Monday, December 28, 2009
Posted by Zek J. Evets at 12:01 AM
Is it racist to criticize Black people?
Let me repeat: is it racist to criticize Black people?
Simple question. Difficult answer.
[jump to continue -- click header]
This self-dialectic began after reading an entry on a race-blog I follow (but, perhaps wisely, never comment on) called, [Stuff White People Do]. The post was entitled "express their racist opinions with t-shirts". And here's the offending pic in question:
Now, besides the obvious spelling error, is there anything that makes this shirt in the vacuum of the internets a racist statement? Keep in mind, we know nothing of the guy wearing it other than what we can see...
Personally, I have to confess I don't think it's racist.
Before you castigate me -- or if you already are, then hold-up a second -- and hear me out!
In the picture all we can see is a white male wearing mostly all black, and this shirt. Apparently he's not a good speller, judging from "MAUITANIA". Also, half of his mustache is... missing. What else can we deduce that's relevant to the question of whether he is racist or not? Nothing else really, except for the content on his t-shirt, which, according to the bloggers over at SWPD, is blatantly racist, and allows them to assume a whole host of motivations and arguments to describe a man who dares wear a t-shirt pointing out that blacks did indeed enslave each other.
Which leads me to the whole reason this blog-post started. Is it racist to criticize Black people? Because, for the life of me, I cannot see anything that paints this man (or this t-shirt) as racist without making the assumption that criticism of Blacks equals racism.
True, we can -- and do -- assume various things based on our own personal experience, which, most of the time, shows a strong correlation between criticism of Black people and blatant racism. (I keep using these words because I want to illustrate my point lies in the semantics of the issue as much as in the actual thoughts/beliefs/actions.) But does mean that one necessitates the other? Because not everyone who criticizes Black people is a racist.
Whether it be about Obama's administration, Kanye West grabbing the mic on Taylor Swift, or serious academic research into the oppression that Blacks (American, African, Caribbean) have inflicted on their own race, it seems that even the most timid questioning of Black people can endanger one into being flash-labeled a racist scumbag.
Now, while there are examples to the contrary: The Birther movement, Hollywood's frequent acts of subliminal Blackface minstrelsy, or eugenics and scientific essentialists that show racism masquerading as difference of opinion, I do still hold that my experiences with the online community of race-bloggers is true.
Take SWPD, for instance. The entire blog is devoted to examining the inherently racist traits of White people. What White people? Are we all alike and bigoted? Do you seriously believe there is a prototypical White racist stereotype that still exists which doesn't have an example that refutes it? How is it so easy to generalize an entire group of people? The commentators should be more aware of those dangers than most... Yet, the prevalence of subversive prejudice towards White people is as blatant as a burning cross. Their examples abound in essentialist characteristics that negatively portray Whites as a race hell-bent on discrimination, if not oppression. Meanwhile, all dialogue to the contrary is drowned out in buzzwords, troll flaming, and comment moderation.
It seems that criticism of Whites has become acceptable in our culture -- which is a good thing, but not if it means we can't then criticize other races too. Personally, I think the whole atmosphere engenders a kind of subtle hostility, where Whites are held in contempt for refusing to accept that they are wrong about race in this country, and everyone else needs to work together to counteract that willful ignorant racism. This is simply not true!
In fact, quite often the opposite. Whites as a group often apologize for the real or perceived benefits of their skin-color (hence, White Guilt) while encouraging the integration and diversification of society (hence, Affirmative Action, ethnic/cultural/racial studies, the election of president Obama).That is not to say that all White people are bastions of racial tolerance, but that the majority of them aren't as racist as some might think.
Most of these race-debaters refuse to see the fallacious arguments and quick-draw opinions they fire off without consideration for things like logic, compassion, and reality.
The prevailing opinion among them is that most -- if not all -- White people are racist. And only Black people -- or other "racially conscious" people who agree with this assumption -- can apparently can see it. Other races fall somewhere in the middle of this debate, due to their perceived "special-status" in the grand scheme of the dichotomous battle between Black & White which fuels a binary race theory that is as stupid as it is ignorant as it is completely useless at redressing the grievances between the various peoples on this planet.
The sad circle-jerk of it all is that if Whites are racist, then any White person who disagrees is automatically dismissed, because they're racist, only too ignorant to understand. Get it? There's no option other than groupthink because all divergent opinions are labeled as racism. Because only racists would disagree, right? And any minority who disagrees is dismissed as an Uncle Tom race traitor. Because only a self-delusional "house negro" would do so, right?
These are the kinds of opinions one encounters in the strange twists of the interwebs.
So, to finally bring it back to my original question: is it racist to criticize Black people?
Apparently, yes... but even more, it is also racist to defend White people against any racism towards them. And this is a sad commentary on the state of race-relations in this country, on how things have been stirred up so that even the majority can be called "the Other". Yet, it is good that these opinions are not the mainstream, and represent merely one corner of the zeitgeist in thought on that subject.