Racism vs. Prejudice…or “Why the White Man Should Be Quiet”
It happens every time something racially orientated hits the news circuit.
Spring follows winter, dogs follow cats, and after every racist news story and the appropriate outrage from the slighted community come the White folk clamoring that everything in the world is fair and equitable because they TOO, like their racially defined counterparts, have suffered racism.
It’s reactionary, it’s a mask for white guilt that society has ingrained (perhaps justifiably) on us, and it’s always COMPLETELY FLAWED. Note the following:
The definition of racism goes as follows:
rac⋅ism[rey-siz-uhm] – noun
1. a belief or doctrine that inherent differences among the various human races determine cultural or individual achievement, usually involving the idea that one’s own race is superior and has the right to rule others.
2. a policy, system of government, etc., based upon or fostering such a doctrine; discrimination.
3. hatred or intolerance of another race or other races.
The second part of the definition is the stickier, but also happens to be the most important when it comes to who can claim in the United States they have had racism performed against them. Racism as a concept means more than just “that person acted against me because of my race”, it means “that person acted against me because of my race in the context of a society stacked in their favor”.
While I’ll be the first to champion the notion that we are progressing along race lines – we do have an African American president after all and that notion was unthinkable as little as 10 years ago – the United States still by and large exhibits trends and behaviors that indicate black Americans DO NOT have the same general opportunities as white Americans.
African Americans get paid less on average for equal positions as their white counterparts, get pulled over by police more, have a higher percentage of their population living under the definition of poverty, and the list goes on and on. We won’t even start on the cultural offshoot of racism – just fill out an application with the first name Jamal or Shaniqua instead of John or Sally and watch your chance at the position dwindle.
Aside from that, America was founded under slavery being legal, and even though it has been more than 200 years since the Emancipation Proclamation, the STRUCTURE of society is still not truly egalitarian.
And that – the fact that the system STILL has inherent advantages, no matter how subtle or behind the scene, to those who are white – is why no white American can ever justifiably claim they were the victim of racism.
“But wait but wait” gasps the Starbuck’s swilling, button up polo and khaki wearing white man. “I was in line once and this black kid called me whitey” or “I was in a Mexican food restaurant, and the Spanish only speaking wait staff served me after other Hispanics.”
Yes whitey sir, you quite possibly could have experienced prejudice, defined as:
1. an unfavorable opinion or feeling formed beforehand or without knowledge, thought, or reason.
However, because the system is established in your favor because of your race THAT STILL IS NOT RACISM.
Prejudice is unfortunate, but prejudice tempered with things that can dramatically hamper your ability to succeed – law enforcement profiling you, employers looking more unfavorably at you, and such – is crushing and debilitating.
Until society is equal, and I am a firm believer we will be someday, take your lumps and enjoy your white guilt Mr. or Mrs. White American…and respect the fact that you are lucky to not be able to ever claim racism.