“Why Can’t Black People Be Racist?”: A Brief Primer on White Supremacy.


Dear The Domestic Terrorist:

Greetings. Thanks for linking to and quoting my post, “‘Is Kanye the New O.J. ?'”, from my blog, Media Assassin, in your post about Kanye West and Taylor Swift, “Much Ado About Kanye.” I enjoyed your writing.

In your piece, however, I couldn’t help but notice the following excerpt:

Where Mr. Allen lost me (well, he never really had me but I was going in with an open mind since I highly respect the person who referred me to his article), was when he spewed forth this nonsense:

My ongoing call, however, is for non-white people to develop an understanding of race that is meticulous, logical, and systematic. Racism has a sole, functional expression: White supremacy. Racism is not historical. It’s futuristic. It is not going away. It is being refined. It is weaponized through deceit, secrecy, and violence, in that order. It’s chief tools are not clubs, bullets, or nooses, but words.

Now here I almost agreed with him, save for this line: Racism has a sole, functional expression: White supremacy.

Seriously?  You’re kidding, right, Hank? … I had to read it two or three times to really understand what this man was trying to say, and folks, he almost fooled me.

At the end of the day, Mr. Allen throws us a whole boatload of $50 words, but his insinuation that only white people are racist is, in fact, highly suspect at best, and racist at worst.

It’s so outrageous to claim that racism is a white-only problem that I’m not even going to comment on it.

Instead, I’ll simply offer a sampling, with commentary, of OTHER tweets I discovered in a very brief, unscientific, cursory 30 minute search.

Had Mr. Allen wanted to present an honest, fair, and balanced assessment of what’s happening on Twitter with regard to Kanye and racism, he’d have done well to include these:

kanye-west-and-taylor-swift-pic-getty-image-1-364547169Then, you list a large number of tweets by Black people, using the so-called “N-word,” threatening white people over the Kanye West controversy, right, etc.

Now, I don’t know why you call me “Hank.” My name is Harry. Thanks for these thoughts, though, and I should be clear: It’s not my practice, as anyone whose read MEDIA ASSASSIN even briefly might notice, to either second-guess our commenters, or other bloggers, who disagree with me. I typically do not even reply, because, to me, after I’ve spoken and expressed my opinion, others should be able to do the same.

I’ve cited your text, however, because a significant number of the nearly 200 comments we’ve received on the Kanye piece—as I write this, I’ve put up only about 120 of them—raised a similar objection: “How can you say only white people are racist when Black people do racist things, also?”

dictionaryBecause of that, I have to ask you to forgive me if the section that you quoted, by me, above, was unclear, or tended toward exaggeration. (Indeed, the part that most stung was your remark about “$50 words,” right. I so try to speak very simply when talking about race, and will work harder to do so.)

As well, what I’ve said may be incorrect, all of it. Also, I’ve been told, mostly by my longsuffering wife, that I frequently say things that people don’t initally understand, or that they think sound crazy. So your response is not unusual.

I’ll try and address it, now, but must do so very tentatively. You see, today, I’m leaving town for a lecture I’m giving in Baltimore MD, at Morgan State University’s Carl J. Murphy Fine Arts Center Recital Hall.

t_la_rock_300e28094lo-res1This evening, at 7:30 pm, I’ll be presenting a series of hip-hop photographs I made in the early 1980s. They’re mostly of the people who would become the band Public Enemy, and their production arm, the Bomb Squad. There are other subjects, though, like this image of rapper T La Rock, right, so its a good mix. It’s similar to the lecture I gave at the University of Iowa this past April. As well, I’ll be visiting other schools and universities this year, in order to show these classic, mostly black & white images. I’m looking forward to doing so, as I am to meeting the students, staff, and faculty of Morgan State.

But, to your protest: In short, when I say that racism has a sole, functional expression—or as I usually say, a sole, functional form—white supremacy, what I mean is that white supremacy is a more powerful, effective, and dominant kind of mistreatment than, apparently, any other yet devised by people.

So, to make a very limited example, Black kids and white kids may both call each other horrible names. This is true. I know this. (Indeed, many of the people responding to “‘Is Kanye the New O.J. ?'” have said this, and also found my statement outrageous.)

coverstory24So we’re agreed here. But, here’s my point: In the end, when it’s time to go to school, the Black kids—if they’re lucky—are taught by white teachers, about white concerns. Mostly.

By this, I don’t mean white teachers are “better” than Black teachers…or that they’re not. I’m simply saying that schools which have a lot of white teachers tend to be “better,” right, than ones with a lot of Black teachers. Mostly.

Following, when the Black kids need jobs, they tend to go work for, or report to, the white kids’ dads and uncles; i.e., other white people. Mostly.

If their bones are broken, or their stomachs hurt, they go to hospitals administered by white people, and are attended to by white people, or by people trained by them, and/or in their ways of doing medicine. Mostly.

If they work hard and decide they want buy a home, the Black kids will probably go talk to a white person, below, or a person who answers to white people, about a mortgage. Mostly.

But, in all of these situations, the reverse is not true.

banker300pxIn other words, white kids are not likely to be taught by Black teachers, to have to ask Black people for jobs, or to press any Black folks for mortgages. Ever.

Now, why would that be?

I say it’s because white supremacy is dominant.

In fact, it’s so dominant that any system on Earth that does the opposite—that compels white kids to go to schools with Black teachers, ask Black guys for jobs, and pull for mortages from Black financiers—is so inferior, miniscule, and of such limited range it doesn’t even have a name, or a location.

That is, you’d be hard-pressed, right this second, to tell me where it is, or where white people live like this. However, you can find places like the one I’ve described if you just close your eyes, throw a rock in the air, and follow wherever it lands.

onion_news1663This fact leads directly back to the name-calling, by the way: In an arrangement, such as the one I’ve described, it’s only the white name-calling that has any real weight. Because, under it, if a white person decides you’re a nigger, then they can make it hard going for you.

However, if a Black person decides you’re a cracker, sure, it’s unpleasant. But the chances that they will be able to affect your life in any reasonably serious way—in the ways I’ve described, above—is almost nil.

So, this is why I say white supremacy is the only functional form of racism; the only kind that actually works.

cronulla_wideweb__470x3130Most white people think of racism, or race—I use the terms interchangeably—as harsh feelings and sounds; in a sensory way. They do this, because, to them, that’s when racism becomes most apparent. That’s when they notice it. Hence, when white kids see Black kids doing “the same things” that, when they do it, gets called racism, they think, that’s racist, too.

In fact, though, a more useful way to think of race, or a more functional way, is as field; as a context where certain kinds of outcomes are likely; i.e., ones that “favor,” or “empower” white people, and “power-less” non-white people.

Now, this is a very simple example, above; really just a thought experiment. However, if one is serious about it, one can sit down and, with pencil and paper, come up with, literally, millions of similar examples and scenarios that reveal the practical dominance of whiteness, or, again, white supremacy.

However, I repeat: I could be wrong about all of this, and probably am.

What are your thoughts?

I welcome your, and anyone else’s, response.

Harry Allen
Hip-Hop Activist & Media Assassin



#1 Justin Boland on 09.17.09 at 10:20 am

The reason I did a double-take on that line is because you made it sound like it was an Earth statement. It’s not. It’s a United States statement. Here in this country, I’d agree with you.

Adding the caveat that you’re talking about America, and you’re not pretending the only two races or instances of racism on Earth involve white people and black people who speak English, would have shocked people less.

#2 Don on 09.17.09 at 10:28 am

I think you’re right. I’m a white guy and I can’t help but see a lot of truth in what you’re saying. I notice it everytime I go to a stock photography website (i’m a designer) and search for any type of photos. If I don’t type in black, or african-american then you better believe the first few pages of results will at best have 1 black person/family in a photo. However, I can only hope that you are wrong about racism being, “…futuristic. It is not going away. It is being refined. It is weaponized through deceit, secrecy, and violence, in that order. It’s chief tools are not clubs, bullets, or nooses, but words.”

Don’t get me wrong, I agree, it’s chief tool is words but god I hope one day it goes away.

#3 kent williams on 09.17.09 at 10:42 am

Thanks for cutting through the crap, Harry. I might be white but it makes my teeth hurt every time I hear white people whining about being discriminated against, or black racism. You’d think Jeremiah Wright had been taking away white folks’ lunch money for years when those videos surfaced last year during the presidential campaign.

Exhibit A from my own town (Iowa City!) — peep this editorial from our local, crapulent Gannet newpaper


I read that and my jaw dropped. Someone actually got to print, in the paper, the sort of xenophobic grumbling I’d been hearing around town ever since of black folks started moving here from Chicago. For the local paper to implicitly endorse this point of view is sad.

#4 Craig S on 09.17.09 at 10:45 am

I still feel as a white person that it is a double standard. As a white person I have no control of being white, or where I grew up. Yet if I say something considered racist I’m the most evil person in the world and a supremist. Yet if a black person says it, it’s a comedy routine. I also feel that no matter what color you are we all have biases and prejudice. Again NO MATTER WHAT COLOR YOU ARE. So even though I’ve never oppressed anyone or even consciously felt superior, I’m an evil racist who should be shunned from society if I say something ” racist”?

