For every article written and comment posted about how white people are privileged or how there is no such thing as reverse racism, there are WAY too many comments that vehemently argue the opposite. (see Idle No More on Facebook daring to post a tongue in cheek picture with the caption “White Privilege: ‘We’ll decide what is racist and what is not racist. We’re the deciders of everything,” and consequent backlash. http://www.facebook.com/IdleNoMoreCommunity)
That is why I am deciding to say to all of you who have been making your cause the fight against racism towards white people: you get a sticker. Yes, you can insult a person and include the colour of their skin, whatever it is, and it technically becomes a “racist” comment. Because, race = a made up concept based mostly around skin tone that has become an extremely important factor in the power structures of our world.
But, when I say “important”, do I mean important in the same way for all races? And that all races suffer equally because of their skin colour?
No. Of course not.
And that is why, if you are white, then racism against you for being white does not matter.
Allow me to explain.
You are called a “stupid white privileged person” by someone, anyone. So, you get upset. You know that you are a good person, and you are not racist, and you have worked hard for what you have in your life, and that still isn’t a lot, it’s not like you’re rich.
This clearly isn’t fair, but will you be ok?
Yes, you will. Our social system is set up to allow you to be ok. When it comes to skin colour, you do not have a single thing holding you back. Other races do. You do not.
Commenters are saying:
Any form of discrimination because of skin colour is racism and therefore matters
This objection is frequently made, and though other people have tried to reason with those who say it, (see: http://callingoutbigotry.tumblr.com/post/51288105158/why-reverse-racism-doesnt-exist, http://everydayfeminism.com/2013/08/racist-against-white-people/, http://whatever.scalzi.com/2012/05/15/straight-white-male-the-lowest-difficulty-setting-there-is/, http://feminspire.com/why-reverse-racism-isnt-real/), the strongest argument against this is the fact that there is a big difference between the outcome of racism towards white people vs racism towards PoC.
Let’s look at immigration, an issue very much tied up in race and racism.
Firstly, there is immigration by PoC to powerful, wealthy countries like America, Canada, and Britain. The majority of these immigrants arrive with the intention of staying – to avail themselves of the possibilities of jobs that were not available in their countries of origin, to escape from war or civil conflict in their countries, to make money for their families, to get an education in a way that might not be available in their countries.
If these are the reasons, then when these people face racism in their new country – be it from not being able to get a job, to being told to ‘go back where they came from’, to being looked at funny for how they dress, to being dealt with sharply because of their accent or their level of English comprehension – do they have the viable, attractive option of just going back to their country of origin? You could say yes, they have the option, but is it one they would like? Probably not, this is why they undertook the major event of moving their entire lives to a new, different, and sometimes hostile place.
So, they stay, and whatever level of racism they face in their daily lives, they deal with in their own ways individually. Some people develop bitterness, some people become depressed, some people feel trapped, and a few find that they can adapt themselves into what their new country expects from them, and thereby live a life with fairly little racism. There are many different personal reactions, but the overall message here is that these people will stay, and work towards their goals, while dealing in their own way with any racism and oppression they face.
The second type of immigration is what privileged white people refer to with the euphemism of being an “expat”. It is when (mainly) white people – that group so used to traveling to other countries because of colonialism first, and then relative wealth compared to the countries they visit second, immigrate to a new country. A major difference with this type of immigration? It is normally not viewed as permanent, but is done with a privileged sense of ‘I can come and go as I please.’
Since I have personal experience with this type of immigration, I will share my experiences with racism abroad, and what it meant for me.
I was born white, to parents who, though they both came from poor families, were both able to secure teaching jobs at a young age during a time when PoC would have been much less likely to secure the same jobs. They had many years to work their way up to become first consultants, then principals, with very little standing in their way.
I, therefore, was raised in comfort. So, when I reached a certain age, I wasn’t worried about locking down a job to make sure I could have a stable economic future. No, I had the luxury of wanting to “see the world”, to “try new things”, to “enjoy life”. So, I became an “expat”, and moved to South Korea.
There, because I am a tall, light haired woman of Eastern European background, I was frequently mistaken for a prostitute (many prostitutes there are Russian and Eastern European), and followed home, and harassed, all despite the fact that I was dressed exactly as the South Korean women were dressed, and behaving just as they behaved. This is an unmistakable case of racism against a white person.
So, did I stay there, and endure, because that move was important to me? Of course not. I enjoyed myself with friends, got to know Seoul, made a bit of spending money and got experience through teaching, and then when I felt like it, I went home. Back to my parents’ house to figure out what I would do next.
Was I uncomfortable while I was being followed, and do I wish that it hadn’t happened? Yes. But it in no way affected my life. It in no way brought down my confidence, or made me feel stuck, or made me change who I am to fit in.
This is just one way that the outcomes of racism towards white people are very different from racism towards PoC.
Commenters are also saying:
Racism incites hate. Hate is bad. So, racism against white people matters.
Frequently people point out that any racism is bad, because it is a negative thing and it just makes people hate each other.
Well really, do I have to say it? If, as a white person, you start to feel hatred towards other races who have said mean things to you about how you are white, then you need to rethink what is important in life. How about, instead, you think about why other races feel anger and resentment towards white people. Even if you believe you don’t fit into the category of “bad, racist white people”, you can still begin to educate yourselves about what it is that white people as a group have done over the centuries to create a negative image for themselves. If you understand this, then maybe you can realize that when other races say bad things about your race, it isn’t personal to YOU, it is a comment on an experience in general. White people have the advantages passed down from generation to generation. White people took over many countries. White people still exercise power over many countries. White people have the high up positions in companies. White people control the government (yes, even if the figurehead is a black man).
Non-white people have centuries of reasons for feeling bitterness towards white people, reasons that have directly affected them and their families.
You, on the other hand, just “don’t like it” when you are lumped into a racial category, or when people make assumptions about you.
You will be fine. Your racial category will not hold you back from doing anything in your life. Other things might hold you back, but not your race.
So, the next time someone says something racist about white people to you, realize that this must mean that that person still experiences racism FROM white people in their life, and that is why they have animosity towards white people. Therefore, the solution won’t be found in you getting upset for yourself, it will be found in trying to fix the situation for oppressed people, making things equal for all races, and then people will no longer have a reason to think ill of white people.
It is actually the very fact that you will get upset about this justifiable racism against white people that will build hate in the world, not this racism itself. In your desire to pretend that racism against white people exists in a social vacuum and is unfair to you personally, you are allowing yourselves to become distracted from what actually matters in the big picture. It is fair, because even if you have not done anything to directly further the social dominance of white people, you have not done enough to try to stop it, either. How do I know this? Because if you had, you would have by now developed enough of an understanding about racial politics to realize that racism against you doesn’t matter.
Do you really want to be That Guy who points to groups of people with long histories of oppression behind them and says, “You aren’t allowed to feel angry. Hate is bad.”?
If you have a problem for being called out for your inherited racial privilege, take it to some White People Problems discussion board and complain about it to other people who think that it is the biggest issue right now. Please don’t bring it to sites that are trying to make a difference for those who need it.