Black people (especially President Obama) can’t be racists

Obama-Trayvon-Martin-thoughts

I know that President Obama’s comments on the George Zimmerman verdict stirred up a lot of emotions over the last few weeks. But the one thing that still doesn’t sit right with me is the fact that so many (white) people didn’t hesitate to lodge racist attacks on Obama for taking a moment to speak truth to power about race in America. (Read “Top 12 Conservative Freakouts After Obama’s Race Speech” from Think Progress)

The full transcript of Obama’s speech is online (so that people can actually take the time to digest the meat of his speech: that there need to be more conversations about race “in families and churches and workplaces”). But I wanted to clear something up once and for all for all the people who continue to call President Obama (or any other black person) a racist. News flash: Black people can’t be racists.

Here’s the proof (not just some made-up stuff used to stir up controversy). In Beverly Tatum’s book, “Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?” she clearly explains what being a racist is really all about:

Of course, people of any racial group can hold hateful attitudes and behave in racially discriminatory and bigoted ways. We can all cite examples of horrible hate crimes which have been perpetrated by people of color as well as Whites. Hateful behavior is hateful behavior no matter who does it. But when I am asked, “Can people of color be racist?” I reply, “The answer depends on your definition of racism.” If one defines racism as racial prejudice, the answer is yes. People of color can and do have racial prejudices. However, if one defines racism as a system of advantage based on race, the answer is no. People of color are not racist because they do not systematically benefit from racism. And equally important, there is no systematic cultural and institutional support or sanction for the racial bigotry of people of color. In my view, reserving the term racist only for behaviors committed by Whites in the context of a White-dominated society is a way of acknowledging the ever-present power differential afforded Whites by the culture and institutions that make up the system of advantage and continue to reinforce notions of White superiority.

Now, I know there are still going to be people in denial about that explanation. Knowing the history of this country, they’ll probably never get it. But as far as President Obama’s speech on Trayvon Martin goes, I’m not letting another white person get off with another baseless, racist attack on the president. So the next time you want to bring up racism and Obama, here’s my suggestion: Read a book!

20 thoughts on “Black people (especially President Obama) can’t be racists

  1. I’m astounded at the conclusion of this article. Do not alter a word like “racism” to mean what you want it to mean. Come up with a new word. Otherwise, when otherwise respectable people start spouting, “ONLY WHITES CAN BE RACISTS,” they just sound like giant idiots and meanwhile, genuine racists (whites, of course, since only whites can be racist according to this article) just smile at how stupid their opposition sounds – AND EVERYONE AGREES WITH THEM, because the idea that only one race can be racist is as idiotic and counter-productive as can be. You couldn’t come up with a better crutch for Archie Bunker if you tried. Shame on you for setting the discussion back a few dozen decades.

  2. You just proved mine.

    (Make a simple statement void of any reason and don’t back it up – ah, the new American debate-style. So easy, so fun.)

  3. I read the article, I see the comment made, I see the plight ahead. There’s a famous saying – the hardest man to cure is the one pretending to be unwell. This is why social injustice is only going to become more insidious, complex and ultimately destructive. This does not however mean one stops trying to fight it!

  4. I might be late to this discussion but I figure I should still inform you of two things. First, you’re confusing racism and oppression. Second, I take offense to the fact that you think Native Americans cannot be the victims or perpetrators of racism, or that you believe we should be lumped in with either people of color or whites. Your racist ideas regarding race are abhorrent to me and reflect the fact that things in America are getting worse for everybody.

  5. Way late to the discussion but I happened upon it only now.

    In my own life this theory came into my awareness and got traction and imapcted cultural discourse as far back as the 80’s. Could be older.

    Not agreeing with it doesnt mean one doesn’t “get it”.
    It’s clear, but also imprecise and deconstructable/dismantle-able.
    While actual numbers show immense disparity in terms of so ietal access to power, there are now steadily increasing numbers of Black CEO’s, Exectutives, Decision-makers, people with control over hiring and access etc, in all levels of society, including the White House, government, law enforcement, military, media, entertainment, corrections, public service, the “war on terror” and everywhere else. And those among them who interpret, influence and act upon things according to a discriminatory or race-centric set of filters and agendas (however understandable and justified it may be) are, newsflash: able to be racist. And so can the people who benefit from their influence.

  6. Reading your article sounds like your making excuses for poor behavior by “people of color” primarily black people. As if to say they can’t be racist because of socio & economic things that go on around them. Poor behavior is nothing more than poor behavior by any racial group as well as by any religious group. Do you not think that when let’s say a white person goes to black neighborhood that they don’t feel a little “off balance” and made to feel inferior at times. Of course that happens but what you do is get over it and move on, because most of the time nobody if is out to hurt anybody. There’s a difference between being purposely vengeful or un aware. I choose not to hate people at first impressions because I know we all can say things that “come out” wrong or not meaning to hurt people. Nobody is perfect weather the speaker or listener. This “white privileges” stuff is nothing more than junk rhetoric designed to make people of color more alianated by system that certain individuals (not all) can’t keep up with. White people could certinaly make a reverse claim of “black privilege” when it comes to things like certin sports or music or affirmative action. A whole doctoral thesis could be written on it, but it’s a waist of time just like the white privilege bolony. As long as someone is not being purposely vengeful I’m all rite with they way there being toward me. We all have common sense. If I go to a store in a different neighborhood and they don’t have the product I want, I would get a little upset only for the inconvenience and not through race into it.

