It’s all about Perspective
Written by: J. Stokes – November 15, 2016
Earlier today we here at Tit 4 Tat came across an interesting video in which Nigerian-born writer and feminist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie was having a “spirited” conversation with conservative writer and editor Robert Emmett Tyrrell Jr. about racism. This conversation specifically centered on whether or not 2017 president-elect Donald Trump was guilty of racism during his presidential campaign. Check out the video below to see Adichie and Tyrrell go at it:
While this weblog, and the entirety of K3mistry Productions for that matter, is nonpartisan regarding politics, racism is an interesting subject to explore. At one point in the video above, Adichie asserts “If you’re a White man, you don’t get to define what racism is.” This is an interesting statement, given the many debates over who and what should and should not be considered racist. One could say that Adichie feels a man such as Tyrrell never experiences racism, given that he is White. Her comments and our analysis of them have been supported by many. Nevertheless, there may be White individuals such as Tyrrell who feel the opposite is true and that White people do, in fact, experience racism.
Cashmore and Jennings (2001) have purported that racism is a phenomenon germane to American culture. Racist beliefs and ideologies are arguably created by humans in order to maintain, direct, “and tie together otherwise disparate elements of experience” (p. 136). Seeing that the U.S. as a collective is extremely diverse, feelings linked to racism are likely to occur. Specifically speaking, Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines racism as “a belief that race is the primary determinant of human traits and capacities and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race.” Based off this definition, doesn’t that mean anyone can be racist? One group of people can believe they are superior to another group. Any race, which many believe is a social construct, can discriminate against, chastise, or demean another race, right? According to Cashmore and Jennings (2001), it has been argued “that prejudice should not be conflated with racism” (p. 163). That is to say, the meaning of racism is often confused with other aspects of racism, such as prejudice, ignorance, and bigotry. A key example of how many people of color these days refer to racism can be seen here:
If you missed what actress Tessa Thompson was saying in this clip, it was that “racism describes a system of disadvantage based on race. Black people can’t be racist since we don’t stand to benefit from such a system.” Based off this interpretation of what racism is, Adichie may have a point in stating that a White man cannot define what is and is not racist. If a person is White, then they have not experienced oppression in the U.S. based off race. People of color, such as Blacks, Hispanics, and Native Americans, have not been as fortunate. And before anyone makes a counterargument about sports such as football or basketball, which Black people tend to dominate, let’s all remember that the majority of team owners in those sports are, in fact, White. Even in hip-hop music, another area where Black people in the U.S. seem to rule, both entertainment networks that showcase hip-hop music videos as well as major record labels are controlled by White people. Oppression of certain groups based off of their race is well documented throughout American, and even world, history. Need an example?
So then, based off of these various theories and points of view, do you think Adichie was wrong in her statement? Do White men or White people in general experience racism?
**Hope you enjoyed this write-up on racism. It’s a complex topic that could be expanded over multiple blog posts. Nevertheless, feel free to let us know what you think about racism! Should we elaborate any further?
Cashmore, E., & Jennings, J. (Eds.). (2001). Racism: essential readings. Sage.
- Updated: November 30, 2016