I have an issue with the statement: “Black people and or POC cannot be racist.”
Before you roll your eyes and write me off, let me explain why.
The definition of racism is a TWO part definition and for that reason there lies in the problem.
Yes, Black people and POC can hold the belief that their race is superior.
But this issue is that we do not have the power construct to inflict and oppress upon others that belief system. White people have the power to do that, we do not.
Any aggression or violence enacted by a POC to non-POC is on an individual level, not systemic, and would be quickly thwarted by police, unlike the reverse where little to no justice comes for us.
But the problem is there are people of the belief that half of that definition cannot and is not enacted by Black or POC people.
I belief that half of the definition is significant, but to others, if it doesn’t meet both parts then it doesn’t qualify as racist.
Some will also argue that the trauma of oppression justifies those feelings as an act of mental, emotional, psychological protection and survival. People are just so hurt, they are turning to hatred as a means to feel better about themselves. I think that’s incredibly sad and unhealthy. So much potential energy and talent is being wasted on dissing the White man when you could be using that time to do something great for your own community.
In a discussion I had with a friend, I pointed out a situation in which Black people were in a position of power. This was not systemic power, but it was a POC vs. Black situation at an HBCU.
My HBCU recently got a mass influx of Asian students from China and South Korea. There were Black students who felt very threatened by that because they came to an HBCU for a Black Utopia, and our school was getting more diverse each year. We did lack in Latino students, but we were about 25% White when I graduated.
At first glance you would not know by looks alone that DSU is an HBCU but that’s not what HBCU stands for. It stands for HISTORICALLY Black College and University.
It irked me so much that the students were acting this way. I needed to remember however that some of the students were coming from homogeneous communities and schools, all of them did not have the outsider experience.
I was coming directly from a traumatic experience at a PWI so I felt a lot of sympathy and mercy for the incoming diverse students. I saw myself in them. They were lost, scared and really struggled to culturally and linguistically adjust. The Asian students only knew about White American culture, so now they had to learn a culture within a culture, Black American culture, which is very different.
As an ESL teacher, I assisted them in learning some AAVE (African American Vernacular) *not a fan of that term but using it for the purpose of understanding* Ebonics and slang basically. I felt like I was really making a difference and a lot of them were very shy about meeting people but desperately wanted to make American friends.
People on both sides made assumptions about the other. Many Black kids would say that they Asian kids were talking about them when they spoke in their native tongue. There were kids who said they were sneaky or that they would cheat in class with their friends and whisper in Chinese and Korean.
It’s not that none of this was true for some. I know for a fact some of the students did those things, so those complaints are valid, but they aren’t valid as overarching generalizations.
The Asian kids wanted to make friends but were so insecure about their English lack of proficiency that they would avoid encounters altogether. Sometimes I’d watch Asian students attempt to start a conversation and then awkwardly stand there in silence because they did not know how to respond.
There were Black kids that simply took offense to this or saw it as incredibly strange and stand offish.
There are those who would say, this is simply a case of prejudice, not racism. For some of the students, that was the issue, but trust me, every HBCU has it’s hoteps, N.O.I. and Black Nationalists.
There was a march protest assembled with a flier and a Black Fist that said “Keep our HBCU’s Black!”
It was a big scandal. News crews were present, a professor was tased. It was a huge mess. Various reasons were stated for why this protest happened but one of them was that the incoming international students were supposedly getting more assistance than the original Black students for whom the school was made to assist.
If that is true, I understand their ire, if it is not true, then shame on them for creating such a stir based on rumor.
However I witnessed Black students who were NOT studying and NOT putting forth their best efforts and then becoming increasingly jealous of rewards of academia given to the Asian students who did.
I celebrate Black excellence, not Black mediocrity.
Anyway, I say all that to say that during this time, I witnessed some POC on POC crime. There were many cultural and linguistic clashes between the Asians and Blacks but there were also friendships and even some relationships formed out of this exchange.
A multicultural organization that I created called UNITE offered an English hour space for the International students to attend a non-judgmental safe space to practice listening and speaking English among potential friends.
I also created that group due to the rising tensions on campus. I felt it was more than necessary as DSU began to diversify.
I know that this is solely my opinion, and I could later reflect and say, nah, I was wrong, that’s not a proper example of racism and that’s fine.
For now however I do believe that the way the Asians were treated there, was all too reminiscent of how I felt at Etown College, a PWI.
Perhaps it was more so a projection of my own trauma. I remember thinking to myself how I needed someone to save me then, and I wanted to save myself then too. Helping the Asian students, it made me feel like I was saving myself in a way and the experiences with them healed me.
For many reasons I have felt like I have lived and in-between life of being too Black for the White kids and too White for the Black kids and definitely with my multicultural affinity, being too un-American.
In college I gravitated to the International students like honey. I had many very positive encounters with them and most of them fully embraced me and elevated me. Many recommended me for English assistance and they complimented me often.
I learned a lot from them and they listened to what I had to say for hours. They asked me many questions and I felt extremely valued by them. When Whites and Blacks would brush me off it was the Asian Internationals students and the Latino Student Association that would fully include me.
That’s why i think it’s important not to judge people on the surface. If anyone ever saw my actions or my friends and thought, “She doesn’t like or hang out with her own people, she’s a traitor.” I’d reply, “I stay with who values me, if I felt valued by my Black peers, I’d hang with my Black peers, if I shared more common interests with them, I’d be with them.”
It’s not that I had no Black friends, but most the people at DSU are from a specific population. They share a common background and common interests that I do not share. The good thing about HBCU’s is that there is a much higher chance of meeting different kinds of Black people because there are so many there. DSU has been imporving in recent years and is raising it’s standards. Back when I attended it was still in it’s “Party School” stages. It’f far from that now.
Anyway I say all this to say that there are individual situations in which POC may have power in a certain space and openly inflict what I would call “half of the definition of racism” upon an individual or group.
If I enter a Chinese restaurant and the “racist” or if you prefer to say prejudice Chinese people refuse to serve Blacks, what is that situation?
Same thing for a Mexican restaurant? Or a soul food restaurant that won’t serve Whites?
If it’s based in the idea that race or ethnic group is inferior then I would call that “half racism” because it includes the superiority part but lacks the systemic power part.
I totally understand why there needs to be a distinction because a mass systemic oppression is far more heinous that an individual infraction.
Apart from that, Whites have protection in those situations. Blacks or POC attacking Whites has far greater consequences than the reverse. Whites in general do not have to live in fear of attacks with no justice being served swiftly after.
Example: The disabled man who was attacked by those four Black teens.
But I digress, my point has been made, make of it what you will.
I would say that yes I believe that POC can be racist or more specifically “half racist” and hold beliefs of racial superiority without the systemic power construct however in some unique situaions, such as an HBCU or space where POC are the ruling majority, then they do have some power in that situation to oppress one another.