What I learned about Racism on a Random Saturday Evening

As a kid, I was taught that racism referred to the belief that there was somehow a superior race. My understanding of racism, however, was questioned a few days ago when I came across a mind-boggling video online that claimed that ‘black people cannot be racist’. My mind has been restlessly buzzing with questions ever since so I decided to delve deeper. I carried out an inquiry of my own on a random Saturday evening and here’s what I found.

Can Black People be Racist?

According to Adjunct Professor Patricia Bidol-Padva, they can’t. In a book from 1970, Bidol-Padva coined the stipulative definition of racism as the indissociable combination of prejudice plus power. She claims that racial prejudice and power are inherent to racism as institutional power is used to hinder economic or social advancement within minorities/ non-white racial groups. In 2014, this belief was noticeably stoked in comedy-Drama film Dear White People.

Released 3 years after the movie, the Netflix series follows several black college students at an Ivy League institution, touching on issues surrounding modern American race relations.

In simpler words, you and I couldn’t be racist even if we wanted to because we are not decision-makers or part of the elite. Following this line of thought, women therefore cannot possibly be sexist due to the purported belief that men have more power in society. This would also mean that reverse racism is a myth: African Americans, Latinos, Native and Asian Americans can indeed be prejudiced against white people but essentially disqualify for racism because of their supposed lower socioeconomic power.

So, does Racism = White Supremacy?

Protesters march on a street in Washington DC on December 05, 2014 during the third night of nationwide protests, after a grand jury decided not to charge a white police officer in the choking death of Eric Garner, a black man, days after a similar decision sparked renewed unrest in Missouri. (Photo credit: MLADEN ANTONOV/AFP/Getty Images)

This definition which is often supported by progressives and pro-minorities/ anti-white supremacy movements faced criticism. While some claim that not every white person actually has power, others believe that the sole purpose of redefining the term ‘racism’ is to advance a perverse political agenda which condones the unjust portrayal of whites as being intrinsically racist. Here’s an interesting piece that attempts to dismantle the R= P+P equation.

In a research paper published in 2010, Pooja Sawrikar and Ilan Katz studied the complex relationship between power and prejudice. They argued that “that the definition ‘Racism = White supremacy’ is logically flawed, demonstrates reverse racism, is disempowering for individuals from all racial groups who strive for racial equality, and absolves those who do not.”

Can white people be victims of racism?

In 2018, Jeong was accused of making distinctly racist statements. The uproar prompted a debate over the definition of racism when some claimed that her tweets were only distasteful and prejudiced.

Last year, the New York Times faced backlash over the latest addition to their editorial team Sarah Jeong. The Tech writer was called out for being racist after past tweets which read “White men are bullshit” and “#CancelWhitePeople.” resurfaced and sparked outrage. Several celebrities and political figures such as Bernie Sanders stepped in to defend Jeong. They claimed she could not be racist because she is of Asian descent.

Hundreds of thousands of Rwandans were displaced when attacks were launched against one ethnic group across the country.

Based on my mini-enquiry, I believe that anyone, regardless of their ethnicity or socio-economic power is capable of being racist towards another group. In 1994, the tragic Hutu-led genocide against the Tutsis is believed to have caused the death of up to 1,000,000 people in Rwanda. On another hand, the Holocaust can be seen as a form of white-on-white racism. To date, the alleged racial tension between Kurds and Iraqis goes to show that Arab communities in the world are equally afflicted by racism.

So, is racial discrimination truly the burden of only a selective few?

To learn more about this topic, check out the following references:


One thought on “What I learned about Racism on a Random Saturday Evening

  1. Succinctly put.
    Yep. By that definition (racism = power + prejudice), anyone can be racist. If it cannot accommodate this logical consequence, then the definition is flawed and should be revised.
    I guess what needs more thinking and discussion is the application or implication of that definition with regards to the construction of ‘white, black or Asian etc.’ as a collective, a group (even as an abstracted idea, a system) instead of individuals. In this case, the revised question would be: does most power rest with the constructed collectives/groups or ideas that are ‘white people’, ‘Black people’, ‘Asian’ etc.?


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