I was reading this article today that I really liked and wanted to share.
In social justice circles we talk a lot about how racism=power+prejudice and by that formula, only white people have the institutional backing to be racist. While I think that definition is helpful and useful and a huge improvement on the "discrimination based on race" nonsense that's in the dictionary, but this article kind of inadvertently proposes a new definition (or rather, further explains the SJ definition) that I think I like even better:
"Minorities can be discriminatory or bigoted against whites, but "racism" gains value as a term through its specificity. Racism is not about general bigotry or discrimination (notice we already have words for those general kinds of human behavior), but the history of systematic forms of discrimination perpetrated by whites. Conservatives vested in notions of "reverse-racism" hate this qualification because they confuse the two-way logic of "discrimination" with the specific historical purchase of "racism" as its own term. But we use "racism" in this specific way because the repeated, race-based subjugation of minorities by whites in U.S. history is a specific phenomenon that merits a name. Attempts to muddle the meanings and associations of that name—"racism"—are so often attempts to minimize that history, to make it disappear by attacking the name we've given it."
To me this is a really good way to explain how and why the Racism=Power+Prejudice formula works. As the author says it's not that PoC can't be bigoted and prejudiced; we have specific terms to describe those attitudes. But the word "racism" is specific to the institutionalized form of prejudice perpetuated by white people upon people of colour because it is "a specific phenomenon that merits a name." It becomes about specificity of language, which is always an argument I can be down with.
What do you guys think?