I got into an argument with a friend yesterday on whether minorities, particularly black people, can be racist. He was very adamant that black people can be racist and saying otherwise was playing into the I-hate-white-people mentality. Being a black person who actually used to think the same way before my sister educated me, I want to challenge this and demonstrate the dangers of thinking like this.
Racism is defined as the following: a belief or doctrine that inherent differences among the various human racial groups determine cultural or individual achievement, usually involving the idea that one's own race is superior and has the right to dominate others or that a particular racial group is inferior to the others.
Prejudice is defined as the following: unreasonable feelings, opinions, or attitudes, especially of a hostile nature, regarding an ethnic, racial, social, or religious group.
(You can find all of these definition on dictionary.com)
The main difference between racism and prejudice is one of power. Although people like to deny it, society is built around white superiority. Look at beauty standards, economics, police brutality, history laden with segregation and slavery, etc. White privilege exists and any denial of this is a direct result of such privilege.
Please understand that I am not saying this to hate on white people or excuse black people from prejudicial behavior towards other races. I am saying this to draw attention to the fact that there is a power difference and it is the reality black people live in. This is not fun for us and acknowledging this does not makes us feel special. I feel utterly gutted writing about this reality because it is just unbelievable that race and skin color can have such a significant effect on how people are treated.
Recognizing this power imbalance is especially significant these days as the corona virus and quarantine measures are heavily affecting black people and people need to be aware of this. Many black men are afraid to wear bandanas as it plays on racial stereotypes of the "dangerous" black male. Video footage has shown some officers treating black and white people drastically differently to the point that one race gets respect and a mask while the other gets force and fear.
If white people continue to deny their privilege, it will continue to make it difficult for black people to deal with the pressures of living in a white dominated society. No one is perfect and we are all learning to navigate our racial stereotypes and biases, but I feel that if we approach everything with an open mind and honesty, we can go far.