by Mikaela Sifuentes
You can even be racist within your own race (in people-of-color communities people with darker skin are sometimes discriminated against), or against your race as a whole.
I have heard the argument that people of color cannot be racist because they are not in a position of power, which I think is a flawed argument.
First, power dynamics can change rapidly based on the situation. Just as a person of color may be targeted for discrimination or violence based on their race, so can a white person.
Having power can simply mean being stronger, being meaner, or having more people on your side.
I acknowledge that in the United States, this has generally benefited White Americans as opposed to American people of color – and nothing in my answer should be understood to suggest otherwise – but that does not change the fact that power can shift due to individual circumstance.
Second, racism is a system of belief that one person can be superior/inferior to another solely based on their race.
When this belief is adopted by an empowered class of society, this is systemic racism.
There is nothing gained from redefining a word that already has a generally-held meaning and understanding, except perhaps to be able to say the words — “Black people can’t be racist toward white people” — which may be a linguistic victory, but changes nothing in actuality.
Mikaela Sifuentes is a Hispanic-American neuroscience PhD student