• It reads like a stupid question but it is far from it. The starting point is obviously what racism is. This has become a largely elusive and debatable definition which gains more and more layers of controversy with time. Is racism simply the full conviction and belief in one’s superiority expressed through hate and utter disdain for other races? Is it the expression of hate for other races by a more powerful race and nothing else? Can the disadvantaged race be racist? Can blacks be racist?

    Racism vs Prejudice

    In a scene in the 2013 film, “Dear White People”, a character is heard saying, “Black people can’t be racist. Prejudiced yes, but not racist. Racism describes a system of disadvantage based on race. Black people can’t be racists since we don’t stand to benefit from such a system.” Do not worry, this article is not going to be based on a movie quote but what was expressed here is the new age meaning of racism.

    Zeba Blay, in an article for Huffpost says, “Some people simplify racism as one group not liking another, and think “racist” and “prejudiced” are interchangeable.” If Zeba Blay’s argument and the Dear White People proposition are merged, the aggregate is a semantic distinction between racism and prejudice with blacks incapable of being racist. This idea was first propounded by Patricia Bidol Padva in her book, Developing New Perspectives on Race: An Innovative Multi-media Social Studies Curriculum in Racism Awareness for the Secondary Level. Her views are similar to those of Caleb Rosado in his paper “The Undergirding Factor is POWER” who then says, “Within this understanding of racism, to be a racist you have to possess two things: 1) socioeconomic power to force others to do what you desire even if they don’t want to, and 2) the justification of this power abuse by an ideology of biological supremacy.” He then excludes individual acts of aggression to force white people to do as an individual black desires from the ambit of racism saying the superiority should be a “socially structured power arrangement” not an individual act of violence. With this understanding, racism can be drawn down to a simple mathematical formula: racism = prejudice + power. Some sociologists like Thomas Sowell have however, come out guns blazing arguing this formulation has been the basis for moral intimidation surrounding race issues.

    Growing complaints of black on white racism

    In January 2016, AfriForum in South Africa released a statement saying, “White racism is condemned from all spheres, including AfriForum. Yet it appears as if many of the opinion formers and organisations who speak out against white racism are suddenly quiet when black people are guilty of the same behaviour.

    Just a week after, the FW de Klerk Foundation claimed, “An analysis of Facebook and Twitter messages show that by far the most virulent and dangerous racism expressed in the most extreme and violent language has come from disaffected South Africans. The messages are replete with threats to kill all whites – including children; to rape white women or to expel all whites from South Africa.”

    The world does remember Julius Malema in particular for his “Kill the Boer” song. What is all this? Is it truly racism or just prejudice? If it is not racism, why is the Penny Sparrow post calling blacks –monkeys regarded as racist? In the understanding of racism being the aggregate of power and prejudice, Julius Malema would probably be exonerated while Penny Sparrow is guilty of the charge. One thing becomes clear; hate speech is hate speech and the semantic sensitivities of it being racism or prejudice end up being of little importance. After all, they overly complicate what should be a simple moral and political discussion. The simple moral question is, “Is hate to be tolerated regardless of its name?” The answer is in the non-affirmative.

    Names don’t matter…hate cannot be tolerated

    Everyone should be wary of whites who justify their racist behaviour using the flat “Blacks are also racist” argument. For starters, blacks cannot be racists and secondly, an act of hate cannot be used to justify another; this would inversely provide a basis for black prejudice to avenge the historical racism blacks suffered. However, blacks can still be prejudiced, bigoted, hateful and violent towards other races particularly whites. Does the fact that they are not racists suddenly sanctify their hate and make them better? By no means. It is still as despicable and as disgusting as racism. The semantic separations, dictionary and scholarly definitions should not be abused to foster a culture of repulsive hatred between races in society. The African society should be careful of people who argue that since blacks are not capable of being racists, their hateful prejudices are beyond reproach. Africa is better than that.


    Image Credit: How Africa