On Tumblr Discourse: Yes, POC CAN enact racism against other POC
okay ppl need to understand there are many different layers of meaning behind “racism = power + prejudice”
through a slightly different lens, racism is race-based oppression
and if oppression is defined as the use of power to inhibit a person or group of people’s life chances
we can clearly see that poc can and do enact acts of racism on other poc
Yes, I think people are confusing the fact that POC cannot enact racism against white people (which we cannot due to white supremacy and white privilege) and conflating that with the idea that we somehow cannot enact racism against one another even as we say and do things which reinforce white supremacy.
You did a great point elucidating all of this in this post of yours and just to reiterate:
"The reality is even if we took every white person on Earth and put them on a space ship and sent them to outer space white supremacy wouldn’t miss a beat.” [Junot Diaz quote]
everytime we play oppression olympics and say x race has it the worst, what are we doing other than replicating the logic of white supremacy? everytime we discriminate against other poc (e.g. the black folks who are protesting against latin@ and asian undocumented workers, all the “asian invasion” sentiments, when my parents tell me don’t bring a black boy home) what are we doing other than benefiting for systemic racism? when we repeat and believe in racial stereotypes, what are we doing and why are we doing it?
racism does NOT need institutional mirrors to be systemic. we as poc DO benefit from racism and repeat it. what do y’all think malcolm x was talking about re: house slave and field slave?
Not all forms of racism (e.g. microaggressions) are institutional, but they ultimately feed into institutional structures (e.g. the prison industrial complex). When we buy into white supremacy and our own tokenization or shit on other POC and use racist stereotypes against them, we are, in a sick way, buying into and benefiting from the existence of white supremacy in an attempt to “get ahead.” These are all very important points, which are usually missed in Tumblr’s SJ discourse that tends to gloss over our personal complicity in many of these systems (which is a very uncomfortable topic).
And this brings us to this whole idea of POC being racist against one another. It should be pretty straight forward: we have all internalized racism and white supremacy, so when we deploy that same language against our own group or other POC groups, we are reinforcing those systems and the oppression of those people. We are also buying into white supremacy and using the existence of systemic racism to our personal advantage (in those instances).
A dramatic large scale example of this are the Irish who weren’t seen as white in the US during the 1800s:
(Image description: Cover of “Harper’s Weekly” with the “South” on one end and the “North” on the other. The Scale is balanced with a caricature of a black man on the “South” side and a caricature of an Irishman on the “North” side)
They bought into antiblackness on the east Coast, rampant anti-Asian sentiment on the West Coast (where they came to be seen as “white” earlier than on the East Coast due to local racial dynamics) and the destruction of native communities on the Great Plains, though. As the definition of whiteness changed in the US to a more color based system, they were largely accepted as “white” in the US by the 1920s.
We buy into white supremacy and commit acts of racism against one another, even as we face racism ourselves, and we can and do benefit from those systems in turn. And this is the case even if buying in ultimately does not make us “white” like it did in this more dramatic example of the Irish in the US (and please, if you’re going to try to come at me saying that the Irish were just “white people” because they were Europeans and due to the label on the scale and that’s why they could benefit while the rest of us can’t, please pick up a history book and just look at the above image again and their racialized “simian” features, along with the fact that they are put on a scale equal to a caricatured Sambo figure) .
White privilege makes white microaggressions and acts of racism particularly virulent, but POC deploying the same language against each other also does carry power as it reinforces and re-entrenches the exact same systems.
Why else then, as Junot Diaz so aptly put in the quote you excerpted above, would white supremacy not even “miss a beat” if all white people were sent into outer space?
When black men denigrate black women as being “too strong,” failing the black family and elevate white women in turn, that is both sexist and racist (misogynoir) and reinforces patriarchy and white supremacy.
When Asian and Latin@ people are antiblack and shit on black people that is racist and reinforces white supremacy in turn.
When black people shit on Asian and Latin@ people, tell them “to go back where they came from,” etc. that is racist and reinforces white supremacy.
When non-native POC support racist sports teams and names like the “Washington Redskins,” dress up in faux-native headdresses, etc. that is racistand reinforces white supremacy.
When we culturally appropriate from one another, especially since cultural appropriation is an act of violence, we are enacting racism and reinforcing white supremacy.
When we all buy into oppression olympics and erase each other’s lived experiences of oppression that is racist and reinforces white supremacy in turn.
What is this NOT the same as?
A POC calling a white person “cracker,” or telling them that they can’t dance or love spice pumpkin lattes too much, all of which carries no power (due to white supremacy) and reinforces nothing.
All of the other examples feed into and reinforce white supremacist power structures and are acts of racism (although, yes, when white people do it their white privilege does make it even worse, we are feeding into the same systems which privilege them when we do these things). Why are we so desperate to give POC a pass for doing the exact same shit as white people and reinforcing white supremacy?
Many POC on Tumblr fail to see the multifaceted nature of privilege and oppression. They fail to see that we are all very much complicit in these nefarious systems and that we can inhabit roles as both oppressors (of one another) and oppressed (by one another and the larger system). Oppression is not solely rooted in whiteness (especially when you look on a global scale). We do not solely “own” the label of oppressed, and acknowledging our complicity and roles as oppressors when we buy into these systems is just so incredibly important.
And last point, since I know white people will somehow miss this- no, this is NOT about you at all and is not an invitation for you to barge your way into this conversation and derail. POC being able to enact racism against one another does not mean that we can be “racist” against you. No, yet again, we can’t. This is about POC buying into the white supremacy which privileges you as we shit on one another in an attempt to “get ahead.” The fact that I even have to write this addendum to make sure you get this point is sad.