Recently a news story did a report on a survey asking people, “which is more racist, Cracker or the N word?” Someone commented that if you can’t even say a full word, then that’s probably the more racist of the two.
Yesterday I saw a photo of two rodeo clowns, one in a Bush Sr. mask and one in an Obama mask. People could not understand why a rodeo clown wearing an Obama mask is racist, but one wearing a Bush mask isn’t. I think people need to really understand what racism is.
Racism isn’t simply just hating someone because of the color of their skin (that’s prejudice). Racism is when someone’s prejudice contributes to the disenfranchisement of a race as a whole. A friend of mine described it best, “because black people lack institutional power as a whole for any one black person’s prejudice to contribute to the disenfranchisement of white people as a whole. For example, a black store owner could very well hate white people (and even then you can analyze it as a result of his experience with oppression) and discriminate against all white customers and employees, but it does not contribute to a larger racism where white people as a whole are discriminated as customers in stores and underpaid as employees based on race.” People need to look at the bigger picture and they don’t. People don’t want to acknowledge that we are part of larger groups, and saying something to an individual may not just be affecting that one person. Just because someone can’t physically see racism in action, it doesn’t mean it doesn’t echo loudly when a black person is treated like a criminal.
How many reports have you seen questioning Obama’s birth certificate, or people calling him the N word? Now, how many times was Bush called out for being white or possibly not being from Texas? Furthermore, the rodeo clown who wore the Obama mask involved acts from Minstrel shows. Minstrel shows were shows back in the day where people would dress up in black face to mock, humiliate, and degrade blacks. In fact, what we see as the modern day clown is actually a thrown back to Minstrel shows. Recently a friend couldn’t understand the difference because it was, “still making fun of someone.” Except, it’s not. The person wearing the Bush mask was making fun of Bush, the person wearing the Obama mask was making fun of an entire group of people by using actions rooted in historic racism.
I feel like some white people seem for forget that at no point in history have they ever been discriminated against. If I were to be discriminated against, it would be because I am a woman. If my gay, white friend were to be discriminated against, it would be because he is gay. No one is ever discriminated against for being white. At least not on the level where whites need to worry about their position of power in society.
Now, let’s look at some common questions regarding racism and discrimination.
1. No one thought they [Minstrel shows] were racist back then!
People also didn’t think slavery was racist, people thought it was fine having women as property, people didn’t think treating gays as less than was a problem. The other thing? These prejudices still exist. There are people out there who think we should still have slavery, or that women should just be baby making homemakers.
2. Ugh! That happened so long ago. Get over it!
To me this statement is really ignorant. People use it when they don’t want to take the time to looking into the deeper meaning of things (such as why clown makeup could be offensive). I am not saying we should ban clowns, but it doesn’t hurt to have discussions on this sort of thing. Also, discussing the discrimination of the past helps us deal with modern day discrimination.
3. So what? Me and my friends make fun of each other all the time.
First, there is a huge difference between consensually joking around with friends whom you have known, and are okay with it and being destructively racist towards someone you don’t know. Just because your black friend told you he’s cool with you calling him the N word, it doesn’t give you license to call every black person the N word. Just because you and your friends do something, it doesn’t excuse all racist behavior. That would be like going to someone’s house, sprawling out on their couch, propping your dirty feet on their table and exclaiming, “oh it’s cool, I do this at my buddy’s house all the time!”
4. Why can Kanye West say the N word, but Paula Deen can’t?
Because Kanye is black and Paula is white. Oh you want more of an explanation? What people need to do is stop looking at the word, and look at the deeper meaning. An oppressed group is allowed to use certain words as a means of reclaiming them. What is Paula trying to reclaim? Nothing, she’s using it as a means of racism. Kanye is using it as a way to reclaim it. Same reason women try to reclaim “bitch” and “slut.” Of course one must be careful of the tone and who they say these words to. It’s better to use them on yourself or in a generalized manner, since you never known which member of a minority group still finds certain words offensive.
5. There are more Spanish people in ____ town than whites. Doesn’t that make whites the minority?
No. Because minority/majority isn’t simply just about numbers. It’s about a group having social, economic,etc power over another group. Even if whites are smaller in numbers, they are bigger in power. Also, minority does not just refer to the color of skin. It can be about sex, gender, race, etc. Technically I am the minority (woman) and the majority (white). It’s not (pun not intended) all black and white.