I am taking a smack at Joselyn Dumas for a good cause; to clear the hovering misconception out there, which largely weakens and softens the offence of racism.
Racism is something I abhor and regard as an assault on humanity, if not on a group of humans. However, increasing ignorance and misappropriation of the term ‘Racism’ has watered down the offensive connotation and the degrading status of this crime.
To explain this from another angle, let me digress to pull in another grave crime against humanity-Genocide—and point out that, just like racism, the wrong and mostly politicized usage of this term has taken away from it the magnitude of attention it should command.
Reasonably, when you hear racism, eyebrows must rise; but today, it is so abused and everything unrelated has become racism, such that the people suffering in the hands of true racism are not getting the due attention and help.
And it’s this practice that I seek to correct with this post, in relation to Joselyn Dumas’ statement that she has suffered racism in the hands of some Black-British and African-Americans (video below).
Technically and truthfully, I believe a black person cannot reasonably argue that he or she has suffered racism in the hands of another person of the same race—racism is a ‘crime’ from one race or ethnicity to another, mostly from the cushioned race to the underprivileged one.
If I can still remember my simple definition; racism is treating another person less favorable than would treat others because of their race—reasonably, the actor must belong to a different race.
If a white woman treats a black man less favorable than she would treat others of her race because of the black man’s sex and not race, that’s not racism—rather, sexism.
The Oxford dictionary also defines racism as; “prejudice, discrimination, or antagonism directed against someone of a different race based on the belief that one’s own race is superior.”
It’s therefore wrong, somewhat a common confusion for Joselyn Dumas to say she has suffered racism in the hands of people of her race. Perhaps she has suffered other forms of discrimination but not racism. What needs to be emphasized is, racism is a specific form of discrimination and not the catch-word for all types of discrimination.
If a Ghanaian can boldly say he has suffered racism in the hands of a full blooded Nigerian, a person of the same race—it would make this offence so rampant, and consequently beat down its implication and the level of seriousness that ought to be given to it.
It’s true that “at some point, the actual meaning of “racism” got mixed up with other aspects of racism — prejudice, bigotry, ignorance, and so on,” but if we are to present this grave crime for what it is, then we must learn to invoke it the right way and understand that not every form of discrimination is racism.
Simplifying racism and using it interchangeably for prejudice or bigotry is fundamentally erroneous and by so doing, we distort the significance of the discourse, as well as the deserving coverage.
Last year, Mona Chalabi writing for the Guardian brilliantly argued that, we are all racist but racism from white people matters more—sort of stamping feet on the fact that, it’s the racial imbalance which creates the true hurting offence of racism.
“In fact, though, everyone – of whatever colour – is racist. As part of a TV documentary I’ve been working on, I’ve seen how our brains have a tendency to automatically associate our own race with good and other races with bad, whoever we are,” Chalabi stated.
The bewildering term has always been RACE—what’s a race means different things to different people, on the back of diverse arguments and explanations.
Considering the widespread institutionalized racism and even individual racism that some black people have to deal with everyday, arresting their plight and throwing it under the bus by calling every form of discrimination racism, to me, is a slap on the face of the true scale of their anguish.
Of course some people continue to mount arguments on the back of something called ‘internalized racism’ where they say black people can be racist to other black people or people of the same race/ethnicity can be racist to their own.
Theodore R. Johnson argues this well by writing, racism “happens through black people as well. That is, the negative associations thrust upon black people and black culture can color how we black people view each other.”
He adds; “The construct of racism is efficiently designed to politically and socially subjugate a segment of the population. For the oppressed, a natural response is to advocate for conformity with the dominant culture as an appeal for equal treatment.”
Irrespective of how captivating such arguments are, and how factual the disparity in treatment between black people is, I say, racism is a severe crime which must be seen as such and for that to happen, it must not be feebly stretched around to capture such internalized black-on-black discrimination or bias.
For me, folks like Joselyn Dumas and the many others’ incessant usage of racism in such an obvious warped way makes this oppressive crime less burdensome—now, when you cry racism, everyone looks at the other side because the word has been diluted, outstretched and over-abused.
Black British are “British people of Black and African origins or heritage, including those of African-Caribbean (sometimes called “Afro-Caribbean”) background, and may include people with mixed ancestry.”
Also, African Americans or Black Americans are: “those having origins in any of the original peoples of sub-Saharan Africa.”
Joselyn Dumas’ ethnicity or race fits in there perfectly, hence, my argument that receiving a discriminatory treatment from her own ethnicity or race shouldn’t be loudly called racism.
I don’t see how I can be persuaded that an Ewe has suffered tribalism from another Ewe, and I believe in the grand scale of things, racism should follow the same line of reasoning if we want it to attract the needed attention when we mention it.