Minorities cannot be racist. I’ll say it louder for the people in the back who did not hear me—minorities cannot be racist.
Racism is the belief that all members of each race possess characteristics or abilities specific to that race, especially so as to distinguish it as inferior or superior to another race or races. That definition was not found on Tumblr or Buzzfeed, but good ole Merriam-Webster.
The system of racism begins with a race designating itself as superior to another. To carry out acts of racism, a race must have power and privilege. There has never been a time in American history when a race other than white has had power and privilege over another—especially in the case of African-Americans.
Now this is not to say that minorities cannot be prejudiced or practice discriminatory behaviors because they definitely can and have done so. Bigotry, the stubborn intolerance of any race, creed, belief or opinion different from one’s own, can be practiced by any race. As a part of a community that has experienced tremendous amounts of bigotry and racism to this day, it is important that we as African-Americans direct our anger and hurt at the institution of racism and not people.
People are not born with prejudice or racism. Harmful and hateful ideologies such as, “All black people lie, steal and kill,” have to be taught. I know it hurts when you see yet another act of police brutality against someone who looks like you.
I know how it feels to realize that our race makes up 38 percent of arrests for violent crimes even though we are only 12 percent of the population.
I know exactly how it feels to be pulled over just because you are black. African-Americans made up 42 percent of stops on the New Jersey turnpike, yet others claim we are being whiny when we bring up past and current discrimination.
I know how it feels to proclaim that “black lives matter” and have someone have the audacity to claim that “all lives matter,” as though I was implying they did not. I know it seems like we are at the bottom of the barrel or that we are no more important than the gum on a shoe, but that is not the case.
We are important. There are those out there raised on racist ideologies and beliefs that will try to put us down and tell us that our issues and our voices are not important. And they are 50 shades of wrong.
We must remember when faced with adversity that institutional racism is very much alive, but that does not mean that it cannot be overcome. We must remember not to let hate seep into our souls and corrupt us. We must be strong, and we must love.
How would it look for us to take on the characteristics—the hate—of our oppressors? Although we may not have the power or privilege to be racist, we do have the power to stand up for what is right.
Now it’s time to put that left fist up and get in formation.
The author has since written a column in response to comments made to this column. You can read it here.