Monday, 9 September 2013

5 Things That Aren't Racism

Ok, let me preface this post by saying that as a mixed race person who is percieved to be wholly white- I experience a lot of white privilege. Racism I've experienced has mainly been verbal abuse and it most certainly hasn't been often. You could say I'm lucky that I don't have to worry about experiencing racism. You could say I'm unlucky because I exist in a society that has racism (and other oppression) at all. Because I experience white privilege I usually keep my mouth shut on what constitutes the oppression of people of colour (PoC) because I'm not experiencing 99% of it.
But this post is to society at large, and it's about what isn't racism, what shouldn't be compared to racism and why and as someone who has experienced racism, I feel entitled to outline these points.

5 Things that aren't racism

1. A white person taking the piss out of Justin Bieber for being American

Whilst you might really like Justin Bieber and want to defend his honour...don't try and change the meaning of the word 'race'. The dictionary definition may be 'classes of people' but you know that 'racism' relates to oppression on the basis of ethnicity. Just like we understand that class usually relates to socio-economic and cultural background. Xenophobia is different to racism. And to be honest xenophobia has a more heartbreaking effect on someone trying to emigrate from another country to ours than it has on Justin Bieber. Some wealthy celebrity goes on living his life, those who experience oppression get their lives shaped for them by racism and xenophobia. Put down the strawman argument and step away from the false premise. (Sidenote- someone actually argued this exact point with me, twice.)

2. When a PoC is mean to you
(Sidenote- I'm paraphrasing from tumblr here)
What racism is-
The continued devestation of counties with bombs and wars, the historic and unrelenting oppression of PoC, the continued under employment, bigotry and disadvantage experienced by PoC.
What white people think racism is-
A black girl in school was mean to me.

3. Homophobia
I've spoken previously about how uncomfortable I am with white LGBT people conflating homophobia with racism. Not because I think one is worse, but because a white LGBT person only experiences one of these things and doesn't have the experience to talk on the other with authority.
The homophobic response to same sex marriage is not the same as segregation.

4. When Diane Abbott points out facts
(Sidenote- I'm not promoting or condoning Abbott's politics or Labour) So Abbott once tweeted 'White people love playing 'divide and rule' We should not play their game.' The media was alight with people talking about 'reverse racism' and 'racism against white people' and to that I say- LOOOL.

Another time, Abbott stated that the 'British invented racism'. So white people get all upset because Diane Abbott is making generalisations about them as a group. She's making out that someone who has a privileged position due to being white (in a country that had, lets say, a little hand in imperialism and the slave trade, which created white supremacy) still have imperialist values.

Well guess what? She's right. And as a PoC in a country that still has racist values she cannot possibley oppress privileged white people by pointing out facts. If her comments offend you more than this then you're a victim of your own privileged ego.

5. Someone calling all men 'bastards'
Let's compare two situations
Situation a- someone who isn't a man says 'Oh, Jeff really pissed me off today, why are all men such bastards?'
Outcome- Jeff may be upset if he hears, but he maintains his male privilege anyway.

Situation b- a white person uses a racist slur in a room full of white people.
Outcome- the historical oppression, enslavement and marginalisation of PoC began the use of racist words, the continued use of them maintains a system that sees PoC as less than (linguistics, innit). Language stregnthens and maintains value systems and the other white people in the room see that this word is 'acceptable' in this context.
Hey, guess what? A person generalising about men isn't the same as the structural oppression of generations of people, and the maintainance of that through saying words that were tools of that oppression. Your hurt feelings don't license you to compare or conflate someone being mean to the oppression of a group you don't define into. Get over yourself.

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