A few days ago, I posted this status update on my Facebook wall:
I was just on the phone with my Nigerian, UK based learned colleague who is a well established immigration lawyer in London, he was upset because a potential Nigerian client just informed him that he wouldn’t be needing his legal services anymore. And the reason? Well, the client’s wife, also a Nigerian, said she does not want a black person to handle their case. Note, she said ‘a black person’, not just a ‘Nigerian’, but a ‘black person’.
Denying anyone employment because of the colour of their skin is actually a crime in UK. If a white person had said this about a black person, it would qualify as racism, but how do one even describe this kind of self hate Persons of Colour throw at fellow Persons of Colour?
I told my friend it was their loss because they just missed out on having a good lawyer take their case, but really, when will black people shed their chains of inferiority complex and emancipate themselves from mental slavery?
I am so tired of hearing Nigerians in UK proudly talk about how they will never employ another Nigerian. They go on and on about a bad experience they or someone they knew once had with a Nigerian employee. With such hateful attitude towards our own, what right have we got to complain when the white person treats us just the way we treat our fellow black persons?
Well, October is black history month, it is time to lose that self hate along with the residual mental slavery!
When I made the post, I was not expecting a debate on ‘reverse racism’ and ‘black on black’ racism. It was basically to draw attention to the self-hate, inferiority complex and prejudice which many of my country men and women are afflicted with. Many have imbibed the belief that their skin colour, culture, gods, brain, accents and everything that is black is inferior. These are effects and byproducts of racism. This kind of attitude or reasoning from fellow black persons, especially Nigerians, just beats me. It tells of a deep seated inferiority complex and self-hatred that the perpetrators do not even know they suffer from.
Racism and self hatred isn’t exactly the same thing. Racism is an institutionalized thing, and it needs an openly or covertly supported power structure to survive. This is basically an internalized case of self hatred and discrimination. Unfortunately it is not a rare thing amongst PoC especially Nigerians.
Unfortunately my white friends on FB who decided to weigh in on the discussion immediately called it racism. They were eager to tell of how they or a white friend they knew once experienced racism from a black person. They eagerly gave examples of how Persons of Colour perpetrate racism on other persons of colour. A female white friend even claimed that she has personally experienced racism by virtue of being married to a black person. She wrote:
If someone hates me because I’m white, I see it as racism, no matter what the person’s race who is discriminating against me. I understand that there are different FORMS of racism, and that this isn’t institutionalized racism, but discriminating against a person because of their RACE is a form. We take others’ prejudiced views and internalize them and make them our own self-hatred. Women practice sexism against other women, and nobody says that isn’t sexism. Please don’t pollute the message for allies by telling us that when we’re discriminated against because of our race (and I have been) that we didn’t experience racism. I’m smart enough to know that I will never feel institutionalized racism in the same way as a darker-skinned person anytime soon in my culture, but I did by marriage, so believe me, I get it. I see nothing wrong with using the term racism to describe someone’s self hatred or discrimination against someone because of their RACE. After all, that attorney wasn’t hired because of race, and nothing more.
All attempts by me and other black persons on the thread to explain that the attorney was not hired not because of race but because of effects of racism, prejudice and inferiority complex, fell on deaf ears. She did apologize unprompted, that her message might have come off as a bit annoying. However, this actually highlights the crux of the matter i.e. many white people get annoyed when told it is impossible for a black person to be racist towards a white person.
A fellow Nigerian tried to explain this in simple terms
….let’s be clear. It is not racism, black people do not possess the institutional ability to establish their oppressive hegemony over another race and develop an ideology to justify this. However certain people of colour are prejudiced, not racist, against others. This is because Capitalism forces all people to compete against each other for scarce resources. In this case, the couple believe that a Caucasian lawyer would be better at representing their case to the Home Office although rumour has it that the best immigration lawyer in London, a chap who has never lost a single case is..wait for it a Nigerian!!!!!!
However another white commenter weighed in:
“I completely disagree on the basis of cultural transmission. Just because black people don’t possess the power of those institutions doesn’t mean they can’t adopt racist attitudes. Arguably that perception of inferiority is what contributes to the difficulty of eliminating racism. I think it is confusion that because the beneficiary of “racism” is the white race that blacks would not facilitate their own oppression. It can’t merely be a situation of self hatred because it is a socially significant perception specifically pertinent to race (not just them or the lawyer) and capability that demands examination.
