In response to the racist statements made by Sarah Jeong, the Left has once again claimed that “people of color” (as opposed to Caucasians, who are apparently translucent, colorless monstrosities) cannot be guilty of racism. Jeong, a woman of Asian descent, is entitled to spew her racial hatred without fear of being labeled a racist because racism, by the Left’s definition, is a sin exclusive to the White Man.
This idea has been central to the Left’s racial narrative for decades now. The racism of black people — “reverse racism,” they call it — is a “myth” invented by racist whites. As one explainer explains, “it is literally impossible to be racist to a white person.” There is even a popular show on Netflix dedicated to advancing this idea.
As the logic goes, only white people can be racist because only white people have social and institutional power. A Democratic strategist put it succinctly on CNN a few nights ago: racism is “prejudice plus power.” She didn’t come up with that definition on her own. A woman named Patricia Bidol invented it in 1970, put it in a book, and it has been gospel ever since. Ms. Bidol, whoever she is, apparently has the power to change the inherent meaning of words just by saying so.
There are several problems with this definition of racism, starting with the fact that it’s completely made up. Here are two other problems:
1) Racism is a sin of the human heart. A person’s lack of “institutional power” or “privilege” has no bearing on whether or not they are guilty of it. Claiming that historically-oppressed people cannot be racist is akin to claiming that poor people can’t be envious. Indeed, Leftists, indoctrinated into Marxist thought, probably would make that claim. Their goal is to remove sin from the poor and supposedly-oppressed, and transfer it, collectively, to the supposedly-privileged.
It may be easier to see the world in this light. It may be pleasing to think that the Rich White Man is the author of all sin and the culprit behind all wickedness, but this view has no basis in reality. You could perhaps argue that the moral guilt of an oppressed racist, or an envious poor person, is mitigated due to circumstance, but you cannot argue that they are definitionally immune from guilt as such.
2) Even if I accepted that only those with power and privilege can be racist, it still would not lead logically to the conclusion that racism is the sole domain of white people. Perhaps 100 years ago it may have led there. But not today. In order for this idea to hold, white people, as a group, would have to be completely powerful, and black people, as a group, would have to be completely powerless. The power dynamics must be absolute across the board in order to justify an absolute, across the board statement like, “It is literally impossible to be racist to a white person.”
So, if we are going to maintain that non-whites cannot be racist, then we must conclude that Barack Obama cannot be racist, and Oprah Winfrey cannot be racist, and a black Fortune 500 CEO cannot be racist. And, following the logic, it must be true that these extremely powerful figures do not have power. Oprah Winfrey has less “institutional power” than a white guy in a trailer park. Barack Obama has less power than a white McDonald’s cashier. A black CEO has less power than a white intern working in his mailroom. A black prison warden has less power than a white guy in a prison cell. Sarah Jeong has less power than a white homeless man eating out of a garbage can. And so on.
There is only one way to justify any of the nonsense outlined above. We must strip all individuality from the individual. We must see Sarah Jeong, or Oprah, or Obama, as faceless representatives of a race. Oprah is not a human being, by the Leftist view. She is a Carrier of Blackness. Sarah Jeong is a Carrier of Asianness. I am a Carrier of Whiteness. We are all ambiguous vessels running along on a track already predetermined. If we happen to bump into each other, the white vessel will always have the advantage. I may not feel the advantage, or experience it in any discernible way, but that doesn’t matter. It is an advantage possessed by the White Collective, of which I am a vague and featureless member.
This also means that I am guilty of whatever sins and atrocities my collective has committed. Oprah is the victim of whatever oppressions her collective has been subjected to. Ipso facto, I have victimized Oprah. Oprah could hop out of her private jet and spit right in my face and it would still be I who owes the apology. She is not spitting on me, after all. There is no “me.” She is spitting on whiteness. And she is not the one doing the spitting, because there is no “she.” Blackness is spitting on whiteness, thus it is entirely justified.
This is how Sarah Jeong gets off the hook. She cannot be racist, no matter how hard she tries. Just as I cannot be not racist, no matter how hard I try. I cannot rise above my collective and she cannot sink below hers.