Can black people be racist?

by Mikaela Sifuentes

Yes, anybody can espouse racism, regardless of the color of your skin. Anybody can use racist speech and actions that are damaging to others.

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

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