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Can Black People be “Racist?” By simple definition, ABSOLUTELY.

One of the narratives that is pushed in the discussion regarding race in American society is that “Black people cannot be racist.” The actual presupposition itself should be seen as an emotive fiction at face value, however; this fiction is often forwarded by Black public intellectuals, liberal Whites and the people who subscribe religiously to the post-Civil Rights movement identity politics narrative of progressives. The problem here is often exasperated by misinformation and emotional reactions as opposed to understanding basic definitions. The bottom line is that words are important.

"Words are important. Words are one of the essential tools individuals use to communicate. ... The ‘right’ words can mean the difference between being misunderstood or being clear in your communications."[1]

Using the wrong words to describe the issues of race in American society helps perpetuate misunderstanding and to muddle the actual issues. “Racism” is a general term, it covers the issue of perceived White superiority to minorities, and specifically in the context of American history; their superiority to those who are descendants of the Black slaves brought to America from Africa during the Trans-Atlantic slave trade. It also covers things like Antisemitism, which is racism directed specifically towards Jewish people, this can come from Whites and has come from other groups towards Jewish people, including Blacks. There are Blacks who have been racist towards Whites; there are Afrocentric movements that even forward the idea of the “Black race” being superior to Whites, some even forward narratives that Whites are a deviant sub species of humans. These ideas of deviant sub species of humans, within American history and society, began with White supremacist organizations who forwarded the same narratives about non-Whites, specifically Black and Jewish people; as being from deviant sub species of humans. Then of course, in a cursory observation of American history and society you can find examples of racism between the different minority groups as they come to the United States against each other and towards the White majority group and vice versa. All of that, is racist ideology, and people who hold these thoughts, are racists, regardless of what race they claim.

Racism is analytically distinct from racial discrimination and racial inequality. Racial discrimination concerns the unequal treatment of races, while racial inequality concerns unequal outcomes (in income, education, health, etc.). While racism is often implicated in both processes, contemporary racial inequalities and forms of discrimination are not always the immediate result of contemporary racism (Pager and Shepherd, 2008).[2]

So yes, Black people can be “racist” by the simple and clear definition of the word. Black people can believe their “race” is superior or inferior to others. However; if we are to discuss the reality of the actual race issues in America, that discussion is squarely rooted in the idea of White superiority, as a sociological and cultural foundational concept in the United States. Again, words matter, so let’s call it what it is and define the issue clearly. The specific systemic and institutional racism towards Blacks in the United States, is founded on the social and cultural view that Whites were and are superior as a race to the slaves and the descendants of them. There is no equivalent to that from Black people towards White people, and there cannot be one. Simply because the systems and institutions that serve American society were formed with the presupposition of White superiority. Yes, there has been progress in equality, yet there are systemic and institutional issues that endure and negatively affect the African American community.

The reason the term “White superiority” is utilized is because the term “racism” is general and under appreciates the specifics of the historical problems in American society. George Fredrickson stated that “Although commonly used, the term “racism” has become a loaded and ambiguous term.”[3] Racism can and has been used to purport an equivalence between the reality of African Americans being prejudiced against White Americans, in contrast with the structured, purposed, systematic and institutionalized subjugation of African Americans by White Americans. Not only is this a false equivalence, but this false equivalence is often used to create a foundation for the intellectually fraudulent idea of “reverse racism”, or the more modern idea, that equality for groups beyond Whites (specifically White males) is somehow putting White people in the position of being “oppressed” in the United States.

While it is clear that many African Americans post-Civil Rights movement have entered into better lives by making progress in education, employment and politics, it is equally apparent that a significant portion of African Americans have lives and situations that have remained basically unchanged since the Civil Rights Movement.[4] Further exemplifying the issue is that with the success of some African Americans there has been a backlash from some Whites who express feelings of being the “new oppressed population.” An example of this thinking was quantified by a baffled Charles Gallagher, a sociologist at La Salle University in Pennsylvania, when he stated in a CNN Interview: "We went from being a privileged group to all of a sudden becoming whites, the new victims,''[5] as he was quite surprised to see that “whites see themselves as an oppressed minority.”[6] The actuality that perceived success of African Americans can make a significant portion of White people believe that they are now the “oppressed group” exemplifies that there is an underlying acceptance of being “superior” to Blacks. This mirrors an attitude that was prevalent after the Civil War. It was not enough that Whites were ahead of the freed slaves in society, but there was a purposed mission to make sure that anything that Blacks built was destroyed in order to maintain that lead. In the Reconstructionist South, if Blacks raised their heads in pride for any accomplishment or success, Southern Whites felt compelled to do whatever was necessary to push those heads back down. Blacks striving for equality would not be tolerated in the post-Civil War South and that mentality, while expressed differently, also existed in the minds of many Whites in the North. This exposes two actualities: one, the idea of “superiority” is an illusion and two, it is an illusion that some believe should be maintained at any cost.

The modern reality is that what unfortunately coincided with the end of the Civil Rights movement was the economic reality of the White working class beginning to decline for various economic reasons. And this decline continued from the early 1970s to our modern era. White workers have found themselves losing socioeconomic footing as Blacks and other minorities gained it. This is part of the reason that President Trump was able to defeat Hillary Clinton.

These and other realities are obscured when we simply use the term “racism” as a catchall to describe the complications of racial issues in American society as they tie into the greater socioeconomic, sociopolitical and cultural realities in American society.


[1] Steve Ritch, “Words Are Important.” American Speech Language Hearing Association, © 1997-2017 accessed April 15, 2017,

[2] Matthew Clair, Jeffery S. Denis, “Sociology of Racism” (a study of the relationship between racism, racial discrimination, and racial inequality) accessed April 15, 2017,

[3] Adam Budd, Fredrickson, George. The Modern Historiography Reader: Western Sources. (London: Routledge, 2009.) 455

[4] H. Roy Kaplan, The Myth of Post-Racial America: Searching for Equality in the Age of Materialism. (Lanham, Md: Rowman & Littlefield Education, 2011) 3

[5] John Blake. "Are whites racially oppressed?" (accessed August 15, 2017).

[6] Ibid

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