#5 BaddaDanU on 09.17.09 at 10:47 am

Another point worth mentioning is the typical resentment (and at times vehement/violent opposition) that results on those occasions when whites do find themselves having to answer to people of color. Or in some cases, simply bearing witness to Black people prospering without showing deference to any white authority figures is enough to draw their ire.

In my experience it’s practically inevitable that this happens and plots of sabotage or retribution often follow.

#6 Andre Melvin Jones Jr on 09.17.09 at 10:53 am

(The red is a nice touch, by the way)

In response to your article I have the following to offer: It’s funny you composed this article on THIS particular matter because just recently a friend of mine pointed out to me, too, that Black people CANNOT be racist because of White Supremacy. Initially, I was bemused. Then it began sinking in. Racism in itself was engineered by White people. Black people didn’t approach White people and say \inferior\. Neither did the Native Americans. Or the Chinese. Or any other non-Keltic group. It was the other way around. So, Mr. Allen, when you say: \Racism has a sole, functional expression: White supremacy. Racism is not historical. It’s futuristic. It is not going away. It is being refined. It is weaponized through deceit, secrecy, and violence, in that order. It’s chief tools are not clubs, bullets, or nooses, but words\ I’m in total congruence with that statement.

If Black people are racist, mostly, it’s validated, i.e., picking the black kid over the white kid in a basketball game because of skill. I think we can agree that Blacks or predominantly superior in the sport, same with dancing. It’s rare that a Black person will turndown, however, a white person for a job or business partnership. If anything, Black people seek after Whites in such scenarios! Vehemently even!

We’re a cooperative race, when we want to be, and like I said, our expression of racism, mostly, IS VALIDATED. Kanye West being a nigger (as-an-insult) because he improperly addressed his malcontent with MTV because of their inability to acknowledge GOOD, FAR SUPERIOR hip-hop music, talent, and art for so many years IS NOT VALIDATED.

#7 eddie m. on 09.17.09 at 10:54 am

Very quickly, how much do you believe the words posted above tie in with Charles Mills’ (of UIC) idea of the Racial Contract, if at all? just a thought thats been nagging me.

#8 Seaniemo on 09.17.09 at 11:17 am

Yes blacks can be racist!!! Yes blacks are racist!!! And forget how they do the white man…look at how they do each other. Read my post on “The Official Me in Me (www.theofficialmeinme.com)

#9 sungoddess on 09.17.09 at 11:19 am

I live in Barbados currently, and recently got into a back and forth with a Bajan white guy, who was very pleased to tell me that he had mixed national ancestry (including Jewish), and couldn’t understand why a local radio announcer pronounced a visiting Disney Mickey Mouse ‘magic’ show, with it’s all white cast, should not be attended by the largely Black Barbadian public.

We went back and forth, back and forth, and I couldn’t explain to him why the radio announcer was not racist. I wish I had seen this then, because quite frankly, this is what I wish I could have said, but am glad you did.

#10 Andrew on 09.17.09 at 11:24 am

There’s a very large definitional and social differences between “white supremacy” and “cultural hegemony,” which is I think what you’re really referring to here. I know hegemony is another $50 word, but hegemony doesn’t carry the racial charge that supremacy does.

And racism is an important negative aspect of cultural hegemony — no matter who the dominant and minority cultures are. Travel to Japan as a non-Japanese, for instance, and you’ll experience racism no matter what color you are. A mistrust or hatred of “other” is a common theme wherever more than one culture or race exists.

#11 Nick on 09.17.09 at 11:29 am

I think you brought up a lot of good points, but isn’t an explanation also that white people make up 65-70% of the population. I agree that we need more diversity and that racism isn’t just the overt hatred that is evident to all. However, I don’t think that the answer is as simple as saying white supremacy dominates. The massive number of white people compared to Black people, 200,000,000 to 40,000,00, contributes to this phenomenon as well. Thank you for this interesting and thought provoking article.

#12 elise.anne on 09.17.09 at 11:45 am

Yes. Preach, Harry, you brave soul. In addition…

Racism = prejudice + power.

I know it is hard, fellow young white folks, to think that the “bygone days” of our country’s history and past have anything to do with our us or our peers and the stupid things we say or do. I.e. Kayla from the tweets, says she is not racist, just thinks everyone is stupid equally and calls everyone out with their applicable racist slurs.

The difference is that Kayla has a certain social power over people of color simply because of her skin color, because of the way our nation operates and was set up to operate. Back in the day racism was real true-blue and easy to see – you know, the things that come to your mind when you hear that word now, that you would never do, etc.

