Sunday, July 20, 2014

Yes, blacks CAN be racist

In 1982, when I was attending the University of Pittsburgh, a white friend said that another black friend was breaking off their relationship. Reason? "My black friends are getting on my case." Needless to say, I hurt for my friend.

On the other hand, I wasn't at all surprised. I had years ago detected a considerable amount of "closing of the ranks" among African-American college students on white campuses and always refused to cooperate with that. It thus shouldn't surprise you that I had myself few black friends at Pitt, ironically almost all of those through the white fraternity to which I belonged.

Bottom line, I left the community before I could get "kicked out," which I knew I eventually would be. Indeed, I grew up in an atmosphere of "whitey this, whitey that," which as a teen I got fed up and wanted nothing to do with.

So it gave me quite the surprise when I first heard the ridiculous idea that "blacks can't be racist." The thinking goes that racism has to be "institutional" -- that is, a power problem not necessarily centered in people's hearts and having nothing to do with attitudes toward those of another race. Of course, that definition conveniently exempted African-Americans from being racist because, according to that narrative, they don't have power.

I noticed immediately a flaw in that argument: Everyone knows that the Ku Klux Klan is racist, but it hasn't had any real power since the 1960s. (Thank God for that.) And besides, if the people who run a certain institution repent of racist attitudes on their own, won't the institution change? That's why I was never convinced that blacks having more seats at the table would cause change, and I don't think it did.

On top of that, concerning my friend's mourning the loss of that relationship, was that not using the social power of ostracism to keep people in line? After all, that was in part how segregation in the South was maintained, with boycotts of stores that attempted to serve a "diverse" clientele.

In the last 20 years I've noticed that people of all colors have been crossing lines to build intimate relationships, what I've always done. That's the only cure for racism that has ever worked.

No comments: