All right. Let’s be brave. Let’s just go for it.
Racial Prejudice + Institutional Power = Racism
One of the most monumental concepts on oppression was the equation of the ‘-ism.’ For example, you cannot have sexism, unless you have a sex prejudice (a rude comment) and institutional power to support that prejudice. For example, if a woman says to a man, “You are a weak, no good, dirty Lothario!” it may be extremely hurtful and crude, however, there are no legislations or societal norms (for lack of a better term) which would vouch for the woman who says this. Therefore, the comment she made would be considered a sex prejudice–not sexism.
If, however, a man said to a woman, “You are a worthless pig-whore!” it would not only be considered a hurtful sex prejudice, it would also be considered sexism. The reason behind this is that there is an entire history of legislations and societal norms which would support his saying that–that a woman is not worthy of equal pay, equal treatment and basic respect. Legislations and societal norms may also label her as ‘crazy’ and ‘out of control’ or ‘bossy’ if she demands an apology.
It is this aspect of institutional power that does not allow for reverse sexism. So, though it is sexism if a man makes a crude comment, for example, a woman who makes a crude comment to a man would not be considered a reverse sexist. Since there is not a legislative system of power to support her claim, so though it would be a rude sex prejudice, it would not be sexism or reverse sexism.
Same goes for racism. If a white person uses the ‘n’ word in a derogatory fashion, and that person is in a society which has an institutionalized power against the person of color, then that comment would be racist.
If however, a black person called a white person ‘white trash,’ it would be hurtful and frustrating. Yet, that comment would be called racial prejudice—not racism. As discussed above, reverse racism cannot legitimately occur if the culture has legislative powers against the person of color.
Let’s do one more example: A homeless person in America judges and makes a crude comment toward a millionaire. They are the same gender and of the same skin color. The homeless person’s comment would be called ___________________________________.
Did you fill in the blank? The homeless person’s comment would be considered a class prejudice–a judgement made toward someone of a certain socioeconomic class. However, it is not a classist comment because there is no legislative power in America against wealthy persons.
If the roles were reversed. If the millionaire made a comment about the homeless person, the comment would be considered _____________________________.
Did you fill in the blank? The millionaire person’s comment would be considered classist. It is classist because there are legislative powers to support the degradation of people in poverty.
So, the idea is this: racism cannot be reversed. A black person in America cannot make a racist comment against a white person. A racially prejudiced comment, while it is hurtful and harmful, may not always be supported by institutional powers.
If a racial prejudice IS supported by institutional powers, it is racist. If not, it is a racial prejudice.