A little while ago Suey Park was getting slammed on Twitter by folks who took issue with her definition of racism, and I decided to say a few words on the subject. My mentions immediately blew up, and folks started asking for a Storify, so here’s a home-grown, cut-and-pasted version. It’s lightly edited, and only includes the original tweets. For the follow-up discussion, check out @studentactivism on Twitter.
Okay, the kids are amusing themselves and folks are being jerks to @suey_park, so I’ll take a minute. Suey, feel free to RT or not.
One definition of racism describes it as any racial prejudice. Another, the one @suey_park and many other activists use, rejects that frame. Under this second definition, the crucial component of racism is its relationship to institutional power, to structures of authority. The reason for this distinction is that folks who are oppressed hating their oppressors isn’t the same phenomenon as the reverse. You can insist on calling the two phenomena by the same name if you want, but they’re two different phenomena all the same.
A lot of folks have adopted exclusively calling the oppressor’s bigotry “racism” as a good way to get at the underlying structural issues. That’s what’s going on here.
If you insist that all race prejudice must be called “racism,” fine. But you have to do two things:
First, you have to acknowledge the existence of a different definition, with a strong pedigree. Maybe you didn’t know about it before, but you do now.
Second, you have to come up with some other way of distinguishing between