Collaborating in Your Own Oppression

There’s an understandable sense of satisfaction, among activists of colour, in using the racial epithet “white” to dismiss the complacent majority. Members of minority groups are never allowed to forget they have that status. Now there’s a sense of “let’s-see-how-you-like-it” revenge about the sudden and abundant use of terms like “White Supremacy”, “White Privilege”, “White Fragility”, “White Tears”, and so on. 

This isn’t helpful. By forcing white people to identify themselves as part of a tribe, rather than as individuals, you are widening the distance between the white majority and minority groups. You are encouraging white people to have primary loyalty to their “own kind” and to feel comfortable only with other white people. 

Yet the whole social justice movement relies on the principle of individual worth. Activists’ grounds for complaint are that they are not being valued on their own merits but instead are dismissed by prejudicial stereotypes. If we display exactly the same attitudes towards white people we not only open ourselves up to charges of hypocrisy, we also justify the racists’ beliefs. 

Robin DiAngelo, in White Fragility (2019), and others, claim that racism cannot be perpetrated by people of colour because they lack institutional power. This is nonsense. Racism is prejudice based in race, no matter who expresses it, although much more damaging if expressed by the powerful or the institutions that serve them. Everybody knows this and agrees. Language meanings are democratically decided by usage and communal understanding. Robin DiAngelo and her friends are attempting to forcibly change language meanings for their own ends. They are stealing our common property and heritage using their elevated social standing to bend us to their will. This is, in its turn, hegemonic, tyrannical and unjust. 

People of colour expressing generalisations about white people aren’t racist because they are oppressing those white people. They are racist because they are supporting the white racists’ world view. They are allowing white racists to say, “Whether it’s biological, or through social conditioning, you think racial groups are incompatibly different, too. You’re blaming us just because we said it first.” 

People of colour who attack white people in general, assuming their skin colour equates to a life of privilege and ignorance, are complicit in their own oppression. If you cannot appeal to a common humanity, the racial group in control have no incentive to relinquish power. In fact, they have every reason to fear you and thus hang on to power. This exact fear is probably the root cause of all the segregation, discrimination and the lynch mobs in the Southern states of the USA. It is of fundamental importance that we, in Britain, don’t let that poison infect our society any further.

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