Thursday, June 24, 2010

Horizontal Hostility in the Context of Race

 As I stated earlier, I am a Kemetic pagan.  In a Kemetic forum that I frequent, I posted about an argument I had with an Afrocentrist who did a lot of arguing by reference without citing any actual evidence in the bulk of the email we exchanged.  Since she didn't provide any evidence, I decided to ask others if they've heard of her arguments or have any evidence for or against those arguments.  What came up in the ensuing conversation is whether Black people can be racist against whites.  While that is not possibly from the fact that Whites have privilege that Blacks do not, another point of argument that came up is whether the word "racist" should be reserved for only white people, or whether POC can be racist against each other.

Trying to google examples of this myself, I tried searching Horizontal Hostility since one of the examples I gave was a quote from Dr. Beverly Daniel Tatum in which she compared calling whites racist with calling men sexist.  While women can be bigoted against other women, the term sexist is reserved for men.

One of the articles I found on Horizontal Hostility is by Denise Thompson (I guess some random person?) found here. (pdf)  While I'm not sure how entirely relevant this is to what I was writing about on the forum, I found some parallels that I thought were reasonably relevant and helped me to articulate my argument a bit.  From Thompson's article:

"...horizontal hostility between and among women typically involves forms of power-over which spring from a position of weakness not strength."

This is the bite of the issue, I think.  While the person I was arguing with argued that POC can be racist against other POC as long as that "person's bigotry is supported by the dominant paradigm," is that really the same kind of dynamic in charging that whites are racist against POC?  I tried to differentiate between cultural racism and institutional racism which together make systemic racism.  Can it be that systemic racism has two categories within that are at odds with one another?  I would posit that POC do not have the power to affect institutional policy to favor POC over white people, which is the nature of their oppression. 

"...oppression was not only coerced or violently enforced, but that an oppressive social order required a certain degree of complicity for its continuing existence."

I disagree with this.  Placing culpability on the oppressed of not changing the system is a faulty argument because it assumes that those who are oppressed have the faculty to fight their oppression when the nature of the oppression is that they don't.  That is placing the blame on the victim for not having control over variables they do not have control over, which is the reason they are oppressed in the first place.

Could it be that the only viable example of one marginalized person being racist against another is only if the former is expressing their own internalized oppression?  What would that look like?  What POC accepts social stereotypes without not only any feeling of dissonance but enough congruence that they subsequently turn this attitude onto others of their ilk?  Are there really any Black people that require other Black people to "know their place," without being facetious?  While of course anything is possible, I see this as highly improbable.

I've read a definition of racism as power + privilege.  Even if we're talking about two different groups of POC like Blacks and Latinos, for example, being played off each other or buying into stereotypes that were created by or serve white interests, what's missing is the power and privilege.  The element that brings an action into the "racist" domain is the ability to either change or uphold racist stereotypes, and similarly, the ability to either grant or withhold benefits on the institutional level.  While POC may uphold the dominant paradigm, they are not on a par with whites to change it.  Much the same as I cannot view POC derailing each other as the same thing as "racist" behavior (having the power and privilege to back up or have cultural approval of silencing techniques).  And in that sense I couldn't use the word racist to describe bigoted behavior between racial groups and/or people of the same race.

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