking quoting the dictionary at me???

    GO, now, to this post and, more specifically, this comment where I give excellent reasons why dictionary definitions are of COMPLETELY no use in conversations of this nature. It’s like trying to dissect a frog with a chainsaw.

    I really want to give you more benefit of the doubt regarding your prowess as a debater, but now I’m starting to realize I can’t give you that benefit anymore.

  21. will shetterly says:

    A white who is beaten by a group of blacks who are prejudiced and a black who is beaten by a group of whites who are racist are both victims of “power plus prejudice”, and they’ll hurt equally badly.

    A side note: here’s an essay I liked: Race, class, and “whiteness theory” by Sharon Smith. The bit about the disfranchisement of poor white voters thanks to poll taxes was especially interesting.

  22. the angry black woman says:

    A white who is beaten by a group of blacks who are prejudiced and a black who is beaten by a group of whites who are racist are both victims of “power plus prejudice”, and they’ll hurt equally badly.

    I really can’t talk to you anymore. The wall you put up never gets a chink.

  23. Michael says:

    ABW! I can’t beleive this. You actually think you can’t learn something about your own race by listening and reading about what people observe about your race? ABW, I’ stunned that you would be so myopic as to think that white people have nothing to add to the conversation about the AA community when whites are pelted each day with what people think white are like and what people “think” whites are like. And I can certainly do without the bitchy, arrogant talking down and dismissing of my thoughts. You, my dear have things to learn, because by watching, reading, and listening to how others percieve you, a person can learn volumes. Now I’ve turned a corner, this blog has no intention of widening horizons throuhg honest discussions that i was hoping it was. It is just a place for cynical bitter white hating victim mongers to all hold hands and cloud the issues with BS. I’n done, enjoy baking in your misery

  24. Anonymous says:

    ” You actually think you can’t learn something about your own race by listening and reading about what people observe about your race?”

    I take almost everything a white person says about Black people with a grain of salt, and not just because it’s usually just some stereotypical BS they saw on T.V., but because as a race they’re in no position to make moral judgements about anyone else. Those white people were dragged from their car and beaten up? It’s sad, but prejudice against white people, regardless of the context, is no where near close to the scope of race-based prejudice that Black people face on a daily basis.

  25. TierListE says:

    I don’t know why Micheal is trying to get mad at ABW being dismissive when he’s being at least equally as dismissive.

    I think you’re confusing ‘dialogue’ with ‘changing your viewpoints and agreeing with my thoughts’. Honestly, what I believe ABW is frustrated about (tell me if I’m putting false words in your mouth ABW) is that you’re reiterating things she’s already given her explanation on why she’s believes it’s untrue or whatnot.

    What you are now supposed to do is give counter-arguments to what she’s already said, or, if you don’t believe it’s true then give evidence against what she said. If that doesn’t change her stance on things, just agree to disagree and move on.

  26. the angry black woman says:

    Nope, Tier, you pretty much nailed it. There are only so many times a day I can type the same stuff over and over and over before I realize that the definition of madness is repeating the same action and expecting, miraculously, a different result. So, this website has many, many comments and posts. If Michael and Will cannot grok what I have to say from reading them, they will not grok me at all. maybe I am not the right person to lead them into the light. At any rate, there’s no point in me continuing. They appear, at this time, unteachable.

  27. Abyd says:

    Hi ABW, I have just glanced at some of the posts and can share some of your frustratons with the ‘debate’. There’s a huge resistance to accepting notions of power and in trying to see racism as a two way thing, similarly when men argue about women being sexist. I think that if they can hold onto these ideas then they don’t feel the need to look at themselves and just deny the problem. Good luck!

  28. Chase says:

    Let’s talk about the “power” it took for a group of responsible people to kick Eddie Griffin’s backside off the stage on this night.,,2164136,00.html

    This reminds me of the level of responsibility Black Americans had for themselves and their communities during the sixties and seventies, perhaps prior.

    But I remember the messages being sent out during those times to take care of yourselves, be responsible for your actions, look out for your neighbors, share what you have, educate your children, have manners and the list goes on.