But it set up a system that favors white people and suppresses people of color. For example legal housing discrimination was eliminated only about 40 yrs ago. Your parents (at least mine) were in late elementary or teen years then. So it wasn’t that long ago. And we still feel the effects.

So when a white person says n***** or all those other racially motivated words, they are essentially “putting them in their place”, with or without consciously thinking it. “Who are you, person of color, to do/say/act that to me/him/her? You can’t do that, person of color.”

In reverse, when a person of color calls a white person out, in overall society, that person has no power. Sure, they could be prejudiced. Everyone is to different extents. But they don’t have the power in society to back it up, the systems that keep the white person on the out. (Exceptions being in micro situations i.e. people of color majority contexts, but even then, white person has the society as a whole externally backing them up).


#13 Christina on 09.17.09 at 11:48 am

I think black people can be racist. Absolutely. I’ve heard black folks say things that can only be described as hatred towards whites. I myself am a black woman and I know a lot (if not all) of the racism comes from our history in America. But that still doesn’t negate the fact that blacks can be racist. Racist against each other and against other races, not just “whitey.”

And when you talked about white supremacy, I think it was misinterpreted as KKK white supremacy, not white dominance, as in they run pretty much everything.

Also, why do you only capitalize Black and not white? Is there a blog about that somewhere that I didn’t read?

#14 yasmine on 09.17.09 at 11:51 am

Mr. Allen (not Hank!),

I appreciate your willingness to theorize, clarify, and expound, all the while, maintaining a humble written persona.

With regard to the \sole function\ of racism being \white supremacy\: I vaguely recall mention of there being no such environment on earth where white people go to black people to engage in the basic activites of life. A native californian, I have been living in atlanta, ga, for over a year. Every job I have interviewed for, every superior I have had, every banker I have consulted with, and every law enforcement officer I have dealt, every attorney, every business affiliate, anyone in any position important to my progression or success has been black. I do not have children of my own, so I cannot speak on the local education system. But it wasn’t until I read your piece that these facts even crossed my mind. Sure, the system here may be a souther white system set up by good ol boys, I cannot be certain, but it appears that black people have ample control, at least at a publicly visible level.

This information isn’t presented here as an argument to your assertion, just as a little food for thought. As a minority on a local as well as national level (I’m iranian), I’ve heard more racist comments made to me about my ethnic and national identity here in atlanta (by black men only) than I hade ever heard in the significantly more diverse environment of la. Granted, historically and statistically. black men haven’t had it so good, bt the racist attitudes revealed to me are the same held by whites.. white people, in general, seem less inclined to speak on these subjects, however, and more prone to avoiding people like me altogether.

\Towelhead\, \sand n***a\, \terrorist\, and statements like \shouldn’t you be in a cave somewhere building a bomb?\ are among the many expressions I’ve heard made by the aformentioned men here in atlanta. Does this kind of ignorance prevent me from being whole? Do these attitudes impede my progression? At thee airport, yes. In life, I’m not sure. Id have to interview other iranians in a similar position.

On another topic.. with regard to your \kanye..O.J.\ piece: what exactly is being proven? How many ignorant, white trash country fans hide behind their shroud to twitter to express their archaic feelings about people with more melanin? We knew they’d crawl out of their trailers and say some shit. Thos responses were expected. Dumb white people are predictable. (I understand how elitist thes comments may sound, I have little tolerance for the examples of base subhuman intolerance you highlighted from various. Twitter pages.) My facebook post Monday morning read \k***e w**t has succeeded, yet again. In playing the fk out of himself and alienating another population. Unfortunately this time, it was the ever unforgiving and notoriously race exclusive country music set.. his annual award antics will lead a particulart group to feel further justified in their disdain for hip hop, and more importantly, black people. \George bush dosent care…\ was fantastic, but your unconventional and inappropriate outcries have long since been on a downhill journey, mr. West.\

#15 Dan Bull on 09.17.09 at 11:58 am

I have to admit I was confused when I saw the line ‘Racism has a sole, functional expression: White supremacy’.

Around the world there are examples of institutionalised racism perpetrated by non-whites – one instance being Mugabe’s Zimbabwe.

On a smaller level, racism is not restricted to mere name-calling, nor is it restricted to friction between whites and other ethnic groups – see the targeting of Koreans in the 1992 LA riots.

So while your assertion may be broadly true, it seems inflammatory or poor worded. I guess the real sentiment is ‘the current white hegemony means that white racism has far more power than any other form.’

Less pithy but less misleading also.

#16 iheard3 on 09.17.09 at 12:23 pm


Yo Harry, are we that type . . . “Don’t Believe The Hype!”

