Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Racism and Power

We are raised in a society that teaches us to devalue others based in constructed differences.  We glance at each other in suspicion and fear.  We speak of brotherhood and mankind and yet we grasp tightly to our possessions caring not about the depravity that such selfishness results in.  Some of us are considered so irrelevant and puerile,  that despite the meanness of our actions we are unable to cause a change or rift in our social standing.   A person of colour who holds bias against another because of race, creed or religion is prejudiced.

On the other side of the scale exists Whiteness.  This is not a simple case of ying and yang.  While prejudice is deplorable, racism is a disease.  Whiteness exists with the power to realize its hatred.  Power is what turns prejudice into racism and it is power that ultimately separates the races and keeps us divided from one another.

Unlike people of color, Whiteness has no foundation for its hatred other than the perpetuation of hegemony.  Its land has not been colonized, its people have not been murdered and enslaved.  Whiteness has never known the sting of existing as a second class citizen, silencing, or being marginalized into obscurity.  In any all discussions, Whiteness wants the proviso of the word some, as though all do not equally benefit from the most vile actions.   When James Byrd was viciously murdered and a cry of alarm rang throughout the diaspora, all White people benefitted.

We are encouraged not to speak about race or racism.  We are specifically taught to look at acts as individual instances, as though they do not amount to a society dedicated to a hierarchy of bodies, that relegate some to lives of obscurity and marginalization.  Refusing to connect these actions with the power of Whiteness to act systemically, means that its actions remain neutral in the public consciousness.  It is this very neutrality that forms the basis of Whiteness being considered the norm and therefore omnipresent, while maintaining a near invisible presence.

The insistence on  using  terms like post racial, race card, and reverse racist, stem from the desire to not only present racism in a past tense but to infer that only Whiteness should exist with the power to realize its prejudice.    What is most interesting about these occurrences, is that when racism is justifiably charged at Whiteness, the most common rebuttals are over sensitivity, reading the situation incorrectly, or a desire to use racial discord for personal gain.  We, the oppressed, who arguably have the most experience with racism, are never accorded the ability to decide what is racist and therefore, harmful to our well being, whereas; Whiteness has the ability to not only refute charges of discriminatory behaviour but engage in racism at will.   White supremacy is maintained because of the ability to act and the power to negotiate how said behaviour is socially understood. Racism is the realization of social power.