    After reading this article, I was able to garner a little HOPE that not all is lost. There are still some Black Americans who remember and are willing to stand on the podium with their black gloved fist raised high with PRIDE.

    This is a powerful message that is being sent out and if other groups are as responsible as the magazine Black Enterprise, we could damn well be on the right track to recovering our Pride as Black people.

  29. stormyone says:

    found your site again…. keep on preachin sista… it is refreshing to see that not all believe the hype….

  30. A. says:

    White men like to complain that racism exist against them, but when you get an in-your-face case of racial discrimination against a non-white, they suddenly dismiss it.

    I love that crap.

  31. KharBevNor says:

    I somewhat disagree with your definition of racism, but I think that pretty much everyone else in this thread disagreeing with the definition is doing so from a racist position. Wierdly, it would seem. to me that the way you’re trying to classify racism is actually, at the end of the day, eurocentric. You’re coming from a position within a country where the structure of white privilege is both particularly strong and particularly egregious (as its a country where white people have only been living for 300 years or so). Thus for you, the defining context of racism is white oppression in America. That’s fair enough. But I think it’s inflecting your thinking. Now, the privilege+power idea in general is, quite interesting, but I can’t help but feel you risk making a definition of racism that is too specific. I think, rather that there are other more precise terms that you could be employing, that is to say, institutional racism, systemic racism or maybe cultural racism. The danger I think of this definition is that it risks moving the focus away from personal prejudices. In fact, couldn’t it be construed as the same as the arguments poor whites use to try and wriggle out of white privilege. Can you not imagine someone arguing “Well, I ain’t got no power, so I can’t possibly be a racist”? I’m not seeing that’s how I would think it through, but hopefully you get my point? Racism must of course be tackled both on a wide scale and on a personal scale, confronting peoples prejudices etc. and educating them. Racism is an ideology, and I must say the given dictionary definition above is accurate to how I see it: ‘the belief that one race is superior to another’. What you’re talking about is more how that ideology is expressed in and coded into systems of culture, law, government etc. Whether holding this belief is the cause of systemic racism, or vice versa, could be argued indefinitely (I would say both are simplifications). But this is a bit too reductionist and dualist to my thinking.

    This Michael character, however, is a right tosser.

  32. the angry black woman says:


    You are correct that my definition of racism is narrowly focused on America. The main reason for this is that I am American, have spent the majority of my life in America, and am poorly qualified to discuss, in depth, how racism works outside of America. I would really love to get some guest bloggers from other parts of the world to add more global depth to the conversation and debate. Mainly because I know how truly annoying it is to have an America-only vibe going on. But I also don’t want to stand up and try to speak from a position of ignorance, especially since I rail against people doing such things all the time.

  33. Blazingcatfur says:

    What a crock.

  34. Lmary says:

    Yeah like YOUR comment and well gosh,golly,GEE can’t imagine where on EARTH black people get the idea to be racist?!! Or deny certain people which I seriously doubt any of the white people have had too much denied them especially by a black person. And if you are just talking about pure hatred and not ‘power’ there’s a little saying in the Bible goes something like this ‘what you sow you shall also reap’ or another way ‘what goes around comes around’. Karma sure does suck don’t it!

  35. jim says:

    the “Prejudice + Power” definition encompasses what Robert Mugabe is doing. So I don’t think it’s just baiting white people. Although I’d like to hear other people’s opinions on that. I love a good debate, me!

  36. Deborah says:

    Dear fellow white people: please, for the love of God and all that’s holy, shut the fuck up already. It’s humiliating to even be associated with you like, all the time lately.

    Can POC be prejudiced? Holy shit yes. Can POC misuse their positions of power and authority to the detriment of subordinates who are not of their race? Definitely. The problem is, though, that I’m seeing way too many white people try to make the specific general. You’ve worked in places where whites were the minority and got crapped on for it? I’m sorry—that really does suck. It’s not right, and there’s no excuse for it. But, as the diet ads say, “Results not typical.” When you actually crunch the numbers on who’s in power and what race (not to mention gender) they typically are—it’s old white men. More and more women and POC are in middle management positions, but the truly lucrative and powerful jobs are still reserved the same guys who have been running things since the very beginning of this country.

