Archive for the ‘black racism’ Category

All black Americans are racist. Well, at least 99%.

When your life is shaped by the colour of your skin it is very hard not to see the world in terms of race. In fact, to be race-blind under such circumstances would be unwise.

Some say blacks cannot possibly be racist because they lack power like whites to use their prejudice, their feelings about race, to hurt others. They do not control the police, banks, courts or newspapers. Racism is prejudice backed by power.

But blacks do have power. Not the power to affect complete strangers in large numbers like whites do, but they still have the power to hurt others.

You see that in hate crimes against whites and Asians, for example.

But most of their prejudice and hatred is turned inward. Whatever hatred blacks direct against whites and Asians it is nothing compared to the hatred they direct against themselves.

They live in a white world which tells them over and over and over again that they are no good. In a thousand little ways. As advertisers know, if you hear something enough times you begin to believe it. It is how the mind works.

So at one level most blacks are proud of being black and know they are just as good as whites. And yet at another level, deep down, there is that shame and hatred and doubt about anything black, laid there since childhood by American society.

This comes out in a hundred ways, directly and indirectly. In the self-destruction of drugs and drink. In broken marriages and broken homes. In young men full of promise who suddenly throw it all away. In feelings about light skin and dark skin – colourism. In the way many black women feel about their hair and their beauty. And, yes, in the use of the n-word: I do not care who says it, that word is still poison.

Because this sort of racism works from the inside it can be worse than the racism that comes from the outside directly from whites.

If you ever saw Kenneth Clark’s Doll Test it is heartbreaking: little black girls picking the white doll over the black doll as the nice one. Not all the black girls picked the white doll, but most did.

They did that experiment back in the 1940s and it was one of the things that persuaded the Supreme Court to tear down the Jim Crow laws. Not the lynchings, not the dead black men hanging from trees, but the little black girls picking up white dolls.

But it gets worse: they repeated that experiment in 1985 and again in 2006, long after the fall of Jim Crow, and it was still the same!

Things are way better for blacks than they were 60 years ago – the growth of the black middle-class is proof of that. But there is still quite a ways to go. Even if white racism ended tomorrow, it would take at least another 30 years for racism to die out among blacks.

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Audre Lorde, in her essay “Eye to Eye” (1983), says that all the hate that has been poured into her by white people since she was a little black girl in Harlem in the 1930s is what makes her so angry. But that anger is not directed so much at white people, but at other black women. Because it will hit the mark. Because they remind her of herself, the self she cannot love and accept. Yet they are the only ones who could ever help to make her whole again.

The essay was shortened and printed in Essence magazine in October 1983, but you can read it in all its 30-page glory in her book “Sister Outsider”.

One winter when she was five she sat next to a rich white woman on the subway train. The woman pulled herself away from her and looked at her with such hate in her eyes. Lorde looked at her new snowsuit thinking there was something wrong with it. But it was not her snowsuit – it was her! Her Snowsuit Moment, as I call it.

One time she was at the library. The white lady there was reading “Little Black Sambo” and laughing. All the white children were laughing too. But she was not.


In a thousand and one ways she was told she was worthless, that she did not matter.

She has seen “my wished-for death, seen in the eyes of so many white people from the time I could see”.

All this hate that she could not understand got laid up in her heart over the years and in time became anger, “a molten pond at the core of me”, an everyday part of her – “I know the anger that lies inside of me like I know the beat of my heart and the taste of my spit.” Her daughter kept asking, “Are you angry about something, Mommy?”

But, “in order to withstand the weather, we had to become stone, and now we bruise ourselves upon the other who is closest.”

Not just by little acts of meanness, but also by the constant judgement by other black women: if you are not perfect you are no good – “the road to anger is paved with our unexpressed fear of each other’s judgement.”

The answer is for black women to mother and accept themselves and each other, “making a distinction between what is possible and what the outside world drives me to do in order to prove I am human”.

… I can look into the mirror and learn to love the stormy Black girl who once longed to be white or anything other than who she was, since all she was ever allowed to be was the sum of the color of her skin, and the textures of her hair, the shade of her knees and elbows, and those things were clearly not acceptable as human.

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