Racism and Anti-Racism—Black and White

Black conservative professor Walter E. Williams—a man who, when not using biblical examples and calling labor leaders “czars” in the exams he gives his students at George Mason University, sits in for Rush Limbaugh on the latter’s radio program—has published an essay this morning on TownHall.com, in which he is livid about a definition of racism used at the University of Delware. Why so upset? Because the definition, while incomplete, makes the system of white supremacy that he and the elites who privilege him embrace look bad.

According to Williams, the University of Delaware’s Office of Residence Life Diversity Facilitation Training document defines racism this way: “A racist is one who is both privileged and socialized on the basis of race by a white supremacist (racist) system. The term applies to all white people (i.e., people of European descent) living in the United States, regardless of class, gender, religion, culture or sexuality. By this definition, people of color cannot be racists, because as peoples within the U.S. system, they do not have the power to back up their prejudices, hostilities or acts of discrimination.”

To it’s credit it accurately reflects history and recognizes the reality of structural and institutional power. However, it does not recognize that blacks can be racist surrogates for whites against blacks. When a black man stands up for the system of white supremacy by denying the suffering of black people and working against the struggle for racial justice around the world, then that black man is a surrogate for racism. Such blacks are privileged (conservatives love them and give them essays in their publications) and indeed have been socialized in the white supremacist system to hold anti-black sentiment and to embrace the system of white privilege. Such blacks have high profiles because they serve as useful idiots for the system of white supremacy.

The other problem with the definition quoted is that it conveys the nonexistence of anti-racist whites. To be sure, the majority of white people benefit from the system of white supremacy whether they are prejudiced against black people or not. But white people can reject white privilege and struggle with blacks against the system. So while, as a white man, I am privileged by a racist system, I am a white anti-racist (a race traitor) because I stand with blacks against that system.

Note (March 16, 2020): I no longer agree with the premise of automatic racism among whites.

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Andrew Austin

Andrew Austin is on the faculty of Democracy and Justice Studies and Sociology at the University of Wisconsin—Green Bay. He has published numerous articles, essays, and reviews in books, encyclopedia, journals, and newspapers.

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