    We could sit here all day and come up with examples of POC who’ve done white people wrong simply because they were white, but a million such stories don’t change some very basic facts: employers aren’t more likely to automatically toss out applications from people whose names “sound white.” White people aren’t more likely to get a harsher penalty for a similar crime simply because they’re white. White people aren’t largely absent or portrayed extremely negatively in the media. Being white may be a liability in the specific situation you’re in—and I’m not going to deny that that sucks—but it is not a liability in American culture at large. Please, for the love of shit, try to understand the difference.

  37. Jooswah says:

    AS a first time poster I would like to reserve the right to be wrong once in a while. If anyone is willing to engage in debate then they can expect the same from me.

    Next I would like to Thank ABW for having the courage to express her anger so eloquently so that the rest of can borrow some of it for a moment or two.

    For all those out there that choose to, in some cases vehemently, argue against the concept of white privilege, I want to know why.

    Why now is racism and “reverse racism” a concern? Why now should we all hold hands together in a colour-blind society and make nice? I know it seems the “right” thing to do to express our egalitarian ideals so that no one else benefits at the expense of others. But to me it seems like the parable of Pandora’s Box, after my ancestors endured 200 years of oppression, brutality, and exploitation, the hope for some form of natural justice we so desperately need is being denied. The people now calling for a “level playing field for everyone” and their ancestors are Pandora, ignorant and naive, they unleashed a worldwide plague of colonialism, inserted themselves as the self-proclaimed standard of civilization and holders of cultural, economic, legislative, etc. power. After first methodically stacking the deck in their favor they now wish to play the game fairly and everyone has the same rules. How is that not an expression of systemic, institutional control? That is Racism.

    The idea that a hurtful comment, or even physical violence can be construed as racism is at the same time funny and hurtful. Yes non-POC in North America can experience same prejudice that POC can. But the similarity usually ends there as non-POC often have much more influence in finding resolution that they can be happy with. I’m not going to simplify my definition of racism to include all forms of discrimination based on race, just so someone can sleep better at night. Racism is racism and prejudice is prejudice.

    I am not going to stop seeking Truth just because someone who has no intention of understanding my point of view thinks I am missing hers/his. If they can manage to argue with me without appealing to strident emotion or opinion portrayed as fact, then I’m in.

  38. Jennifer-Ruth says:

    ABW – I can’t believe that anyone is even *arguing* with you over this. You gotta be enshrined in privilege to think that racism = power + prejudice isn’t true. I mean, I’m a middle-class white girl and it’s pretty obvious to me…

    To my fellow white people – I’m sorry you have experienced minor incidents of prejudice from people who are not the same colour as you, but this DOES NOT equal the systematic oppression that people of colour face from ALL AREAS of society. So, shut the fuck up and listen, okay?

  39. how says:

    as a black man in america, age 51, i have had to deal with this nonsense from many my black brothers and sisters my entire life. gratefully my parents never allowed me to indulge in such absolute victimhood until i was old enough to decide for myself.

    i couldn’t make it through all of the comments (due to abw’s holla back responses, which seemed to get progressively weaker as i scrolled down) so i apologize if the point i am about to make was already stated by someone else. but,

    “By definition, Blacks and other minorities cannot be racist because they do not have insitutional (sic), systemic power.”

    is simply untrue. thank goodness. due to years of sacrifice and struggle, blacks and other minorities have achieved significant institutional, systemic power. (and we about to achieve some more, come 1/20/09).

    not the majority of economic and other institutional, systemic power. but by no means zero.

    to claim that less than all, or less than 50% of economic, institutional, systemic power is irrelevant, insignificant, or otherwise dismissed is just silly. about as silly as the claim that black americans are indemnified from being racist in thought or action, regardless of any reasonable definition (which i believe does include abw’s formulation).

    racism is the great american sport, that everyone gets to play.

