So below is a submission I received. This person wrote in a while back and I promised to answer them so here I go. Feel free to chime in with your own responses because I’m not an expert on anything. I’m actually sort of foolish most of the time.
I asked some questions about a month back. I’m still curious to hear how they would be addressed by critical race theory. I originally asked as follows
“Okay, so racism is longer defined as prejudice or discrimination on grounds of race, but has been redefined to exclusively describe a certain form of systematic oppression? When did that happen?
Uh… correct. I’m not sure when it happened but I’m glad it did.
Understanding that racism is systemic, and that it touches every aspect of life in America, is kind of a crucial first step toward understanding the shit that people like me are saying. If you can’t get with me on it, there’s not a lot I can do for you.
If you need like evidence for this, you can look at stuff like this, this, this, and this. You can also use google. The best way, of course, is to listen to the experiences of non-whites and respect that they’re speaking from experience. Don’t approach the opinions of non-whites with suspicion or the intent to prove yourself right. Just shut off the part of your brain that wants to say “But…” and turn on the part that absorbs and considers. It’s hard but it’s necessary.
And if a member of a minority was to commit a transgression against a member of the majority due to said division that it’s not unethical on the grounds that it falls short of this new “definition” of the term racism? By that logic everyone’s actions cannot be treated on equal terms because the majority has the edge and therefor any discriminatory transgressions they commit are automatically of greater magnitude than those committed against them.
Again, like…. yeah, pretty much. But you’re doing some problematic conflation. Your problems are with the word “unethical” and the phrase “of greater magnitude.” Let’s take the Black girls in my high school class that called the few white girls “white bitch” on a regular basis. Is that cool? Eh, not really, some of those chicks were totally nice and personally I try to stay away from gendered insults. Is it “ethical”? That’s an extremely loaded term that implies that there’s a single, perfect set of ideal behaviors that somehow applies to any person from any background in any culture in any country on Earth. There isn’t. There’s your idea of right and wrong, and there’s mine, and there’s 6 billion more.
Is it “racist”? No, it’s not. Because as you discovered above, racism is an institution, a self-perpetuating machine held up by laws and policies that are created by the people that benefit from it most. I’m assuming that you did what I suggested and googled “racism = prejudice plus power,” and if you did then you should actually probably pretty much be covered.
So on to your problematic “of greater magnitude” phrase. Is the systemic racism faced by the Black girls “of greater magnitude” - by which I assume you mean does it do more harm - than the bullying they were doing? Kind of, yeah. Because those white girls could go home to their white families, turn on the tv, and see people who look just like them. They can open a magazine, or read a book, or listen to the radio, or go see a movie, and see people who look just like them. They can take advantage of all of these privileges, in short. But those Black girls can’t leave the race conversation, because, as we laid out above, the whole damn system is fucked. That white girl won’t die because she got called a bitch, but any of those Black girls could die because of the color their skin, especially if they’re homeless, transgender, not hetero, etc. (scroll down to “African-Americans”).
A different scenario: during my time at my local occupy, I ran into a ton of racist and misogynistic bullshit. I was constantly talked over, undermined, asked to handle housekeeping and caretaker tasks, accused of trying to facilitate a lesbian takeover for requesting a women-only safe space tent, pushed, and spat at. After some months of this, I snapped and got into it with a yacht-club prepster who called me “verbally abusive” because I was using words like “shit” and “fuck.” He ended up claiming that he was a “victim of racism and sexism at occupy” because there were folks who were asking that he check his privilege. A very good friend of mine - who happens to also be a white guy - made the same point I made above; if dude was tired of having to talk about racism and sexism, and tired of being made to call out his privilege, he could just walk away. He could leave the park and never have to think about any of it ever again if he didn’t want to. But for those of us who aren’t white and male, that’s not possible. Because I will always get that sick feeling in my stomach when a man chooses a seat right next to me on an empty train. I will always have to carry my keys between my fingers like fuckin Wolverine when I walk to my car at night. It doesn’t end, it doesn’t go away, and you can’t just leave it behind when you get too tired or sick or beat down to handle it.
I’m really curious to know if you beleive that every member of society should be considered and treated equally regardless of social status and race. Or if you think that disadvantaging someone one the grounds of race based on the idea that they might be advantaged is just. Wow, I never knew that two wrongs made a right.”
“Equal” doesn’t mean “the same.” Asking for basic respect, and for laws and policies that treat us with the same respect afforded to white hetero cis men is not disadvantaging anyone, and to suggest that is kind of bullshit, dude. I’m hoping that somewhere in your brain, you know that.
Do I think we should all be treated “equal”? Of course I fucking do. But like we’ve discussed, shit is fucked up. To accept that certain people are born on third base and others are born out in the stadium parking lot, and also the path from the parking lot to third base is lined with racists, isn’t “disadvantaging” anyone. I’m not saying I want to hit the dude on third base in the kneecaps with a baseball bat so he can never make it to home base; I’m saying that maybe dude should take a seat for a little while. Just listen for once, just take a second to rethink your privilege and how your experience has been changed because of not just your race, but your parents’ races and their parents’ races. This doesn’t have anything to do with “disadvantaging” anyone, it has to do with critically examining what advantage really means, and who has it, and who doesn’t.
And for the record, I’m not doing this again. The onus is on you to educate yourself, not on me. The only reason I even did this is because I appreciate that when I pointed out how rude your first ask was, you apologized and rephrased. I also want to add that I think using statistics to prove points is problematic for lots of reasons, but again, I’m trying to speak y’alls language here.
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