Turn-About Isn’t Fair Play

Someone pointed me at this video as a great demonstration that minorities can’t be racist. Unsurprisingly, I find it instead supports a middle ground: minorities can be racist, but have fewer opportunities both to be unregenerately prejudiced and to be prejudiced at all.

Rahman’s satire of Western history is both accurate and amusing; and he is correct that the result of this past, Western society is more comfortable for the majority. Which, such bias including racial bias, does mean “White” society is racist.

However, this is only one form of racism. As can be seen by a short thought experiment: is an ethnically Asian shop-owner in Birmingham a racist for refusing to employ anyone who appears ethnically African?

Someone who is not at top of the social privilege pyramid can still discriminate based on a criteria irrelevant to the decision; can still be a racist.

Where institutional racism (the racism baked into the system by history) does make a difference is in the forgivablity of racist behaviour. Much like domestic abuse, bullying, and other immoral behaviours, chronic racism provokes the experiencer; and in the same way that beating an abusive spouse to death while they sleep is not seen as praiseworthy but understandable, institutional racism does make racist behaviour by members of minorities seem more excusable.

Members of minorities cannot be institutionally racist, and when they are personally racist have a better excuse; but they can be racist.

So, while removing institutional racism is a bigger win, Rahman is wrong: reverse racism doesn’t exist even in a thought experiment. There are only degrees of sympathy for the same irrational prejudice. And we will all be better off if we don’t privilege any of them.

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2 thoughts on “Turn-About Isn’t Fair Play

  1. The question is what constitutes a “minority”. Globally, any non-Asian is a minority. Males are a minority. I assume, then, that you are defining minority on a local level. In areas where the population is primarily Black (and there are many in the US) Blacks can be and are racist, often violently so. I have lived and worked in such areas and have experienced this first hand.

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    1. That’s another advantage of my suggestion: if we have the aim of stopping humans unfairly discriminating, then the definition of minority doesn’t actually matter.

      I was using minority at the political nation level: a group of humans whose racial identity (taken as a fuzzy balance of self- and external perception) is distinct from other groups and not the default for a nation.

      Having lived in an area with a high number of Asian and African residents, I’ve experienced racism as well (fortunately not violently); which is why I both believe members of any racial group can be racist, and want to avoid being racist myself.

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