July 20, 2010

White racism is the worst racism

In a follow-up to the essay I quoted in Miner's Canary = Broken Window. Tim Wise explains why white racism is different from minority racism:

Faux-pression:  Racism and the Cult of White Victimhood

By Tim Wise[L]et's consider the distinction I've made in those previous essays--the ones that had my electronic adversary so angry--between white racial bias and institutionalized racism against people of color on the one hand, and occasional bouts of black or brown racial bias on the other. My argument has never been that folks of color can't be philosophically racist. Nor have I said that they cannot, on occasion, practice racial discrimination against whites. What I have said (and frankly what the New Black Panther story and the Shirley Sherrod incident confirm, even if they had happened exactly as the right has spun them) is that there is a fundamental difference, in practical terms, between these various types of racism.

Racial bias on the part of black folks, even the most vicious and unhinged bigotry on their part, is pretty impotent. King Samir Shabazz hates white people and thinks "cracker babies" should be killed. And yet what kind of power does Shabazz have? None. He is in a position to kill no one, and if he were to try he would go to jail. Forever. That's not power. Power is when you can deny people jobs, housing, health care, decent educations, or their physical freedom via the justice system, thereby wrecking their lives. And there are virtually no black folks--and certainly no black folks wearing berets, fake-ass military uniforms and carrying nightsticks--who can do any of that. But there are white folks in positions to do those things, and who do them with or without bigoted intent regularly, as I have demonstrated in previous essays and books.

Likewise, even the NBPP's ability to intimidate white voters (in theory, since there were no such white voters in the instant case) pales in comparison to the actual denial of the right to vote to millions of black men--one in seven nationally, and as many as one in four in several states--because they are ex-felons. As law professor and scholar Michelle Alexander discusses in her brilliant new book, The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness, despite serving their time and paying their debt to society these people of color are disallowed from voting forever. Not by white thugs standing outside a polling place, but by perfectly legal actions taken by state legislatures many years ago, for blatantly racist reasons, and which the courts have said are acceptable despite their racial impact.
Comment:  For more on the subject of institutional racism, see Exercising Power:  Individuals vs. Groups and Educating Stephen About White Privilege. For more of Tim Wise's essays, see Rand Paul's Pro-Racist Libertarianism and Imagine a Black Tea Party.