What is Racism in America?

Dear America,

When I was deciding how to start this discussion, I spoke with my friends on the subject of racism, and who they believed could and could not be racist. Man did I open a can of worms! I had no idea how strongly my friends felt on the subject, and I definitely did not expect the large amount of dissonance my friends had in opinion.

Interestingly enough, racism means different things to different people. I used to believe that there was one specific definition for racism, and that it was something that anybody can do, but thanks to my lovely friends, my view on that has changed.

When the conversation started, I needed to know the Google’s dictionary definition of racism: “the belief that all members of each race possess characteristics or abilities specific to that race, especially so as to distinguish it as inferior or superior to another race or races.” Almost immediately, I was in disagreement with this statement. To me, it sounded more like prejudice (a belief) than racism (an action).

I came to the conclusion that to be racist in America, is to be white. Now by no means does this mean that people of color can’t be prejudice, biased, intolerant, ignorant, or mean. And I’m definitely not calling all white people racist because that is 100 percent untrue. What I am saying is that in order to be considered racist, there has to be power and there has to be privilege. And those are two things that, in America, people of color are lacking.

But to better understand my views we must first redefine racism, and in my opinion, Tomer Yogev says it best “Racism, despite how we opt to use it day-to-day, is actually a fairly technical term, that REQUIRES that the oppressor have systemic and cultural privilege in the society. Any reasonable person can agree to the fact that, in America, the society is led by those who are perceived as White (what White means is a whole other conversation).  Without the authority and power that comes from being part of the dominant group, others cannot, by definition, be racist.”

I think a huge part of racism that a lot of people can’t seem to accept, is that racism is not JUST a belief or form of opinion. I found that the friends who did not agree with me, were struggling with this. Society tells us that all we have to do to be a racist is to feel superior over another group of people, which is true, but not the whole truth.

In the words of my bestie, Sarah “Racism is a SYSTEM. Racial superiority has something to do with it but the major glaring difference that makes racism what it is is its ability to affect the way people live.” Really think about this. People of color are not writing the history books, we do not own the media, and despite having a black president, we do not have a whole lot of say about what goes on in America. The system was created a long time ago, and it was, unfortunately, meant for those with white skin.

So, with all of that said, in my opinion, people of color cannot be racist. But please feel free to tell me what YOU think in the comments!

Sincerely, Vic

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