#17 Legion - The Domestic Terrorist on 09.17.09 at 12:56 pm

Thank you, kind sir, for the reply and the discourse. As usual an informing and enlightening article. More for your thought located in my formal reply.


#18 KGC on 09.17.09 at 1:25 pm

Thank you, Harry Allen, for distilling the nature of white supremacy down to it’s most readily apparent and easily understandable level. Personally, your explanations lighten my heart because I was on the verge of trying to write something similar to disseminate, but I can’t write nearly as well (as good?) as you. Keep speaking truth to power, bro!

#19 Studio Mysteries on 09.17.09 at 2:01 pm

“My ongoing call, however, is for non-white people to develop an understanding of race that is meticulous, logical, and systematic. Racism has a sole, functional expression: White supremacy. Racism is not historical. It’s futuristic. It is not going away. It is being refined. It is weaponized through deceit, secrecy, and violence, in that order. It’s chief tools are not clubs, bullets, or nooses, but words.”

Harry, I never cease to be amazed by A) your infinite patience with all the things you have to educate and debate people about, OVER and OVER and OVER again, and B) by the level of your commitment to this frustrating and laborious job.

I completely agree with and see your point about the profound, systemic, omnipresent nature of white racism in the last 500 years, today and looking pretty effing likely in the near future. It is, as you said, effective, powerful and merciless.

I think where a lot of other people stumble is this point here: “Racism has a sole, functional expression: White supremacy.” I would simply add the word “white” at the start of the sentence, and the reason I would do it is that I believe two things. No, wait, three.
1. There is such a thing as evil and it is the job of every single human being to grapple with its nature and decide whether they want to commit it or oppose it.
2. People commit acts of evil in many forms and contexts. Their *capacity* to do so is omnipresent and omnidirectional.
3. Every culture and every civilization is capable of racism and has had some form of it, because people cannot ever get enough of wielding power over other people, on every conceivable ground and very frequently on the ground of physical type and ethnicity.

White racism is and has been one of the most powerful and most-perpetrated forms of racism in human history. It has affected more people in sheer numbers than any other groups who have had to suffer it. I think that’s a very important thing to recognize and I think your argument for this recognition is strong and clear.

It’s a mistake to dismiss the fact that white racism is the way racism is playing out right now, and all the ways in which it’s leading the dubious race (pun unintended) of who can fuck up everybody else the most.

I think it’s also a mistake to state, even implicitly, that white supremacy is the only way racism has ever played out or can be played out. I don’t think people are reliable enough to leave it up to them to recognize that if white racism collapses, other equally ugly forms of racism won’t take its place. People truly cannot get enough of this crap, at least thus far in the species evolution.

Human beings are absolute bastards and must be watched closely at all times, *wherever* and *whenever* unequal power distribution is involved, in macro- and micro-social contexts alike.

From what you are saying, it’s pretty clear that for a Black person at present, that means “daily, 24/7”.

So maybe I would also add to your statement with “Racism as it is being practiced today, in the industrialized nations AND globally, has a sole, functional expression: White supremacy.”

“White supremacy is a more powerful, effective, and dominant kind of mistreatment than, apparently, any other yet devised by people”

I think what you are saying is that it’s the most powerful, effective and dominant SYSTEMIC mistreatment. I can see an oppression olympics queue forming in response to what you are saying as phrased above, because every Holocaust survivor and battered woman can take umbrage with the hierarchy of suffering the statement implies – my guess is, unintentionally.

It’s remarkable how much thought and precision has to go into discussing all this stuff, because so much is at stake for everyone in the conversation.

Hope you come to Canada as a lecturer some time.

#20 Studio Mysteries on 09.17.09 at 2:16 pm

P.S. Rereading my comment, I’m concerned that I sound as if I am grading or correcting you. It wasn’t my intention! Dammit, I wish I could edit a comment once it’s submitted.

#21 Miss Tee on 09.17.09 at 3:43 pm

Harry, loved your post. I actually thought the passage that was so confusing to the respondent was the most poignant . “Racism is not historical. It’s futuristic.” Brilliant!! Part of the problem of racial discourse today is that people associate white supremacy with vigilante racism expressed through the KKK, skinheads, burning crosses and such, but don’t understand white supremacy as a system that permeates all areas of society to which all people, including people of color, also subscribe to. That passage was crystal clear. The person’s response made me think of the boo The Racial Contract, by Charles Mills. A great read on understanding white supremacy and racism. Racism is rooted in modernity, western expansion, slavery and colonialism and white supremacy is its logic. Thanks Hank! I mean Harry. 🙂

#22 Anthony J. on 09.17.09 at 4:16 pm

Alright, I see the point you are getting at when you use the word ‘functional’ before racism. The thought process you have of racism is when one can be oppressed. But racism in the sense of judging someone based on skin color alone is completely doable by any person.

