This is directly related to several comments seen
lately regarding racism on an international scope, most of which have been a part of the conversation about racism
in the New Who
. But I'm also writing this because I've seen these arguments come up before in the past as well, only I am too lazy to find all the links.
(From last I saw, there was a lot of dialogue going on in all of the threads, so I am pointing people there as reference and not as an invitation to pile up. The link above are also just examples that were fresh in my mind; again, I've seen this many other places as well.)
I was going to save this for Intl. Blog Against Racism Week, but hey, why not kick things off early? ( Disclaimers like whoa! )
I'm incredibly disturbed by this trend of white British people either denying that racism exists in the UK or protesting that other oppressions are more important and serious than racism. I've also seen this coming from Australians and Canadians, and I'm sure it has come from basically anyone living in a non-US country as well.
I fully support and agree with the notion that racism manifests itself in different ways, shapes and forms in other countries. I also fully support and agree with the notion that racism in all countries is complicated by oppressions of all sorts, particularly oppressions of class, nationality, and religion.
None of this means that racism doesn't exist in [insert country here].
Last year, I think coffeeandink
asked me about racism in Taiwan. This was after the Great Cultural Appropriation Debate of DOOM and after I had been thinking more about racism and and race. I flippantly said something about there being none, probably thinking in the back of my head that white privilege didn't exist in Taiwan because white people were the clear minority, and that Taiwan was monoracial, and that for me, Taiwan's most important political issues had more to do with sex, class and China. And I'm sure when I said that, I fully believed it and didn't think I was oppressing or denying anyone.
Of course, I believed it and was able to not see racism because in Taiwan, I am a member of the race in power. And in Taiwan, people of other races are made nearly invisible because they are comparatively few in number, because they have basically no visible positions of power in the government, and because, surprise, surprise, their issues are seen as "marginal" and "unimportant." My not seeing them didn't mean they weren't there. It just meant I was blind to them, because I had the privilege to do that.
Perceived invisibility and actual non-existence are two very different things.
For a long time, I believed it when people in the UK and Australia and Canada and etc. told me race wasn't an issue there.
But you know what? Most of the people telling me race wasn't an issue were members of the privileged race there. And a very short time reading around anti-racist communities showed that there were lots of vocal, non-American POC and allies who talked about racism in their own countries. Five seconds on Google pull up lists of anti-racism organizations around the world, and, yes, in the UK. Reading through them, many of the details are different (ex. British Asians vs. Asians in Australia and how the term "Asian" calls to mind different groups of people and of course how the experience of British Asians and Asians in Australia are different). But the overall framework of oppression and privilege has a striking similarity to that of racism elsewhere.
And quite frankly, when I hear from a set of people with privilege and power that racism doesn't exist, and then when I hear from another set of people who are living as POC in those very places or are speaking out as anti-racists, I believe that second set of people more.
I do not think the first set of people are willfully lying, just as I wasn't deliberately deceiving people when I said there was no racism in Taiwan. But I do think that they have the privilege to not see the oppression that they are benefitting from, just as I was blind to oppression of people-who-were-not-like-me.
The lack of racism is a lot more than the non-existence or scarcity of racial minorities, particularly when historically, the lack of racial minorities can usually be traced back to genocide, colonization, deportation, and racially-based immigration policy. This, by the way, also applies to people claiming that their city/state/province/region isn't racist, though then, the reasons are probably compounded by income disparities and white flight
(yes, US term I am using as a descriptive shortcut).
Furthermore, I think people who say that racism in their country is nowhere near as important as another ism are perpetuating a false dichotomy. There is no hierarchy of oppression. They intersect and feed off each other. So anti-Muslim sentiment is a huge issue where you live (and probably in a lot more places as well). That doesn't mean that racism is not important. And I don't think saying racism is an issue means that anti-Muslim sentiment is not important, particularly when the two often intertwine to devastating effect.
Also, to take this from a country-specific POV to an international POV, racism is an international issue and internationally, white privilege is a problem. Look at the division of wealth among nations; look at the political power. But over a century of white imperialism takes a long time to erase. (And no, citing Japan as the exception doesn't actually prove anything, save that it's an exception.) Yes, a white person abroad in a non-white country will very likely experience racial prejudice. But within the global framework, I'm also betting that overall, that white person is seen as having more power and money than a POC.
Bringing up how your country isn't racist in an argument about racism looks a lot like other tactics for derailing discussions about racism, particularly when other people of your nationality have been actively participating in anti-racist activity for quite some time. It looks a lot like someone popping into a thread about sexism in your country solely to say that their country has no sexism and that sexism is a concern of your country, and your country alone.
Which is to say: I (and I suspect most people blogging about this) welcome comments on how racism differs in various countries and on a global scale. But not on how racism doesn't exist or how talking about racism (particularly complaining about racist representations and stereotypes) in and of itself perpetuates racism.Links:
on the African diaspora
on "Mammy" in Britain
on racism in the UK
on color-blindness in the UK
- Links to international anti-racist sites here
- The Global Hierarchy of Race
- Stop Trying to "Save" Africa
- Racism in UK media
(More useful links being posted in comments as well)
NOTE: I am screening all anonymous comments to this entry, and I will be freezing any threads that look troll-y.