And the response he got from my Nigerian comrade was:
“I gather you are an American from the Northern part of the continent. And how many black people lynched whites south of the Mason-Dixon line? Blacks may express prejudice against Latinos who are struggling with them for an ever decreasing pool of McJobs, Blacks may express prejudice against Koreans who are the only ones that will set up shop in black ghettos but nowhere in history have blacks had the power, the institutional power to enslave others, get others to work free of charge, appropriate the value of their labour and develop an ideology that states that this is the natural order of things, that it is as natural as Mom and Apple Pie!!!!!
But our white ‘ally’ wouldn’t hear of this, in fact he felt so entitled he shared my status update of a personal experience on his wall with my post link as an example of his imaginary ‘Black on Black racism’. He invited his friends to comment on it, and of course they were quick to gather around to give him the thumbs up, make jokes about how the blacks on my wall who disagreed with their reverse racism theory are in their words “Social Justice Warriors Morons (SJWM)”
It was eerily familiar watching white persons give themselves thumbs up while referring to blacks who disagree with their take on racism as morons, uneducated or not intelligent enough. It is as if their subconscious needed to invent reverse racism and also ‘black on black’ racism to assuage whatever innermost guilt their over privileged white ass feel whenever the subject of Racism comes up. .
Racism just like sexism is prejudice + Power which make it impossible for a race or gender to perpetrate against their race or gender. Contrary to what the female commenter said above, women cannot be sexist towards men or other women. Yes, women can be hostile or practice learned sexism towards other women, just like the ignorant couple I mentioned in my status update perpetrated discrimination against their own race but this cannot qualify as sexism or racism against their kind.
I must emphasize that whether institutionalized or not, all forms of discrimination should be condemned. Also, saying this is not racism or sexism is not in any way saying, this is not as bad as racism or as bad as sexism, the difference is in the definition not necessarily in the severity of action.
PREJUDICE does not equal to POWER or INSTITUTIONAL SUPPORT. Individual instances of discrimination or prejudice does not equates to a whole institutionalized history of an ideology like racism or sexism as this white blogger tried to explain to other whites in this blogpost.
Racism cannot be a substituted word for prejudice, unfair treatment or discrimination. Same goes for sexism. Institutionalized Racism, Systemic Racism, and Institutional/Systemic Sexism all have something in common and that is prejudice, privilege + power.
In social justice terms, marginalized groups cannot be guilty of -isms because they don’t have the power to institutionalize their prejudices. These isms are in a world of their own with unpalatable history. Racism was a legally supported ideology that is now being systematically dismantled albeit too slowly to yield great result.
It is insulting to PoC to compare the many years of racism they suffered and still suffer to the occasional bigotry, prejudice and discrimination persons of Colour sometimes perpetrate against other persons of colour. This is not racism.
It insults the horrible experience of PoC who live and experience systemic racism daily, to reduce the rare case of a PoC discriminating against a white person to racism or as it is called ‘Reverse racism’. There is no such thing as reverse racism.
One important aspect of racism is the institutional support of it. A PoC does not have the power to institutionalize discrimination the way racism was institutionalized.
Black on Black racism is a myth, it is impossible for a person of colour to be racist towards another person of colour. The word racist does not fit the context.
For example, 99% of those who harass me about my Yoruba accent on my YouTube Channel are fellow Nigerians. To them, their local accent is unpleasant and not civilized enough for YouTube videos. Some even go as far as sending me ‘advice’ on how to lose my accent and speak English with a foreign accent.. This is indeed a sad case of Accents and the Tragedy of Self-Hate.
Also, I have witnessed some Race/Bi-racial harassment perpetrated by blacks on some fb groups. One particular irking incident was from an African Atheist group which turned out to be a pseudo Pan Africanist group under the camouflage of Atheism. I watched in disbelief and utter anger as fellow African atheists harassed a bi racial member who disagreed with them. They spouted some prejudiced, bigoted comments at him and mocked him for not being, according to them, African enough. They used derogatory words to describe the fact that he is biracial. I was so angry I called them racists even though I knew it did not fit the context. The sad part was that they actually liked being called racists. In their warped brain, they assumed being called racist gives them a kind of power over a skin colour that to them, represent oppression. I had to burst their bubble and told them they actually lack the power to be racist. I called them just what they were, bigoted, prejudiced, ignoramus bullies.
Yes, there are times we feel racist is the strong, immediately recognizable word to use, but this cannot be appropriated to fit our anger, disdain or dislike of an action. Racism operates in a particular Prejudice, Power, Privilege, Institutionalized and historical context. We can’t change this fact to suit our needs. If we are so in need of an emotive, stronger, easily recognized word to describe the kind of harassment, discrimination, prejudice or bigotry spew by small minds, we might just have to invent a new word and that word cannot have racism in it as a qualifier.
