[Trigger Warning: Racism] I Am Perplexed
Last night I'm reading an article on Salon - which is something that I rarely do because they tend to push their advertisements a bit aggressively for my tastes and their script keeps messing up on my version of Firefox - when I came across the article titled, When “harshtags” backfire: Mocking #whitegirltears and joking #killallwhitemen stir up more university debate. In the article there is this suggestion that there is a legitimate debate about who can be labeled "racist" which I find disturbing to see coming up again.
See, back when I was in college I had a very intelligent young man try to argue that only white people could be racist because white people had the power in the United States. For him the term was a subjective one that relied on power structures. For example, if a Chinese man living in China hates a white man because of his race he would then be a racist because in that situation his race has all the power in that society. However, if that same Chinese man were to move to the United States he would no longer be a racist because in the United States the white man's race has power in that society. That the Chinese man hates another person because of their race is secondary to the power of his own race within the context of society.
I pointed out that this argument struck me as disingenuous and as a way to excuse racism. The Chinese man in the above example is just as much a racist in New York as he is in Beijing. Making allowances for his terrible behavior because of his location and the society he currently occupies is wrong in every way. If you hate someone because of their race you're in the wrong and you're being a racist jerk. He had trouble with that argument because his mind was so wrapped up in the idea that power structures mattered more than anything else in the world. For him every relationship was bound up in who had the power and who was disenfranchised as a result. All his views were constantly shifting standards that would change based on what relationships you entered and your standing within those relationships. The argument was soon put aside, however, as other more pressing issues arose that occupied everyone's debates (read: 9/11, Iraq, and Afghanistan).
Anyway, here that argument is again and after being away from it for so many years it's shocking to me. I am completely perplexed that people would actually believe that they're not racists because they happen to be a minority in a society even though they fully participate in racist actions. Look, if you hate someone because of their race, regardless of your own race and its standing in your society, you are a racist. You're not exempt because of your own race's societal power, nor are you a reverse racist (which is the dumbest term to ever be coined). You're just a racist and that makes you a shitty person.