  40. 2cents says:

    How, you are contradicting yourself, you say “thank goodness. due to years of sacrifice and struggle, blacks and other minorities have achieved significant institutional, systemic power. (and we about to achieve some more, come 1/20/09 not the majority of economic and other institutional, systemic power. but by no means zero.

    to claim that less than all, or less than 50% of economic, institutional, systemic power is irrelevant, insignificant, or otherwise dismissed is just silly. about as silly as the claim that black americans are indemnified from being racist in thought or action, regardless of any reasonable definition (which i believe does include abw’s formulation).

    I dont understand how anyone could actually post this. The system of government ins the United States is the majority rules. White people are 70% of the population and blacks are 13%. This is very relevant, this is power. The GAO comes out with a report at the beginning of every year that states “While Blacks have made significant strides over the last 40 years, blacks still are behind whites in healthcare, education and wealth. This means that blacks have no systematic, economic or institutional power. In other words blacks cannot make the rules which define the culture within the society in which we live.

  41. Alisa says:

    “So, again: Racism = Prejudice + Power

    Reverse racism does not exist. It just doesn’t.”

    My experience says otherwise. When you speak of systemic power, I can agree that generally, in America, you are talking about white priviledge. But there are microcosms of culture where that absolutely is not true. I could use personal experiences as an example, but generally, who cares about my personal experiences. Your point is valid to _most_ of American society’s experience.

    So why am I responding? Because generalizations bother me. Because making that sort of statement negates other people’s experiences and professes that our own experiences are more important.

    I’ve been to Racism 101. I get it. I have been a part of positive change and dialogue. But, I find the attitude that nullifies the naming of my experiences as racism (though, based on your equation of prejudice and power, they fit) harmful.

    We don’t live in a general world, we live in a specific one. i would not attempt to invalidate your experiences and suppose i would like the same from you. I understand that my “status” as one of the priviledged makes it difficult to want to listen to what I have to say.

    Racism exists, there is no doubt. Many people are (sometimes shockingly) oblivious to it because it does not affect their daily lives. It doesn’t make me any better than anyone that I care about it, because I probably only care because it has impacted my life and my children’s lives, and the lives of those I care about. But, ultimately, we have to stop dismissing one another.

    We have to learn to respect each individual person. It starts with becoming aware of our own preconcieved notions. It begs us to be concerned with how we treat one another, online, as well as in “real life.” it continues, in process, through our whole lives. Growing daily, learning how to love others more and becoming less concerned with ourselves.

    If we want to see real change in this world, we have to be willing to change ourselves. We have to be willing to dialogue, and to admit mistakes, and to challenge ourselves. But most of all, we have to love one another.

  42. Alisa says:

    Sorry, I just had a little more to say. (And in many ways on the flipside of the experiences I alluded to in the previous comment. Not a contradiction, because if we think about it, I believe we can see both sides of any situation reflected in the experiences of our lives.)

    After four years of living in the poorest county of the poorest state of our country, I went back home for a visit. During that visit, I went through a drive through of a fast food restaurant. There was a young PoC at the window, who took my money with a smile.

    It hit me viscerally that she was not thinking about my race as she took the money and gave me my change. It was at that moment, when I felt the lack, that I realized the underlying tension and awareness of race that was always present in my dealings with PoC in the place that I lived. It hit me so hard that I had to park the car and have a good cry.

    It made me desperate to escape to a place where every social interaction wasn’t tinged with tension related to race. Whether that was in encountering PoC, or in cringing at horrible oblivious comments and jokes made by the some completely ingnorant people of my own race, that tension was always present.

    I cannot defend (and have no desire to) the actions of those people. I cannot deny that the tension I felt was systemic of a people who had to hear those sorts of comments and jokes about them, ALL THE TIME. No wonder there was tension. Nobody could know by looking at me that such a thing would not fall out of my own mouth.

    In this same community I was member of a group that was intentionally mixed racially, for the purpose of understanding and worship. We would transition one week to the next to different home churches (this group also crossed denominational lines), and each place that we met would provide food and speakers from their community of believers. The meetings were a mix of activities and styles, informed by the practices of every group present.

