Racism is often thought of as something that exists within communities of a certain light colouring. However, contrary to that idea racists exists in all communities especially the non-black people of colour communities. People of colour (POC) is not a term that is really used in South Africa and it does have colonial roots. It is a term is rooted in historic anti-blackness and racial ambiguity. While POC are all subject to racism, they can sometimes be the biggest perpetrators. The Daily Vox team round up five racist acts that POCs need to stop doing.
Admit that a POC can be racist
One of the first things people of colour need to do in their different communities is confront and admit that they are racist. We need to check ourselves and stop denying that our communities continue to perpetuate racism against black people. Just by virtue of belonging to a group that faces racism does not exempt POC from being racist and perpetuating racism against black people. So the next time you find your family member or friends or yourself making a racist statement, stop. Understand that it’s not okay and you need to unlearn that behaviour. And no, black people can’t be racist before you ask.
Stop appropriating black culture
Cultural appropriation is not right regardless of who it is doing that. However, as POC we know what it feels like to watch other people (read white people) wear our culture like it’s a garment that they can discard whenever they feel like. Taking that into account, POC should take even greater care to make sure that they are not appropriating black culture. It’s not okay to wear dreadlocks, braids or anything like that. The next time you singing a song and the n-word comes up don’t say it. And definitely don’t use it when talking to your friends. Even if you don’t mean an offence through your actions, just don’t. Even if you think you have access to a culture, first self-examine and think about your positionality.
Admit there is a privilege of being a non-black POC
All POC face racism but there is a privilege that comes with being a non-black POC. Anything you face is never going to be comparable to what a black person faces in their daily lives, the workplace and just generally. Taking ownership of that privilege will go a lot further to fighting racism and white supremacy than playing the victim and thinking you have it as bad as black people. It’s about realising that saying black lives matter is not saying that other lives don’t matter. Instead of co-opting a movement and a fight for justice, organise within your own communities to fight for justice. (And make sure it’s not on some misguided notion of victimhood)
Stop asking for representation if black people are being represented
A clear example of this was when Black Panther came out earlier this year. We all saw it. Instead of celebrating what Black Panther meant for the black community in terms of representation, there were tons of calls of “what about us.” Non-black POC were very quick to point out the lack of Asian representation in particular in the movie. It’s understandable as a marginalised group to want representation but if fighting for that representation mean targeting the black community, than that is not the way to go. Representation matters but it should not be used as a free pass to be racism. Celebrate the diversity and inclusion and realise it is a step forward, instead of picking a part what it means for you personally.
Don’t think your proximity to whiteness will save you from oppression
Stop perpetuating white supremacy and oppression. While this doesn’t apply to all non-black POC, for a number of people they can fit in and assimilate with whiteness. It allows a person to transcend their identity and forget their oppression. Yet, that doesn’t last. A person can never completely assimilate to whiteness and the inevitable moment of discrimination and oppression will come. Fight colourism within your own communities. That is a huge issue in non-black communities of colour. Change these behaviours because they find their roots in anti-black behaviour as well. Rather use your positionality to fight against that oppression and make spaces more welcoming for all people of colour.
Above all be a good person and stop having or enabling racist behaviour whether it’s publicly, privately, on social media or with your inner circles. Do better!