The perennial debate about what constitutes racism is a deeply contentious issue and nowhere more so, than here in Britain.
Take a cursory look at online debates about racism on any given day and you will see just what sound and fury is unleashed anytime this issue is debated.
Of course these issues tend to generate more heat than light and you may need to take a deep breath and become impervious to the vile racism you'll will discover, but it’s definitely worth taking a sneaky peak.
A good place to start would be my twitter account @LeeJasper where I endure my fair share of such debates, usually prompted by whites accusing me of being the illegitimate son of Nation of Islam Minster Louis Farrakhan or the UK equivalent of the fascist British National Party's odious Nick Griffin.
The reason they’re all bent out of shape is simple, they believe I’m the spawn of the devil a result as my uncompromising stance on fighting racism.
But nothing and I mean nothing gets these sad assorted trolls, Ukippers and libertarians, so foaming at the mouth, with rabid ignorance as the statement
‘Black people in UK and EU cannot be racist’.
Don’t believe me? Try it and find out.
After some years on twitter enduring this petty and almost exclusively white backlash, what has becomes immediately apparent to me, is that as a nation, we are racially illiterate, confused and in deep denial.
This stems from two principle traits among some white people, the denial, dismissal of the legacy of transatlantic slavery and colonialism and a deeply held shame and guilt they feel about Britain’s past.
This profound psychological deficit in the national character of many white Britons is driven by unacknowledged guilt and the base irrationality of racist sentiment combined with historical denial and a reductive view of racism producing a toxic psychology, blinded by prejudice and politics that drives them to bizarre and contridictory absurdities.
Take a look at some of the public statements from UKIP members on immigration Muslims, or the viciousness and hate with which migrants are now viewed by many.
We all fundamentally, deep down, know that migrants are human beings, men women and children, families like our own, with rights of asylum and refuge. We all know that British military intervention caused the migrant crisis and many of us deem these migrants all illegal and not worthy of common human compassion. These commonly held views are both illogical and stupid yet they persist fuelled by a xenophobic press and venal politicians.
Rationality, common sense, reasonable debate, objective facts all leave the room once the debate turns to racism or immigration.
Otherwise seemingly rationale people turn into gibbering, incoherent wrecks when discussing this issue, such is the continued extraordinary power on the human psyche.
As a black man of African descent and a veteran campaigner against racism for over 30 years I’ve always been crystal clear about my own views on what racism means.
Racism is prejudice plus power reflecting the specific historic, economic, cultural and geographic context to which the term is applied.
The idea that the world is made up of immutable fixed ‘races’ is one of the biggest fallacies of the 20th century.
Race as a biological category does not exist. Its pseudo scientific claptrap but one whose power on the human imagination is such that it can transform whole nations to become riven with a ‘primordial’ racial violence that can become genocidal.
In that sense we can say that Black, Asian, Roma people in Europe cannot be racist simply because we have no power to enforce, wholesale and routine systemic, institutionalized discrimination against whites.
In Britain and throughout the EU, it is we, not whites, who are the majority and principle victims of systemic discrimination and violence in the UK.
Does my definition apply globally? No, because in Africa and Asia where black people have power, other ethnic groups, including whites can be subjected to xenophobia and on rare occasion racism itself.
Can Aboriginal peoples of Australia be racist towards white Australians? Can Native Indians or African Americans be racist towards white Americans? Can Eskimos be racist to white Canadians or Palestinians against Jewish people?
Not in my book, all are victims, not perpetrators of racism.
We can of course be obnoxious bigots and can express racial prejudice and sentiments towards others, but does that constitute racism? Not in my book.
- We can’t order that hundreds of thousands of white people are racially targeted by the police and a racist criminal justice system.
- We can’t order the mass expulsion of white boys from UK schools.
- We cannot order that white Christians be targeted smeared and investigated for their links to right wing extremism.
- We can’t order the mass enforcement of racist immigration controls that impose draconian visa requirements on white Europeans.
- We can’t order that white people are not employed in anything but the most basic and low paid positions.
- We can't rewrite the national curriculum to erase the contributions of whites world history.
- We can do nothing about ensuring that Eton and Oxford universities discriminate against whites.
- Nor can we enforce 500 years of slavery and colonialism, robbing white people of their language religion, culture and natural resources.
My own view is that the notion that Black people and Asians can be racist in Britain is an attempt to let white people of the hook for the reality of contemporary racism. It’s really an attempt to alleviate white guilt about racism, by suggesting that white people are also its victims right here in the UK.
Its a bastardised logic that suits a predominantly, but not exclusively, right wing agenda. An agenda that seeks to minimise and/or discount the effects of racism on Black and Asian people. Racism, it asserts, by common definition and understanding, is simply making a pejorative judgment about someone based on his or her race.
Do white people have a monopoly of racism in Europe? It’s axiomatic they do, it literally comes with the territory. This even extends to the attempt to impose their definition of our problems and then offer their preferred solutions. Its like being punched in the mouth and then being told how to react by the perpetrator.
