In view of past and present racial injustices that continue to be committed against people of color, particularly Black people, around the world, it is absolutely excusable for one to argue that Black people cannot be racist.
But since we are dealing with racism, an emotional issue, it is essential to consider all possible scenarios in order to come to an informed conclusion and be able to move this debate forward without any shred of racial intolerance and one-sidedness.
For so long, Black people in Africa — and abroad — have had to bear the tremendous pain of being discriminated against by other races. From the slave trade to colonialism, mass incarceration, and extra-judicial executions, Black people have often been treated as second-class human beings.
And as such, they have had to constantly retaliate in an attempt to elevate themselves and prove that they, too, deserve all the liberties that the rest of humanity enjoys. Consequently, this has given rise to popular movements, such as the Civil Rights Movement, Black Lives Matter, the Maji Maji Rebellion, the Mau Mau Revolt, the Anti-Apartheid Movement, and more.
Black People Cannot Be Racist
Numerous scholars and analysts have often argued that Black people cannot be racist because they lack the institutional power to deploy racism. They argue that racism is a system in which a dominant race enjoys the monopoly of oppressing others — both intentionally and unintentionally.
In one of her opinion pieces in the University Star last year, author Mikala Everett writes that to carry out acts of racism, a race must have power and privilege. She therefore concludes that minority races cannot be racist because they lack the power to designate themselves as superior to another.
“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,” Everett writes.
In addition, during many of the Black Lives Matter protests last year, popular U.S. political commentator and Professor Marc Lamont Hill of Morehouse College sparked a passionate debate in the United States after he openly told CNN that Black people are incapable of racism:
Many Whites were offended by his remarks since they were made against the backdrop of a horrific incident in Dallas, Texas, where one gunman, Micah Xavier Johnson, shot 12 White police officers from an elevated position, killing five of them.
The incident was suspected to be a retaliatory attack for the killing of two Black men by White police officers in two separate incidents in Minnesota and Louisiana, which triggered nationwide protests.
Black People Can Be Racist
Some experts have faulted the argument that Black people cannot be racist, contending that racism is both an ideology and a practice and neither requires power to exercise.
Some people also believe that defining racism based on power imbalances is a sure way of safeguarding a moral double standard that ends with more racism. They argue that a group’s racial identity shouldn’t undermine individual responsibility.
In all honesty, there are many Black people who have and continue to openly express their hatred toward other races on the basis of their skin color. Regardless of what inspires such hatred, it is still part of the problem of racial intolerance that continues to plague the world.
For that reason, it is practical to argue that anybody can be a racist, whether they belong to a majority or a minority race. It is also correct to argue that people are not born racists; hateful and racially predisposed ideologies, such as “all Black people are thieves” and “all White people are racists,” are learned.
Hence, it is everyone’s responsibility — whether Black or White — to denounce racism in all of its forms. Embracing moral sanctity while pointing fingers and spreading racial bigotry won’t solve the problem.