Racism: What's that?

Submitted by hadrian on Thu, 07/07/2016 - 21:58


It happened, again. Yet again, a man has been killed by the cops. This time the crime was reported and we can't dance around one simple fact: it was murder. At the time of writing there have been, in the United States alone, 561 extra-judicial murders by these cowardly mercenaries. Cowards? Yes, most definitely. There is no bravery in shooting a man already under your knee and barely able to move. In the meantime many white people are making a fuss about #BlackLivesMatter not being #AllLivesMatter. Although the absolute amount of white people murdered by the police, in the United States, is higher than the amount of killed black people, the amount of people per million inhabitants shows that black people are more than twice as likely to be murdered. Only the Native American population has, this year, seen a higher amount of murdered people per million inhabitants. How long is this going to continue? Why does this keep happening?

Society is Racist

We've grown used to the corporate media never engendering a proper discussion about what racism is and how it works. They can't avoid the problem any more, a small victory for the #BlackLivesMatter movement - a victory that more than legitimizes that movement. In the Netherlands, racism also continues to be a common point of discussion. But what exactly is racism? There's two vantage points that exist simultaneously: structural discrimination and stereotyping.

Structural Discrimination

Racisme is a system of structural discrimination which, because of the socio-economic context, has oppressive effects. This socio-economic context makes it necessary for us to beg for an income - usually this means getting a 'job.' If you don't get that job, it's very likely your income isn't enough to pay all the bills. In the Netherlands there is a small stipend provided by the state but everyone who has to survive on this pittance knows it's not enough. Lack of money also means a constant source of stress. With a system of structural discrimination we see that certain groups become marginalized. For example, Moroccan-Dutch people are known to be twice as likely, according to the Central Bureau for Statistics, to be structurally unemployed compared to white people. This isn't a choice; the only ones who can choose not to do anything useful for society are the rich and there are remarkably few rich Moroccan-Dutch people.

As in most capitalist countries, there is a litany of prejudices against poor people in Dutch society: "lazy," "criminal," "stupid," and so forth. It's common practice in capitalist to blame poverty on the poor - that way the rich don't have to take responsibility for their crimes. One of these prejudices, that of criminality, is probably partially true and Emma Goldman perfectly explains why: "if you don't have bread, ask for a job! If they don't give you a job, ask for the bread! If they don't give you bread, take the bread!" It would not surprise me if people who are consistently rejected at job applications decide to eventually skip the formality of asking for a job or bread. Is that criminal? Only in the law-books written in the interests of the rich.

This means we have a large group of people who are either structurally unemployed or employed in low-income jobs. These people live in relative poverty and tend to crowd together in neighbourhoods with low rents and other people living in similar poverty. In the Netherlands, the Schilderswijk in The Hague and Kanaleneiland in Utrecht are relatively cheap to live in and, consequently, we see large immigrant communities. Living there was not a free choice for most people there, it as an economic necessity. At the same time, many white people live in neighbourhoods with few if any immigrant communities. There may be no walls, like between Israƫl and Palestine now or in South-Africa back then, but we can certainly talk of a segregated society - although I would say there can be no society when there is segregation. There's a good reason we use the word Apartheid when referring to South-Africa.

Many people - and for good reasons - want this type of racism to end. When people talk about cop killings and Zwarte Piet there is also a demand for attention for structural discrimination. We probably won't stop racism just by abolishing Zwarte Piet, we will have to analyse the sources of racisme, why it can exist, and remove those causes. It may be necessary to remove certain traditions from this society - after all, a racist society will bring forth racist symbols.

The Stereotype

In order for racism as structural discrimination to exist, there must first be a differentiation between different groups. These kinds of differentiations can occur for completely random reasons. Many red-haired people will be able to relate quite a few prejudices and insults that they have to deal with and it's possible that red-haired people will, from one day to the next, suddenly be considered a race. Why? The idea of a 'race' has no basis in reality. Every random difference can be used and made significant.

Rick & Morty - Fair Use

The source of structural discrimination is the creation of the idea of a 'race' and the ensuing stereotyping of that race. When we use a stereotype we start relating to others through the stereotypes we assume, instead of relating to Unique Individuals. The unique aspects are ignored because we create the unjust expectation that people have certain attributes as a person. I've heard many Dutch people, including a cop, say Moroccan-Dutch people are "lazy," "criminal," and "stupid." When you see someone and immediately envision stereotypes like this, you will act towards that person based on these stereotypes. This is, of course, a two-way street. A Moroccan-Dutch person who is consistently denigrated by multiple white Dutch people is likely to expect all white people to do that. In no sense is stereotyping fair and, even worse, it destroys the ability to have a society. A society can only be built by Unique Individuals who treat each other as Unique Individuals. Stereotypes are the mortal enemy of society.

