The False Equivalency of Racism versus Prejudice
False equivalence: “a logical fallacy in which two opposing arguments appear to be logically equivalent when in fact they are not. This fallacy is categorized as a fallacy of inconsistency.”
Equating black, brown, red or yellow prejudice with white racism is a false equivalence. If you’re still not clear about why that is, perhaps the following will help:
The reason why is because black prejudice against whites, when it occurs, is based upon 300 plus years of race-based slavery, overt and covert genocide, the Black Codes, Jim Crow, de-facto segregation, economic warfare, and peonage. It is the result of generations of traumatized black families who have held no power within a system and who have been subjected to relentless pain, trauma, suffering and death at the hands of a white majority. It is — when it is present within an individual or sub-group — a defensive response to the offensive dehumanization that black people have suffered for hundreds of years as they built a nation that has prospered from their genius and labor.
It is a logical fallacy because blacks continue to hold minimal power within the economic and political systems of the United States. It is a logical fallacy because blacks continue to make up a disproportionate number of those currently enslaved within the Prison industrial Complex, which is legal slavery as per the 13th Amendment and was actually designed to serve this purpose in the aftermath of the Civil War. it is a logical fallacy because this prejudice is demonstrably individualized, while racism is both individualized and institutionalized which is also a measurable, qualitative difference in scale and outcome.
White racism, on the other hand, is based upon preferential treatment, built into the tripartite structure of culture, politics and economics. Multi-generational wealth and privileged based merely upon the color of one’s skin, has been accrued by many, consolidating inter-generational dominance over those who have historically been denied access to the means of wealth generation and accumulation. Even for those whites who currently exist at the bottom of the economic structure in the lower and middle classes experience privilege just by dint of possessing white skin. Often, this is all that they possess and yet, still, that skin is enough to give them the sense of superiority that is and has been consolidated across the decades through societal acculturation and the mediums of film, television and music.
Generations of whites, living within the auspices of the white supremacy system have been inured to the implicit violence of this culture. Many empathetic, compassionate members of past generations have had to turn from justice to embrace a system that they knew was wrong because they benefited from it. Then, they had to propagate the system by passing down its material inheritance to their children. Some generations internalized that trauma and reveled in it, becoming more and more divorced from feelings of compassion, while others became more empathetic, more resonant to the feelings in tune with higher conceptions of justice, equality and the implicit human rights of natural, universal law.
Brutality. Individual or systemic, creates intergenerational, epigenetic patterns of trauma whose effects upon the affected populations are in evidence, on all sides, today.
The workable definition of racism, differentiating it from prejudice, is privilege plus power. Arguing that that is not the dictionary definition is part of the problem and part of the privilege, as that position lacks experiential knowledge and speaks to ignorance of daily life as lived by many of darker complexions and hues. If you benefit from it in any form and do not know it, that is an expression of that privilege. If you have it and are cognizant of it and you work to alleviate it by engaging in allied work for a better tomorrow, you are actively seeking to reconcile the structure of American institutionalized xenophobia and oppression and your efforts, no matter their seeming lack of immediate effect or significance, are indeed important. Every thought, word and action helps.
No matter our ethnicity or class, we are all on the front lines. On our jobs, around our dinner tables, at family gatherings, in the parks, at the clubs, out in the neighborhoods. Even though it may not seem like it, you are engaging in warrior’s work; you are challenging the meta-narrative by your very desire to shift the system into more equitable and sustainable modalities.
Whether our shared purpose and work will be enough to turn back this current assault upon personal and national evolution is not yet clear. Whether or not these forces working upon regressive policies will succeed or not, is yet to be seen.
But in the Annals of Eternity, your name is writ large, as Right is Might and the Truth exists beyond cultural and societal approbation or condemnation.
Continue to stand tall. Do your thing. Make a difference in your life and the lives of the ones you love. And when the time comes to face your conception of the Infinite and the Eternal, you will be able to stand there proudly, knowing that you stood for what is right when it mattered most.
And your life matters, right here, right now.