To suppress the natural self-expression and emotions of others.
How is racism,
sexism, homophobia etc defined?
The shortest definition I use is: prejudice combined with social power
to exert it on others. It is human and natural to have prejudice, but
dangerous when whites in the USA, men everywhere, heterosexuals everywhere,
gentiles most places, natives in Europe. etc. have the power to oppress
others with it.
Can blacks be
racists, women be sexists etc?
No, nowhere do they have the social power to be able to turn the power
structure of the whites (or the men) upside down (not even in pockets
where blacks hold political power such as in South Africa, Zimbabwe and
Example from the
USA: if all blacks hated whites, how would it affect whites? Only emotionally
- through fear. The whites usually solve this problem by moving further
out into suburbia or by going to a shrink.
If on the contrary
all whites entertain negative feelings toward blacks, how does it affect
blacks? In their access to jobs, health, education, housing etc. All tangible
things they have to go to the whites to get.
So blacks in the
USA (or Muslim immigrants in Europe) cannot be racists since they have
no power be able to discriminate against whites in any significant way.
(But they certainly can have prejudice and anger, which is quite another
How does racism
The small racism which only a few suffer from (such as the Ku Klux Klan
and the Nazis) can manifest itself in violent ways - usually, in my experience,
because it originate from a strong mistreatment in childhood. It resembles
the dominative racism of the past through the declared desire to hold
down the target groups.
Yet, these hate-groups
have no social power to be able to significantly hurt blacks as a group
(or the Muslim immigrants) although rare cases of random fire bombings
certainly have caused individual pain.
The big racism, which
most of us suffer from, is on the other hand evasive in its manifestations.
The pathological picture is usually a close-knit pattern of guilt and
fear. We sincerely wish to live up to our lofty democratic ideals about
equality and freedom for all, but choose in reality situations, schools
and living areas, where we will have as little as possible to do with
the target group.
Incapable of living
up to our own ideals, we are stricken by strong guilt in the company of
the target group, we lower our eyes when we meet them in our work place,
we tremble in our voice when we talk about "the race problem"
(US) or "the refugee problem" (Europe) in school classes with
members from the target group listening etc.
Through such evasive
behavior we in the US created the biggest ghettos the world has ever seen
- just as we are now creating similar Muslim ghettos in Europe.
Guilt and fear in the oppressor generate anger- and hostility patterns
in the oppressed. These can lead to irrational behavior, which further
creates fear in the oppressor. This again increases our guilt since we
don't like to face the fact that we fear human beings whom we actually
wish to regard as equals.
All of it helps to
increase the anger- and hostility patterns in the oppressed, who as a
result of their sense of total rejection often begin to strike out in
self-destructive patterns. The oppressor and the oppressed thus constantly
create each other and both end up as victims, yet only the oppressor possess
reel power to change this "system."
We, who are the oppressors,
try to disclaim all responsibility by looking for the cause of this sad
"system" in a few extreme losers such as the "Ku Klux Klan,"
"skinheads" etc, who feel just as shut out from "the American
Dream" as blacks and have no social power to hurt the oppressed.
In Europe we always turn things upside down by calling the racism of such
losers "the big racism" and rather than giving them help to
get out of their distress patterns, we frequently join associations, which
legitimize violent agitation (witch hunts) against them.
In reality the great
decent-thinking majority among us are not only oppressors of American
blacks and European immigrants, but also of the most hurt whites, who
are also ghettoized into despair and hatred. And thus the vicious cycle
of oppression goes on and on through human history.
What is internalized
Everywhere in the world, where there is long term oppression, the oppressed
will internalize the prejudices of the oppressor and begin to believe
them and impress them in their own children and their fellow oppressed.
The most obvious
example is internalized sexism: everywhere in the world women are good
in child rearing, in convivial gatherings and in women's magazines at
telling each other, that the woman's "natural" place is in the
home, wearing a veil, not taking power away from men, etc. No oppressed
group would accept its own oppression for one minute, if such a distress
pattern had not first been installed in it.
is perhaps seen most strongly in American blacks. Such as in "playing
the dozens," a game in which young black men try to humiliate, tease
and insult each other in the strongest possible way. When you are being
attacked, the object is to stay "cool." If you get
upset, you lose.
This cruel invalidation
of each other has continued since slavery, where it apparently originated
in black parents invalidations of their children in order to break down
any rebelliousness in them, which could lead to their execution. Thus
- in the name of love - so that they would survive - they chose to collude
with their slave masters by crushing and humiliating their own children.
How do we become
While the little racism among the few extremists usually originate in
a violent mistreatment or incest in childhood, the far more serious and
devastating big racism, which most of us suffer from, came to us in the
name of love: our parents wanted to protect us from that which they themselves
were brought up to fear.
Hardly any of us
have as white children in the USA avoided situations similar to this:
we were on the bus in early childhood when a black guy of a certain type
stepped inside the bus. Unconsciously our mother pulled us a little closer
to herself. Since we were incapable of understanding why this signal was
given, it helped - along with many other similar early messages about
blacks - to cripple us with a paralyzing fear of blacks the rest of lives.
Later in life our
parents sincerely tried to teach us their own high ideals, their Christian
love of one's neighbor, their firmly anchored belief in "equal opportunities
for everyone," "American creed" etc. But whenever the talk
came to "inner city", slums, blacks, homosexuals etc they couldn't
help - again without themselves knowing it - raising their eye brows a
bit, or changing the voice slightly. Thus they oppressed their children's
innate and natural love and curiosity towards all people with the crushing
message: that some people are not as equal as others.
Later in life - when
we try to live up to their high ideals - we may attempt to break out of
this oppression by for instance in high school or college trying to reach
out to blacks (or Muslim immigrants). But all the time we are paralyzed
by the rumbling in our back head - this terrifying feeling of betraying
our parents love: all their veiled warnings about blacks. And if this
doesn't directly hold us back from becoming friends with a black (or an
immigrant), it certainly makes us so clumsy in our attempt that our adversary
escapes far away.
Once again our guilt
(seen as patronizing) is woven together with fear: now our fear of rejection.
And once again our behavior creates anger and hostility patterns in those
whom we try to reach out to.
That it should be
so difficult to behave in a decent and human way shows how horribly oppressed
we were by racism. We must never forget that this racist oppression made
blacks equally paralyzed in their human behavior.
Example: a black
man comes walking down the street. A white man comes up and slaps him
in the face. The black man keeps walking, another white gives him a blow.
At the sight of the third white the black takes his hands up to protect
Through the centuries
these defense mechanisms have become deeply installed in American blacks
whenever they see a white. And suddenly one day they meet you - a "nice"
white, who says: "Hey, I want to be your friend!" And what will
the blacks do? They will pull their arms up in a self-defensive posture
or put on a protective hostile expression which can make you feel like
crawling down in a mouse hole (or retreat further out into white suburban
We tend to forget
that such internalized racism only exists because the white blows never
really ceased. Hurt by their rejection we end up once again putting the
blame on the victim: blaming them for wanting to "ghettoize themselves,"
as especially heard among Europeans today about Muslim immigrants. It
is easy to see that in such an oppressive system we are all hurt - and
eventually all losers.
What can we do?
Begin to work on our racism.