Racism is not some unpleasant incident individuals experience once in a while. Racism is one long unpleasant history and continued present experience of PoC in the hands of the other. i.e. the privileged colour. Non institutionalized, non systemic individual experiences or perpetration of discrimination is not racism. Let no one, and I mean no one trivialize the meaning of racism. Racism is not about opinions; it is the lived experience of Persons of Colour.
Not everyone, including persons of colour, understands that for it to be an ‘isms’ all the elements must be present i.e. Prejudice + Privilege + Power= Racism/Sexism. This is why discussions on race inevitably leads to a white person jumping on a thread to complain about that one time they were shoved by a black person because of their skin colour and bingo, they have experienced Racism. Very laughable!
This white definition of Racism makes them feel good and also allows the privileged colour i.e. whites, play ‘Racism’ victim once in a while.
Some probably understand what we are saying, the problem is that they want to use the word RACISM to describe the once in a while bigotry, prejudice or retaliation they face from Persons of Colour who have an axe to grind based on what the White Skin colour represents or evokes.
To these set of white people, prejudice, bigotry, harassment or discrimination seems not strong enough to describe their hurt feelings, ruffled feathers or the stripping away of parts of their privilege. When confronted with such actions, RACISM is the word they crave to describe such incidents. It is as if they so very much need a reason to exclaim: “Yeah, anyone can be racist, look at me, I am a white person and a black person was just racist towards me!”
Maybe they use this to assuage a subconscious guilt about the past and the daily racism Persons of Colour are subjected to. White persons must understand that they do not get to redefine the term Racism to suit their ego. Racism is not a term we glorify; it is a term with unpalatable history, memories and uncomfortable present for PoC. Appropriating the word to comfort your ruffled feathers is insulting to the real victims of racism.
I did stress on my FB post that I wouldn’t be going into lengthy debate on Racism because there are papers and bloggers that have done justice debunking Reverse Racism and explained the difference between RACISM as an institutionalized ideology, and Non Institutionalized discrimination. In fact there are reasons why I don’t want to talk about Race especially on Facebook.
There was this incident during the 2011 London riots where many stores were set ablaze and looted by angry youths. I was glad that my teenage son was away during the police backlash; I would be scared to let him go out on the streets for fear of being rounded up just based on the colour of his skin. I remember an episode during the outbreak when I wanted to go out wearing my hooded leather jacket, I took one look at myself in the mirror and said “NO, wrong timing, wrong jacket, wrong skin colour, wrong city”. I had to change my hooded jacket because I knew it wasn’t a wise idea for a black person to be seen in a hooded jacket during a riot situation, not when the police were out looking for scapegoats.
I said as much on my facebook wall and not surprisingly, my white friends on FB immediately protested that my post was not fair. I asked them if for a minute they would have felt like I did about a hooded jacket in a riot situation. Being singled out for scrutiny because of the colour of their skin is not their experience.
- Whites are not used to being stopped and frisked because of the colour of their skin.
- Whites are not used to being keenly watched in shops by security because of the colour of their skin.
- Whites are hardly bothered about making sure their hands are visible all the time while shopping in supermarkets. .
- Whites hardly experience that sinking feeling in the stomach as blacks do when they have to open their handbag in a fancy shop. Many blacks know that fiddling inside their handbag in a shop is a sure way of attracting suspicion.
- My white friends are probably not aware that tickets officers flood black populated areas in London but hardly ever flood white populated areas. When I step out of a train station, I can immediately tell by the numbers of ticket checkers if I am in a black or white populated area.
- My indignant white friends probably did not know or just didn’t care that when school kids plan to shoplift, the white teenagers use their black friends as diversions, while the white kids do the shoplifting. Those kids already understand that the black school teenagers would be the ones under serious surveillance because of their skin colour and in case of any eventuality, would be the first ones to be searched. Most often than not, this trick works.
I was sad when told about this diversionary tactic during a workshop on race relations by those who have actually participated in the trickery. Children do learn from the society and wise ones learn to use the strengths and weaknesses of the society to their advantage. Maybe my white friends can easily dismiss this as just teenage pranks, but the implications of it were enough to move me to tears.
Needless to say their lack of empathy or lack of ability to have the fears I had about going out in hooded jacket because of my skin colour does not in any way invalidate my feelings and it does not remove the fact that racism is the key cause of this fear. Their white Skin is a privilege that protects them from these racial discrimination experiences but not checking their privilege is what makes them quick to assert that these fears are unfounded.
When People of Colour talk about Racism, it would do well for the privileged Skin colour to listen and learn. You can’t be an ally when all you are eager to do is redefine the word to put you in the picture as a victim.
BTW, it is OK if you disagree with me, I can’t force you to be right. 🙂