"Too often, racism is seen as a social phenomenon that happens to black people. But it happens through black people as well."
—Theodore R. Johnson
When you think of the term "racism," what characteristics and groups of people come to mind?
Given our historical past as a race, and recent events involving police brutality, I'm pretty certain what your answer would be. But I wonder, are you considering all factors and all culprits that believe in the racial divide against black people?
History, major news outlets and Hollywood generalize the social phenomenon as being primarily a "black and white" issue, but it is so much deeper and complex than that.
I'll explain, but first let me ask this question: Do you believe in black-on-black racism?
OK, let me break that down a little bit. Do you believe that there are black people who are discriminatory against other black people, because of their skin color or their way of thinking?
Initially, I immediately rejected this question because I just couldn't wrap my mind around the idea that we could publicly hate our own people, and become our own oppressors. But after thinking about it extensively, I definitely see the truth in it.
As people of color, we naturally get offended when we see our black men and women being inaccurately portrayed in the media, especially when they are associated with some sort of crime. But we fail to realize how it not only paints a picture of savagery and incompetency to other races, but that it also has the same effect on our own.
Negative images, portrayals and discussions about black people and culture weigh heavy on the way that we view ourselves. In return, it also creates false validation that we're inferior to our counterparts.
There is a theory that was developed by Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham, the author of In Righteous Discontent: The Women's Movement in the Black Baptist Church, 1880-1920. In the book, she called the idea, "politics of respectability." This strategy basically involved black women teaching their children to "mind their manners, dress and speak appropriately and remain free from sexual and other vices." These tactics were implemented with thoughts that if black people behaved as their counterparts, then they would be treated equally and discrimination would become a thing of the past.
These notions unfortunately provoked the reverse effect, and ultimately caused black people to believe that "white is right"—that we have to keep up with them to have any sort of status.
Now, many of us crack jokes like "if xyz was done by a white person or company we wouldn't have any problems," or "if you're at an event that mostly white people attend, you're in the right place."
We say these things with mainly harmless intentions, without realizing the grave impact that it has on our culture. The perception that we have of ourselves individually, and as a unit, impacts our economic standing as a community, and our willingness to work with one another.
I'm sure you've all heard the statistic, quoted by Maggie Anderson, about how the lifespan of a dollar in the black community is only six hours. Looking beyond the technicalities behind how she drew that conclusion, the bigger picture is that we have a buying power of approximately 1.2 trillion dollars, and the majority of that cash flow is leaving our community.
Beyond there being a limited amount of black establishments to patronize, I've also found that there is a hesitation to even support black businesses because of an idea that there will be a lack of professionalism or quality.
If we want to see a change in our community and a sense of oneness (that I know we all desire), then we need to support black businesses! We have the power to change our circumstances, and if we all were to begin the process of denying the negativity that has been forced upon us, we can really make some positive things happen for our generation, and those to come.
What are your thoughts on this topic? Lets chat below!