#23 Naomi on 09.17.09 at 4:50 pm

For more examples, one can refer to “Unpacking The Invisible Knapsack” by Peggy McIntosh…a link to an HTML version here: http://www.amptoons.com/blog/files/mcintosh.html

She says at the beginning of her essay: “I was taught to see racism only in individual acts of meanness, not in invisible systems conferring dominance on my group”

Which, as Mr. Allen also points out, is a key conceptualization for white people to reach. It doesn’t mean there aren’t other forms of racism happening or that white people are the only racists.

#24 real on 09.17.09 at 5:28 pm

I believe that much of what a person does with his or her life is determined by their motivation to better themselves. For AA there is affirmative action in many contract awards, there are full college scholarships to many universities, there are many free training programs in all fields, free child care is available if it is needed and the list just goes on and on. As they say, you can take a horse to water but you can’t make it drink. In the past, AA were limited in what they could do to better their lives. Now doors fling open and it has been that way since the early 1960’s at least. The family breakdown has lead to AA decline and standard of living, not lack of opportunity.

#25 alovelace1815 on 09.17.09 at 6:30 pm

To say racism can only go one way is absurd, if not racist in itself. Some define racism as discriminatory action against others, some say you must have some sort of power to back it up – isn’t it racist then to assume black people can’t have power? Heck, I would even argue you can be racist against yourself if you’re someone who thinks badly about your own race.

Some white kids do grow up in neighborhoods where they are the minority, where their teachers are minorities, and their bosses are minorities. Just because you’re white doesn’t mean you have power. It doesn’t matter much to a kid what the national trend is if their community is different, that is their reality.

#26 Chris Swanson on 09.17.09 at 6:31 pm

Growing up in lower class San Jose, CA, I first heard racial slurs from Black kids. I had to ask my mom what they meant and she cried. From then on the word was embedded in my little white head. Nobody in my family said it. My friends didn’t say it. But for a long time, every time, I looked at a Black person and thought of that word and the Black kid (formerly known as ‘kid’) that introduced me to it. Sad but true.

#27 white guy on 09.17.09 at 8:12 pm

Hey Harry… can I have a job!

#28 tom on 09.17.09 at 10:12 pm

i am a white guy, but unlike many white people who seem to be nearly completely oblivious to this situation i understand where you are coming from. i think what you are really trying to say is that racism when practiced by white people is not just the n word or lynchings done by the KKK, but more institutionalized or cultural; a way of living day to day life. it doesn’t even necessarily need to be consciously practiced, but it is still there. i’m kind of perplexed by why more white people are not aware of this, being privy to the kinds of backwards comments some of the most “liberal” and “enlightened” white people can make when nobody of color is around.

to take it beyond just white-black issues, i know i have been exposed to plenty of complaining about things like Indian doctors or Asian engineering professors by white people. as soon as the institution of white supremacy is turned on them, the complaining begins! this is why the gun-toting teabaggers (what a ridiculous phrase) who show up to protest Obama are so problematic; when the tables are turned, there’s really no stopping white people from reacting as negatively as possible.

i don’t think anything can be done about the problem of racism until the people in power start to understand this. and i don’t mean paying lip service to the idea, but really UNDERSTANDING how it influences even their most benign actions. when they can see that what non-white people have to deal with in the US specifically is so much more than what they assume now, some steps to resolve the problem might be taken.

i’m a firm believer in the true issue being CLASS conflict, not race. the problem is that race is one of the best tools for helping to keep black people (especially!) from altering the tilt of the system.

#29 Reginald Hudlin on 09.18.09 at 1:01 am

This is wonderful. Thank you.

#30 umm wow on 09.18.09 at 2:09 am

wow.. dude, calm the hell down and take your meds. Nothing you said was valid.. I think you have an obsession with this race thing.