    I have some precious memories of my time with those ladies. They were my sisters. There was an air of mutual love and acceptance that was always a blessing.

    Because of this, I encouraged my own church to begin hosting these gatherings as well. To do our part in fostering this organization (and, tbh, there were far more representatives from the PoC side than the white). This was the beginning of the end, as they say, for my time in that church. Though we were permitted to host, the people of that congregation “were not ready” to be so inclusive.

    Ultimately, it led to my husband being fired (among other things, some of which have nothing to do with race, but are equally appalling). It led to my abject humiliation as a man of our congregation stood up and told WATERMELON JOKES to a room full of ladies who politely tittered. (But how did they not feel outrage?! Perhaps they were simply more adept at hiding it than I.)

    Anyway. I’m sorry for rambling. The issue is PRIDE. People (me, too, sadly) don’t want to take responsibility because it scares them, because they don’t want themselves associated with it, because they think if they ignore it, it will go away. It won’t.

    So. I’m sorry. I’m sorry that there is a system of power in place that automatically favors my race. I’m sorry that people of my race oppress people of your race. It’s horrible and inhuman. You have every right to every ounce of outrage that you feel.

  43. Halfrican says:

    Hey there ABW, I just found your journal and have been kind of devouring your old entries. Thanks for doing what you’re doing and saying what you believe. Now, I know this is kind of an old topic, but I’ve been thinking a lot about it and wanted to discuss something that’s been troubling me about your definition. I think it might be too specific, although not in the sense that many people argue. I agree that there is a need to have a word that describes the experience that can only occur in the presence of skewed power dynamics, and have usually accepted your definition as a way of addressing that need. But when I read this post recently, I really started thinking about what exactly this definition says. Specifically, I thought a lot about the word “prejudice,” both its definition and the more subtle connotations associated with it. I think it’s too restrictive for a sufficient definition of racism. Prejudice, as most people understand it, carries a connotation of conscious choice (by individuals, groups, etc) or at least a conscious judgment that is based on some sort of preconceived notions. This seems to leave out the sort of institutionalized, systematic racism that is often ignored in discussions.

    I guess my major problem with this definition is that prejudice implies a judgment, which is perfectly complete when you are referring to racist actions. But it leaves out racist institutions and circumstances in which there is no explicit judgment. I think that you’d probably agree that the disproportionate number of people of color born into poverty, or born into areas with substandard health and education services is racist. But, your definition seems to focus on the prejudices that may have led to this situation, instead of the situation itself. The prejudicial causes are definitely important, but I think that it is equally important to examine and critique the systematic inequalities in and of themselves. I honestly think the definition would be improved with a specific mention of systems of oppression, and institutionalized inequality, which may or may not be able to be linked to any conscious judgment/choice on anyone’s part.

  44. Calvin says:

    The top posting on the website is my more extended response to this. If anyone wants to pick at my logic, I would appreciate that, though it’s a bit rambling- I just needed to vent.

    The problem with your analysis is that you seem to be saying that races have to be equal, not people. If we establish a “color-blind” society, that’s perfectly fine. People should not have their choices in life limited by their race. And you’re right that the deck is stacked against blacks in America- the deck is stacked against any social group that it on average poorer than normal.

    However, we don’t fix that by helping blacks. We fix that by eliminating unjustified distinctions based on race, and then by helping those that are still disadvantaged. That means the poor- white or black or brown.

    I would say the issue is that “prejudice” isn’t, without the connotations, necessarily negative.

    If you tell me someone is black, I can say that they have a greater than average chance of having non-married parents, which is a completely justified assumption*, based on statistics. However, it’s not a justified assumption to think that those parents aren’t married because black people are unfaithful, or something equally as stupid. However, we use the same term for both.

    If we describe both as “prejudice”, we lose a layer of meaning. The first is pre-judgement; the second is racism. A society that is based the second is institutionalized racism.

    *And by “assumption”, I mean that it’s overridden by facts. Doubting the veracity of specific data because it doesn’t fit the norm (whether your norm is accurate or not) is a fallacy.

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