  7. The writer of this article is obviously racist against Caucasians and after looking at his portfolio it is a pathological hatred of whites. News flash brains ranting about perceived slights and racism isn’t a job you are making an income leeching off of other people’s pain and frustration I sighting them to hate instead of their energy going to improving their situation. Now are their white racists in America? Yes. Are the majority of whites racist? Not even close. Racist whites are a minority onto themselves. For the record I grew up in a town in Louisiana that was 75 percent African American. I put up with more racist slights than a large majority of African Americans in this country and didn’t whine about it I used it to toughen and build character so stop crying about it and use it to grow a set of balls and pull yourself up by your bootstraps. Now getting back on track, it is racist on your part to claim that every criticism of a this president is racist if it were a white president these comment would not be racist so hence that makes you racist for claiming they are. Your blind following of a President who does nothing but go against what’s best for Americans makes him a terrible president but you cannot see that because of your pathological and all consuming hatred of white people. News flash 150 years ago a very small percentage of Americans held slaves which means that the overwhelming majority of white Americans are not decendents of slave owners. If you would do your research poor whites were nearly as much a victim of the system as blacks since there were less jobs available due to slave labor. I think you owe about 95% of the whites in this country an appology and if you don’t like white I have to say be a man and fave me in person let’s debate whatever supposed racist nonsense you dream up on a show of your choosing I’m sure if you call around and tell them what it’s for someone in the media will have us on just so they can make and educated white man that has researched the subject out to be an ignorant gun toting red neck idiot. And if you don’t have to balls to do that and want to continue this message me on Facebook “Dexter Rabalais”

  8. And there are African American social structures that further the social standings of African Americans through racist actions and rhederick. Black prison gangs, street gangs, Al Sharpton and his minions that prey on others of his race and turn their discomfort and frustration into misguided hate to fatten his wallet at their expense and not allowing their energy to go towards positive pursuits that would better their socio economic standing.

  9. This is hilarious, by stating that black people can’t be racists you’re actually being racist yourself.

    Racism isn’t something bound to white or black people everyone can be a racist, black people can be racist towards asians, whites, .. hell everything. Everyone can be racist towards everyone else.

    Who are you to take this away from ethnic people? Are you the all deciding god of racists?

  10. To believe abama is not racist. One only needs to listen to him speak. For him to only speak of the blacks as the poor. Only a fool or a racist person would think that.

  11. People have privileges but not because of color or lack thereof. Some whites are more privileged than others. Maybe their families have more money, maybe they’re better looking, maybe blessed with amazing talent…But that has NOTHING to do with skin color. And the diversity of privilege amongst white people is as diverse as amongst all people. Some people of color are more privileged than others for the same reasons. But their privilege has NOTHING to do with their skin color. It just doesn’t work that way. The color of skin doesn’t make you sing better, smarter, prettier, color does not define you. However, people of color are advantaged in a sense that they have been told that they are victims so they are constantly owed something. They get minority scholarships. Why? Are they not smart enough because they are a minority? Are they too poor, can’t get a student loan because their skin is darker? Are they ‘victims’ of their skin color so they’re owed every possible advantage society can give them while whites are oppressed because they’re privileged anyway? I don’t know of a single time when anyone gave me money for anything because of my skin color. So where does the privilege truly lie? Something to ponder.

  12. Martin, I’m a black 36 year old male that works as a web developer and volunteers to serve my community and inspire leadership. I completely agree with DS’s comment. This sets this conversation back decades and is extremely counterproductive. Bringing life to an idea like this is harmful to the progress the subject of racism seriously needs.

    Choose a different word, or clarify that you mean institutional racism (a subset of the primary word). When you take a sensitive word like racism and make a blanket statement like, “Black people can’t be racist”. You cause educated people to refuse to listen or sympathize with the struggle black people have in this country.

    Then by claiming they’re part of the problem because you don’t have solid evidence to prove your claim makes the real racists (just like DS says) laugh and reinforces their racist beliefs.

    So black people can’t be racist huh? What about Asians? How about Hispanics? Jewish people? Also, your statement (the way you describe it, though flawed) can only be possible in the US.

    Yes, this sets the discussion back decades. I’m disappointed to see that you’re an educated black man with a degree in journalism. Meaning that you have a responsibility to provide the masses with research based information. Where you have chosen to instead spread a harmful counter-productive opinion based on a sociology course that black people seem to feel the need to repeat because it relieves them of social responsibility when it comes to racism.

    NO! That responsibility falls on us as well. We need to be just as careful about our racist views as any white person. Probably even more so because we hold zero economic power in this country.

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