If you have a Facebook I’m sure you have some feelings about politics on Facebook. Probably negative ones. Facebook can be very problematic because people can say anything and they seem to have no shame. And everyone has those people they’re friends with on facebook because of some obligation but you certainly don’t agree with their political views but there was another shooting last week and you can’t let someone make another ignorant comment without at least a little pushback.
Maybe it’s an age thing, but I appreciate the people who can sit back and not get involved. How do you do it? When I see some opinions shared on facebook I genuinely am appalled someone would think that let alone share it with the public. Forever. I feel morally obligated to challenge their ignorant thoughts.
Anyways, there was a point to all of this. Last week I attended the monthly Showing Up for Racial Justice (SURJ) meeting and had a discussion about racism vs prejudice. I am not entirely sure I understood the difference between the two, but I feel like I gained some insight into how white people actually think that someone can be “racist” against them. Which brings me to redefining racism.
Or just defining it. Maybe this has already been done. Honestly, I didn’t look it up. But that’s not the point. My point is because there’s not a clear objective definition of racism, privileged people think that offensive jokes and comments against them are racist because they hurt their feelings.
The reason that white people can’t be discriminated against is that the hurtful words that may be directed at them don’t have long-term implications on their external environments. What does this mean? Hurtful words may make them upset, or lower their self-esteem, but it doesn’t change their chances of having a successful life. A group of people who are systematically oppressed has that affecting every aspect of their life. People of color are more likely to be pulled over by police, or arrested, or killed by police. People of color are less likely to go to college or become CEO’s. Have you ever been interviewed by a company where the manager interviewing you was not white? Probably not. People of color have a more difficult time finding a job, renting a place to live, buying a car, and so on.
So, I’m not a political scientist, but I don’t think hateful words = racism. Hateful words are not good in any context, but that’s not actually racism. Hateful words don’t put that person’s life in jeopardy, or prevent them from having a job, or keep them from having equal opportunities. Hateful words are bullying. Bullying is a big problem in America, but it’s not the same thing as being racist.
So let’s apply this to a real-life situation! Roseanne was canceled and Roseanne got dropped from her talent agency for tweeting racist things. On her twitter, you can find the unraveling after this happened, and the supporters of Roseanne calling for ABC to fire Joy Behr because she says equally hateful things. Here’s why Roseanne’s career ended, and Joy’s will not: Joy Behr does say equally vile and hateful things, but what she says is not racist. Roseanne’s vile things are blatantly racist, and therefore much less okay than non-racist remarks.
Are we all on the same page? Good. So Roseanne and her supporters cannot find other people to call out in this situation because they are the racist ones. And if someone mentions how it’s SO hard to make comments without someone calling out “racist”, that’s what happens when you are a racist.
While people can say a million hurtful things towards a white person, a white person cannot be systemically oppressed because there are no opposing people in positions of power to do so. The next time someone discusses someone being “racist” or “prejudice” against them, a white person, try to have this conversation with them. Try pointing out that the things they feel they are being oppressed by are not oppression because there is nobody in a more powerful position that could do that. Try to find a way of redefining racism to make it more clear to those who refuse to acknowledge the existence of systematic racism until they at least try to understand.
P.S: If you or someone you know is still having trouble understanding, here’s a flowchart-