Of course its not just the right wing who argue such definitions, such is the national confusion about this issue, sections of the left can be just as ignorant about the politics of racism.
What about the white working class, they say, they have little or no power and whilst that is true, they do enjoy the white privilege that transcends their class. They have also been the Labour aristocracy of the world for years at the expense of other nations. White privilege means they expect, and will be treated differently, to their Black and Asian neighbours.
Not only have the working class and Britain enjoyed the benefits of economic racism, they benefit from the white privilege that flows form being the majority culture. Look at any aspect of social economic analysis of the lives of poor blacks and whites and the differences are stark. Take black youth unemployment currently heading north of 54% compared to white youth unemployment at just over 20% or the gross institutionalised racism of the criminal justice system or indeed health inequalities.
Looking at racial inequality of both working class blacks Asians and whites, its absolutely clear that white privilege provides them with many benefits.
Take racial attacks for example: two working class neighbors, one Asian one white. The Asian family rings the police to report a racist attack by his white neighbor and when the police arrive, he ends up getting arrested - white privilege.
Or take British schools, who is more likely to be excluded? Or family life, who can ensure that their extended families living abroad can come and attend family weddings, funerals, births or just come to the UK for a short holiday? White immigration privilege will extend to white common wealth citizens, but not for Black or Asian British people.
One job, three applicants, one white, one African, one Muslim need I go on?
There is any number of race inequality comparators that I could cite but time and space does not allow. Even under austerity economics, Black and some Asian communities disproportionately feel these effects.
And as a result of the scapegoating of immigrants have become the national obsession among the working class; we are also now being held responsible for the sins of white bankers and the financial service sector.
Racism transcends class, and the consensus it produces across all classes of society, is demonstrated by extent to which a culture of normalized discrimination manages to secrete itself into the national consciousness.
Racism remains so strong because its existence enjoys majority support. Tackling racism in white working class where the extreme right now thrives should be a national priority for the left. But I digress…
Normally, when one raises the issue of definitions of racism, the first thing that happens is people quote the dictionary definition of racism.
Let me just demolish the argument that argues that dictionary definitions of racism are a) objective and b) universal in their applications. Racism is and has always been a deeply political project.
The Oxford definition is “The belief that all members of each race possess characteristics, abilities, or qualities specific to that race, especially so as to distinguish it as inferior or superior to another race or races:
This is fine as far as it goes, but critically fails to recognise that such beliefs can be given political meaning and translate into wholesale oppression, with the support of the state, the wealthy, the media and by the predominant ‘in group’ regardless of class, in any given society. The common English definition of racism was and remains contextualized and informed by the very racism it seeks to define.
Racism is best defined as politics plus power.
Dictionaries are as much product of their times, as are the individuals who wrote them. It is an obvious statement to make, but white men write most definitions of racism that appear in dictionaries.
One can detect racial prejudice and bias in western dictionaries when one compare just two words “ Black” and “White”. In doing so, one begins to see the politics of semantics, meaning and definition of language. Dictionaries are, by and large written from a vantage point of white privilege that reflects the historic colonial reality of global white supremacy.
|General Pratt a genocidal racist.|
'Segregating any class or race of people apart from the rest of the people kills the progress of the segregated people or makes their growth very slow. Association of races and classes is necessary.'
Sounds like a genuine and committed anti racist until you look at his views on Native American Indians. This man, Pratt by name and Pratt by nature said’
"A great general has said that the only good Indian is a dead one," Pratt said. "In a sense, I agree with the sentiment, but only in this: that all the Indian there is in the race should be dead. Kill the Indian in him, and save the man."
In looking at the usage of the word it is clear that there is virtually definition in Western dictionaries that has not been written by a white person, usually a man. That in and of itself speaks volumes about the real nature of racism.
When using any word from a dictionary one cannot escape the specific historical and geographical context. That’s why, in different parts of the English speaking world, certain phrases can have completely different meanings.
Racism therefore requires a sociological, not an abstract definition to make any sense in the real word. Racism in Britain, Europe and US is systemically embedded in the fabric of these nations resulting in wholesale discrimination. That requires institutional racism and a nationalist racist culture to give it popular license and achieve mass effects.
Americans and the Brits are often quoted and as being “one people separated by a common language”.
Saying that, it would be churlish not to concede that part of the problem is the misuse of the word by the media and some in the anti racist moment.
It’s routine application to white’s, who are undoubtedly ignorant bigots, but not racist is part of this confusion.
For example I’ve always had great respect for ex football manager Ron Atkinson, who in the 70’s/80’s led the way in playing black footballers. He was caught, some time back, referring to a black player as a. n****r. did I think he was racist? No. Do I think he was prejudiced an idiot and a bigot? Yes.
I know there are laws that relate to racist offences and aggravated criminal behavior. Whilst I agree with the laws intent, I don’t believe that everyone convicted of such an offence is automatically can be described as a racist.
We can say that racism in a universal phenomena, That all people have the potential, given the right circumstances to be racist, but to then assert that anyone, anywhere in the world be racist to anyone, is just asinine.
Black and Asian people in US UK and Europe cannot by racist. I rest my case