#31 anons on 09.18.09 at 9:07 am

Funny enough, i’d never encountered this defintion until i entered undergrad. And it was while in San Fran doing research for my thesis that a Hispanic Buddhist nun, of all people, broke this down for me.

this is absolutely accurate.

and to the first commenter, Mr. Boland, if you think white supremacy is simply an American issue I’ve got news for you. As a black male leaving in East Asia I can attest to the global reach of this phenomena. I could tell you about whitening creams and double eyelid surgery that everyone, young (8/9 years of age) and old take part in. Damn near every country with any sizeable percenetage of non whites has their own similar whitening rituals

#32 Suzy on 09.18.09 at 9:32 am

You are brilliant. Thank you for taking the time to explain and enlighten once again. I appreciate your efforts and that you speak the truth!
Resist racism has a similar post – essential reading for those who commented on here who need some more background/convincing: http://resistracism.wordpress.com/racism-101/

#33 adam on 09.18.09 at 3:10 pm

It appears to me you really are speaking only from a US perspective, one person has made the comment about Japan being overtly racist, it’s true, fact, and it’s to all colours and creeds not their own, same goes for China (acha or gweilo anyone) and Thailand (farang) the comment that racism was a white created idea is absurd in the extreme with just those few experiential facts in mind. Looking at Indian caste society, Sri Lankan ethnic layering etc the idea that racism is a ‘white’ thing is ridiculous, they didn’t create it or own it at all, get outside the US for a while people, see the rest of the world, get over yourselves.
All that said I can indeed see the point but also suggest hegemony is the better word.
Racism exists everywhere in all cultures, the whites institutinalised it in South Africa but then so did the Indians in their caste systems that ARE inherently racist and not elitist. Blacks are as racist as whites, japanese, chinese etc, yes a change in general mindset of whites to colour and race is required but so too is a comparable change to other colours goggles as well.
Overall point taken but point missed too, get out more.

#34 ranger on 09.19.09 at 9:05 am

As a white person I realize that I can be empathetic to the racism a non-white person experiences, but I presently cannot fully comprehend what that is like. But I do believe people are people – no matter what one’s color. Within every race there will always be people who exhibit the ugly sides of human nature and the best.

But as racial populations shift in an area so do the incidents of who is discriminating against whom. This is a fact of human nature and won’t go away no matter which race has the most “power” in an area. It is the human experience. There will always be people in every race who want to foster hatred, it is the duty of fair minded people in all races to seek to minimalize the effects and power of those who would seek to divide rather than unit us.

#35 Michael McMillion on 09.20.09 at 8:09 am

I find it disconcerting that a lot of people in the U.S.don’t know the difference between racism and prejudice. Being racist is when someone in power denies someone else an equal opportunity for something such as housing, employment, or a service based on their race. Prejudice is simply not liking someone based on their race. Very few Blacks have the kind of power to make a denial of opportunity to someone based on the race of that person, however, that doesn’t preclude black people from being as prejudiced as anyone else.

#36 dionne on 09.24.09 at 12:49 am

thanks again harry!

i’m almost (not really) inclined to thank kanye for creating an incident that platforms such an important discussion.

#37 Sam on 09.26.09 at 11:38 am

The logic falls apart when you look at the real diversity in America. There are now large cities, Baltimore and Philadelphia are the two greatest examples, in which African Americans have tremendous political, economic, and social control.

In places like this, where it is very likely that the offices of power will be held by an African American, the argument of White Power falls apart.

The only way that White Power works is if there is some connective cultural legacy between white people That does not exist. Being Irish is very different than being English, or Polish, or Italian, or Jewish, or Welsh. America saw wide cultural chasms between these cultures, which only started to erode in the 60’s. The idea of a singular whiteness is absurd.

#38 Michele on 09.26.09 at 4:21 pm

And, there was nary a word said about the “racist” rant on Survivor the other evening. Not by the “tribe” listening to it or Probst moderating it. (Oh, but don’t forget, he stopped a challenge as it became a bit too aggressive.)

The construct that is “race” certainly has a strong foundation. It is boldly witnessed by the spew of this half-wit bartender, as we compare Kanye West’s activity as something akin to a vile offense against humanity.

I don’t even want to get started with that evil, Manson looking SOB on the show.


#39 Dave Kellogg on 09.26.09 at 7:44 pm

To assert that racism is an exclusive white preserve as Mr. Allen does, based on the evidence he cites, is absurd. He talks about having to go through his daily life having to apply to or find service from non-black doctors, teachers, cops, mortgage officers, teachers, and doctors. Take any other ethnic group constituting 10% of the US population and show me how they don’t have the same experience. He than goes on to complain that nowhere in America does any white have to live in fear of a black’s disapproval. I can’t believe he really believes that and there are ample comments already made as to its absurdity, but let me tack on to those comments my complaint of the number of supporters of Mr. Allen who failed to correct him on such a basic and obviously inaccurate representation; I can understand how they can agree with the thrust of his presentation, despite his errors, but to just leave his errors sitting there unrecognized. Don’t such people understand that doing that destroys their credibility, too? Mr. Allen’s comment and the uncritical acclaim of his supporters represents a sad day for every American – except racists (white, black, or otherwise).

