Beyond Black and White: Revealing the Many Faces of Anti-Black Racism

by Brittany Dawson

Discussions on inequality and racism continue to explode in the aftermath of the Baltimore riots. A quick glance on Twitter offers a sea of both racially misinformed and racially aware infographics and videos from both sides of the argument. Amidst it all, Black folks are left with the unmanageable task of providing mini-race lessons to others, outlining why we’re upset and ways to subvert the pervasive power of White privilege in America.

But as realized by some Americans who are becoming aware of their own privilege and biases, as well as the influx of racial discourse post-Baltimore protests, this responsibility to combat racism shouldn’t be perpetuated as an exclusively “white and black only” problem. White people are not the only group stonewalling social justice efforts. Some Blacks and non-Black people of color who deliberately choose to align their philosophies with nuanced versions of White supremacy equally pose a convoluted challenge in the struggle for justice.

Case and point: When Common, otherwise known as the Chieftain of New Blacks, bellowed a soppy apologia for the White community on The Daily Show, I almost died. Not only did he offer a floppy aside to fans who may have already challenged his allegiance to the community, Common improperly expected we shake hands, love, and forget how our oppressors maintain White supremacy.

“Me as a black man, I’m not sitting there like, ‘Hey, white people, y’all did us wrong.’ We know that existed,” he said. “I don’t even have to keep bringing that up. It’s like being in a relationship and continuing to bring up the person’s issues. Now I’m saying, ‘Hey, I love you. Let’s move past this. Come on, baby, let’s get past this.’”
Pause. So what’s more dangerous here: Overwhelming racism as a byproduct of systemic oppression? Or Black folks who clearly buy into the caustic belief systems used to blanket our understanding of power in America?

And then there’s Mindy Kaling’s brother, Vijay Chokal-Ingam. After posting an image titled, “Which one got into medical school?” with the accompanying caption, “I got into medical school because I said I was black,” Chokal-Ingam aimed to prove the danger of affirmative action and reverse racism. Again, here we have a non-Black person of color whose childlike understanding of access and equity parallels anti-Black sentiments.

Should we blame whiteness, or our not-so-helpful “white vs. black” binary used as the only example to tackle racial discourse?

What’s the point of crying out for justice if some of y’all are doing everything in your power to uproot the homes we’re trying to build, burn the seeds we’re praying to water, and inject cancerous ideas into the minds of our future leaders? We can only blame whiteness up to a certain point. When will we begin holding our kinfolks accountable too?

While racism, from a sociohistorical perspective, stems from white supremacy, we can’t make light of how non-Black people of color and Blacks who have internalized racism feed into similarly disempowering practices.

Come on, let’s face it: White supremacy is the safest cushion since the creation of the Tempur-Pedic mattress. Whiteness continues to be the glittering gem cultures aim to mirror or achieve, leaving its people to chase what I’d call “unattainable Whiteness.” Whether you aim to separate yourself from an entire Diaspora (*cough cough* Raven Symone’s “I’m not an African-American, I’m American” comment) or suggest race is only an occupation of the hyper-liberal Left (Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, ain’t nobody ‘got time for you boo), instead of navigating racial barriers with the rest of us who are unwilling to repudiate our identities, a shortcut has been found.

Rather than indicting race as White America’s perennial issue, an alarming amount of New Blacks and their accompanying unmentionables clasp hands around the fictive kingdom of Colorblindness, shuckin’ and jivin’ on the same soil where the blood-baked backs of our great-great ancestors tilled the land. For many, this is a pleasing alternative: If you can’t beat them, join them.

What happens when equally fiery microaggressions and seething assessments of our community, coupled with a lack of racial consciousness, are spewed from the mouths of our own? In many regards, we are losing power from within.

While many people of color identify with the plight of our ancestors before us and seek to continue the fight for justice, there is an alarming amount who would much rather pretend race is no longer an issue in an effort to stroke the battered egos of those in power. And I somewhat understand why: Blackness is treated as the lowest of all experiences (or at least that’s what we’ve been socialized to believe). Contrarily, Whiteness has been the loudest example of access for quite some time, however, it also shouldn’t be used as the only model to understand marginalization.

If we continue to pile our plates high with White supremacy TV dinners and make oppression palatable and digestible, how can we expect to become a united community?

Don’t think I’ve forgotten about some of y’all who don’t see how our advancement as a community is rightfully dependent on Black women, whether cis or straight, bisexual, queer, trans*, and/or non-binary.

Yes, I’m calling you out. We all know at least a couple who’ve marched for Trayvon, skipped work to protest for Walter Scott, stood ironclad in the streets of Ferguson to demand recognition, but didn’t show up for Rekia Boyd (or Black women as a whole) literally and figuratively.

If we’re honest with ourselves, many don’t show support to folks who fail to represent the traditional Black “lifestyles” we’ve grown comfortable with acknowledging in mainstream social justice efforts.

When will people within and outside our community realize our liberation is blatantly linked to the experiences of LGBTQIA+ individuals? Honestly, these demonstrations deserve just as much of our attention and dedication, if not even more, in comparison to society’s uneven value placed on cishetero-masculinity.

The fight for social justice doesn’t necessarily stop with the killing of Black men. We should be using every opportunity to engage in authentic assessments of our community. That’s right, ALL of it.

We have some serious work to do. And if we’re begging our White allies to do the work, we must ask ourselves some tough questions: What’s working? What needs to be fixed? How can we adopt a more inclusive, intersectional dialogue to make room at the table for other experiences?

Sure, this work won’t get done overnight. But at the very least, we should assume the same responsibility we assign to Whites who blithely mutter “racism is real” and make expanding our perspectives a priority.

Remember, group solidarity only succeeds when we know what makes each other bleed. Sadly, many of our own greedily choose to watch us bleed out in favor of chasing a mirage in the distance: privilege. 

Photo: cdrin / Shutterstock

Brittany Dawson is a regular contributor at For Harriet. She is a University of South Carolina alumni and teacher who is passionate about equality, social justice, and education. You may follow her on Twitter: @BrittanyJDawson or send an e-mail at

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