Sunday, August 15, 2010

More stuff that I think I should have already posted about but haven't: Racism

Inspired by an exchange on Tumblr....  Written to a white commenter who was giving Jane Doe #225 a headache...

Racism is privilege + power; it is a STRUCTURE.

(Yes, this is the definition/framework of racism that I use/work with/think about).

So, because that STRUCTURE is culture wide you (and me!), as a white person, enjoy certain privileges.

Does that make you, a white person (like me, a white person) "a racist"?

IN THIS CONTEXT, it really depends on your place in society.

First: Do you have prejudices against people of color based on their race (our more common understanding of what makes someone "A Racist" which personally I think is nonsensical...more on that below...)?

Second: Do you have the power to ENFORCE those prejudices? No? Then no, in this context there is NO basis to decide you are A Racist. If the answer is yes, and you DO enforce your prejudiced beliefs, then YES, YES YOU ARE A Racist.

Now if, as I suspect, what you're really stuck on are *the things you believe or think in your head* then...and this is where anti-racists so often lose people but I'm going to take a stab at it anyway....racism is a STRUCTURE, we LIVE in it, and are SOCIALIZED by it, which means we absorb the tropes (or, stereotypes, or ideas, whatever word you like) of racism AS NORMAL, AS TRUE.

And so...racist beliefs get in our heads.

So yeah, the likelihood is, you believe some racist shit. Just like I have/do.

This is why, what we think alone, doesn't make sense to make us A Racist, because...we all have some of that, and, so, that definition doesn't actually tell us anything...

For me, what makes someone A Racist all depends on what you do with this stuff in your head. Do you see it for what it is? Do you recognize your own racism and *reject it*? Do you recognize (or at least try to...) the social structures which perpetuate racism? Do you *stand up to them* when you see them?  Do you try, in whatever capacity you are able, to not let them perpetuate?

Or do you just go about your life telling people of color "I made it so can you" (bootstraps bootstraps bootstraps...)? Or denying that you have white privilege because you recognize the class privilege you lack (a really common conflation in my experience) and say stupid shit like "my white privilege never did anything for me!" as a result?

When it comes down to the bottom line...who do you stand with? The structure? Or people of color?
Who/what do you take the time to defend and protect with your words and actions? 

These are the way more important questions in determining just how racist you are, or are not.