#40 aamer on 09.28.09 at 11:05 pm

You are not wrong at all, Harry. I am sick of having this argument with white people.

“At the end of the day, Mr. Allen throws us a whole boatload of $50 words, but his insinuation that only white people are racist is, in fact, highly suspect at best, and racist at worst.”

Seriuosly, why doesn’t he just call you ‘uppity’ and tell us what he really thinks.

#41 amy on 10.08.09 at 9:02 am

I think that there are different aspects here, though. Certainly racism literally means to judge a person or situation through the lens of race, and let’s face it: most people are guilty of that at times. And white people are impacted by this sort of judgement as well, although in different (and arguably more benign) ways.

Clearly black people are at a disadvantage most of the time that this comes into play in practical matters. I think it’s hard to argue with that. But it’s completely naive to suggest that the institutionalized racism that exists on this planet is the only expression of racism, or the only kind that matters.

Unfortunately, it’s unlikely to improve since people seem bent on making judgements based on extremely superficial qualities, race being chief among them. But casting the situation as one way only is not helpful or productive. It only serves to help people continue to see people \not like them\ as alien and hard to relate to.

#42 E WALL on 07.08.10 at 2:13 pm

All I am seeing here is a bunch of black victimization philosophy.
\…Following, when the Black kids need jobs, they tend to go work for, or report to, the white kids’ dads and uncles; i.e., other white people. Mostly.\ Etc. Etc.

Hank must have forgotten that, 1. We now have a black president 2. Affirmative Action is the law of the land 3. We live in a massive welfare society that benefits blacks more than any other racial group. 4. The federal government is selectively prosecuting civil rights offenses. 5. The vast majority of the black community would stand behind Obama regardless of how radical and un-American his policies are because of the sole fact that he is a black man (If that is not racist, I don’t know what is).

It is interesting that we continue to hear the same rhetoric from the 1950’s when things are so vastly different today.

#43 Anon on 10.18.10 at 2:09 pm

I got hired by a black guy at Sea World, and mainly work with minorities at both of my jobs…. Hilarity ensues. Racism is discrimination to another by means of ethics and such. Derogatory terms and slang based off of skin, nationality, ethics, etc plague even means of fighting against it. “Equal opportunity employment” is nothing more than a fantasy, they do discriminate to appear to have a more ‘diverse’ work environment, which really just works in reverse in what it’s supposed to do if you think about it. As a promoter of individualism, I find most of group castings folly and amusing for the most part.

#44 Ray Cyst on 06.18.11 at 10:01 pm

Class is the real divider – not race. Oppression of the lower class (or indeed laws and legislation that oppress “minorities” therefore forcing us into the lower class) is what causes the divide. You think the people in power really give a hoot about the illiterate white kids, Puerto Ricans, Indians or Mexicans more than AA’s?

I see time and again us fighting against the “trailer trash” and the “ragheads” for who wins the prize of being the oppressed group at any one time, whilst who is it that really benefits? The upper-class. That includes those middle-class kids who took advantage of affirmative action to elevate themselves into “whitey’s” in all but skin color.

Grass roots is where the change needs to happen. Education, education, education. Once people realize the bullshit we’re actually perpetuating, maybe we’ll look at it with a child’s mind and treat everyone “not by the color of their skin but by the content of their character”.

#45 crunkness on 10.19.11 at 2:31 pm

sounds like your racist.

#46 crunkness on 10.19.11 at 10:57 pm

and the truth is dumb people are racist….It’s practically instinctual, and the dumber you are the more you rely on instincts. A lot of black people are underprivileged, uneducated, and quite frankly dumb, those happen to be inclined to be racist. The same goes for every race including white people, only in reality there’s less uneducated white people. Sad but true

#47 po on 12.27.11 at 4:20 am

This is a very USA-centric view of things. Racism, at least in Asia, seems to me to be a minority/majority issue. Malaysia (majority Malay, minority Chinese) has an apartheid system whereby Chinese citizens have to score higher to get into University and are barred from owning certain business. Next door in Singapore (majority Chinese, minority Malay), Malay people have a tough time getting into certain professions and are discriminated against in many ways.

#48 Jamal Williams on 06.03.12 at 4:58 pm

Black people can’t be racist because only white people are racist? Do you have any idea how hypocritically racist that circular statement is? While I will acknowledge that racism can be found wherever fear and ignorance thives, and there are racists in every race and creed. I have never seen a larger collective group of racists than I have seen in the black community. Racism is wrong, ignorance is wrong, and spreading and glorifying it is wrong. Shame on you, I think you know better. And you ought to be ashamed of yourself.

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