Can’t We Just All Get Along?

Over at Ethnically Incorrect Daughter, a post about childhood racism
got me thinking. In this post, the writer talks about an incident where
her daughter was the subject of racist bullying by a classmate, who, as
it turns out was biracial. Not the typical white on brown racism – this
time the perpetrator was brown too.

Maybe it’s because I live in Minnesota, where subtlty is a perverse
pleasure and racism is hidden behind small talk and fake smiles, but
the racism I’ve dealt with by white folks has usually been much more
covert. I’ve always called it "The Eyebrow" kind of racism – where the
face stays blank but you can tell by the person’s eyebrow which is
raised (slightly or obviously). Whatever the thoughts behind the raised
eyebrow, it is an insidious form of racism because it’s harder to deal
with it when it is so hidden. Also, it’s hard to confront when the
person can make it seem as if I’m the one who is misunderstanding.

I got a lot of the “Chinese, Japanese, dirty knees, look at these”
eye pulls as a kid by white classmates, but almost all of the most
blatant racist names or actions I’ve been on the receiving end have
been by African American or Native American adults and kids. When I was
younger (early adulthood) I used to just seethe with anger at how
racist they were and couldn’t fathom how they could sterotype me when
they and their communities had been so horribly discriminated against.

It took me until recently to look at it differently and to think
that while, yes, racism is part of it and so is plain old ignorance –
that a chunk of it is also the ways in which the dominant group in our
country (Anglos) have formally and informally placed diverse
populations against each other purposely, and we’ve internalized it. We
never talk about this really – and the movie Crash was just yet another
example of it – but isn’t it easier for “whitey” to get us brown people
hatin’ on each other so they can take the money and run while we’re at
each other’s throats?

There are a bunch of edjumacated terms for these race relation
theories. "Human ecological theories" in which using the forces of
competition and selection of different ethnic groups to compete for
scarce resources exacerbate conflicts between those groups.

A split-labor market theory is a similar use going on right now with
the tensions between undocumented Mexican immigrants and African
Americans. The power group partitions off some labor markets which are
then used to encourage ethnic antagonism.

Another thing I’ve been sensitive to as an Asian American is the
whole “middleman” theory in which Asian Americans have been used by the
dominant power group to be the “middle group” (i.e. "model minority"),
given some token benefits but by no means the full membership. Then,
other ethnic groups are hostile towards the “middleman” group instead
of the dominant group.

Situating ethnic groups to get rid of each other rather than
collectively rallying against the dominant majority benefits the
dominant group, because if we effectively collaborated, they’d be
losin’ their domination.

And just so you know, I have nothing against white people. Some of my "best friends" are white. I know that *many* of you do not
want to dominate us brown folks, or are attempting to get us to hate
each other so we never get to a point of being a political or economic
threat to white people.

Sigh. It’s just that *most* days, it sure feels like it.

sorry for the soap box rant.

(steppin’ off, now)

Author: JaeRan

Assistant professor at UW Tacoma, writer, and researcher.

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