Posted by: nquest2xl | June 22, 2008

Four reasons why everyday racism is dangerous

I’m a big Tim Wise fan, if you didn’t know. One of the most profound and illuminating things I remember him saying in one of his commentaries was the way he distinguished the difference between a “cool ass White boy” using the N-word vs. someone Black using the term is the fact that the Black person on the receiving end of the communication never has to guess what a Black sender is trying to say (whether as an intentional insult or an unfortunate term-of-endearment) but, when someone trusted & White uses the same word to send a message, it’s not so clear. Things are even more confusing on the microinsult and microaggression level, perhaps, for these four reasons.

1.) African-Americans don’t know whether they are being genuinely accepted vs. just being tolerated, begrudgingly, by whites.

Though some whites truly accept African-Americans, many more harbor negative stereotypes of them and only tolerate them. Rejecting the legitimate good will of whites is as big a mistake as trusting a white person who harbors racist attitudes The problem is that African-Americans can rarely tell who’s who.

2.) African-American’s inability to distinguish between the supportive efforts of individual whites and the destructive actions of whites as a collective.

This confusion occurs when an African-American is accepted by an individual white person and, as a result, mistakenly believes that racism no longer exists.

3.) African-Americans not knowing when, where and how to resist oppression, versus when, where and how to accommodate it.

There are times and places when racism should be fought bitterly, but other times are not suitable. For example, the African-American employee whose white boss tells a racist joke, has a difficult choice to make.

4.) African-Americans not knowing if and when they have an internal or external locus of control.

An internal locus of control implies that you attribute your successes to yourself and your failures to your lack of effort. An external locus of control implies that you attribute your failures or successes to something outside of your control. A major problem for African-Americans is determining when they are in control of their destiny or whether there are external factors imposed by racism. If Blacks assume an external locus of control (i.e., the “white man” controls everything we do), then we will lack motivation to help ourselves. On the other hand, if Blacks don’t recognize the external constraints imposed upon Blacks by a white-racist society, they could be blaming African-American shortcomings on Blacks and not the real culprit.


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