A common effect of stereotyping is hatred. Stereotypes are constructed within our communities and they tend to be negative and hateful. Politicians and media have, for a long time, been constructing the idea that there is such a thing as 'the Muslim.' This stereotype is now expected with huge groups of people (even if they're not Muslim). Unique Individuals are easily criminalized and, an effect of racism we've seen many times, it could create a new group of criminals. After all, if people are left with no other choice to survive but to act out a stereotype that people assume about them, it's very likely they'll act out that stereotype. The most important cause is, after all, surviving and if that's not possible in a legal way, people will use illegal ways. This is a possible effect that we can, and must, stop now.

Stereotyping and structural discrimination are, of course, mutually dependent. Where the stereotype creates one of the necessary conditions for structural dicsrimination, structural discrimination feeds steroetypes. This does not mean racism is inevitable. Every day, you can choose not to partake in this horrible system. If you actively make the choice to support this system, you're a despicable human who is not worthy of any form of respect.

Jij Have Racist Thoughts

I'm going to assume you don't want to support racism. In that case, I have something very difficult to tell you: you think racist things. We've grown up in a racist society which means that we've been socialized into thinking certain things. I've heard veterans in the anti-racist movement say that, even after many years of fighting racism, they sometimes see the stereotype before they see the Unique Individual. This is shocking, as you don't want this to happen, but it does happen. Even worse is being called racist, especially if you didn't intend to say or do anything which could be construed as racist - especially white people will have this happen regularly. This is also shocking, but it does happen.

An important concept in the anti-racism movement is 'privilege.' Privilege means that someone, maybe because they're white, has different living experiences compared to someone who is Moroccan-Dutch. If you've grown up in a cozy worker's neighbourhood in some rural town your experiences with cops, teachers, and your direct environment will have been different from someone who grew up in the Schilderswijk. Often, these are very fortunate differences for white people. It's far less likely for a white person to be stopped and searched on suspicion of shoplifting than it is for a Moroccan-Dutch person. These kinds of differences can make it very hard to accept someone else's living experiences. Living in a rural town, your neighbour may have been a cop who regularly came for a cup of coffee while police violence is the disorder of the day in the Schilderswijk. This means that a white person may truly see cops as friendly - until you strike or protest, that is - while they have been ruining lives in the Schilderswijk for years now. It is completely legitimate for people in the Schilderswijk to criticize cops but many white people become angry and start 'victim blaming.' In the proces of victim blaming, we tend to also see white people stereotyping. It is imperative that we all learn that a person's life story also creates a different view on the world. If someone has been the victim of oppression their entire lives, the first step for others is to listen - and not to immediately become defensive.

Furthermore, we live in a society in which appologizing can be dangerous. After all, if we admit a mistake we could get fired. If we don't get fired, the system has many other potential penalties. However, if we decide to no longer perpetuate racism - which is part of that system - we will have to learn to acknowledge that we (may) think racist things and that we'll have to appologize from time to time. Appologizing may be one of the most revolutionary things, in the field of interpersonal relations, that we can learn to do as it prefigures a little bit of the society we would like to see: the acknowledgement that mistakes are made and that we should be able to make mistakes, provided we also try to learn from our mistakes. It is also imperative that we recognize we live in a socio-economic context in which white people generally have an easier life than people of colour. Does this mean all which people have an easier life than all black people? No. Does this mean most white people have an easier life than black people? Yes.


Racism exists as a social construct but a social construct can only exist through silent or active consent. I believe racism still exists mostly through silent consent, although more and more people are becoming openly racist. White people should be ashamed because of the existence of racism. People of colour may die at any time because of racism. Everyone would be better off if we remove this system as quickly as possible. It's time to retract our consent and this demands that we act. This demands that we drop the stereotypes that the corporate media spoonfeed us every day and that we start treating others as Unique Individuals. It also means that we should actively fight racism whereever we may find it. People of colour don't have much choice in the matter, white people have a moral duty. Why? Bakunin, although he was himself somewhat inconsistent in practice, provides a perfectly worded reason in his God and the State: "it is characteristic of privilege and of every privileged position to kill the mind and heart of humans. The priviliged human, whether politically or economically, is a human depraved in mind and heart. That is a social law which admits of no exception, and is as applicable to entire nations as to classes, corporations, and individuals."

So long as racists exist, racism will exist. So long as racism exists, this will continue to happen:

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