let’s talk about racism

posted by jroselkim

A while ago I had a great discussion in the comment section of one of the posts by Celine about whether people of colour can be racist – or more precisely, what we mean when we utter the word “racism.” I put the question in the back burner as life got busy, but recently I had a chance to discuss this again with another person. So I ask you, readers: to whom does the word “racism” apply?

I leave you with an excerpt from Beverly Daniel Tatum’s Defining Racism: “Can We Talk?”

Of Course, people of any racial group can hold hateful attitudes and behave in racially discriminatory and bigoted ways. We can all cite examples of horrible hate crimes which have been perpetuated by people of color as well as Whites. Hateful behavior is hateful behavior no matter who does it. But when I am asked, “Can people of color be racist?” I reply, “The answer depends on your definition of racism.” If one defines racism as racial prejudice, the answer is yes. However, if one defines racism as a system of advantage based on race, the answer is no. People of color are not racist because they do not systemically benefit from racism. And equally important, there is no systematic cultural and institutional support or sanction for racial bigotry of people of color. In my view, reserving the term racist only for behaviors committed by Whites in the context of a White-dominated society is a way of acknowledging an ever-present power differential afforded Whites by the culture and institutions that make up the system of advantage and continue to reinforce notions of White superiority.

(thanks to the awesome tumblr “Smash the White Supremacist Capitalist Patriarchy” for bringing the excerpt to my attention)

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2 Comments

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2 responses to “let’s talk about racism

  1. Andrea

    mmm, coming from a non-white dominant society, i do have to say, racism does exist within POC. The question on whether POC who discriminates other POCs would benefit over it, i do have to say… sometimes, mostly in acute settings. I find, different ethnicities sometimes engage in subconscious manner of separating, or may be even demeaning the other race in order to achieve various goals. I think anyone is capable of stereotyping a certain race, and thus having unfounded assumptions about the others.

    However, Tatum did specify a White-dominant society. But this leads me to think about different ethnic communities within.

    • jroselkim

      Coming from a fairly conservative, Korean, and catholic family, I totally agree that racist sentiments exist within POC communities. I guess I do wonder if the binary of white vs. POC should also be expanded a bit, as certain POC groups gain more powers/visibility than others, thus giving them room to have more influence. I also think about Korea (because it’s a system I’m most familiar with after Canada), where Koreans still treat the white “aliens” with a certain kind of deference and respect, thus yielding them the kind of power a typical “POC” group would not have elsewhere.

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