In my previous article, “Are You a Racist?” I explored the definition of racism. I highlighted the difference between prejudice and racism, with prejudice being strictly hatred, while racism is both hatred and having systematic power. Furthermore, I parsed the popular debate of whether people of color can be racist towards white people and vice versa. After much analysis, I concluded that people of color cannot be racist towards white people, but white people, on the other hand, can be racist towards people of color.
This, of course, raised even more questions, including: “can people of color be racists towards each other?”
Now, at first glance, people can make the following assumptions that when it comes to racism between two different ethnic groups: 1) in regards to people of color, everyone is marginalized; therefore, everyone is on the same level when seeking out opportunities. So, if a person of color were to receive a prestigious position and blatantly discriminated against another person of color, then that person would be considered racist, because they are aware of the power structure meant to subjugate both of them as people of color. 2) People, especially in the Black community, could make the argument that some people of color are white passing. In being white passing, individuals can easily gain systematic power and oppress people of color with darker skin. For the sake of this article, I will be focusing specifically on the first argument with a lens pertaining to the relationship between two cultures.
Both of these arguments have merit and add layers of complexity to the question: “can people of color be racist towards each other?” However, there is something that both of the arguments fail to acknowledge: the master’s complex. You see, when it comes to this question, it is not a matter of whether people of color can be racist towards each other, but rather, why they show hatred towards one another. This is where the master’s complex comes into play.
Now, let’s explore a hypothetical situation with a Mexican man. If the man, who lives in a predominantly Latin community and has rarely, interacted with Black people, and sees a Black man in his neighborhood, then he will have some suspicion, especially because his only reference to Black people is from the information he receives through media. The media often portrays communities inhabited predominantly by people of color in a negative light. So, the Mexican man would assume that the Black man is dangerous, even though he is innocently walking through the community. This problematic mindset tends to lead to actions, such as saying the N-word to assert dominance.
This hatred that the Mexican man has stems from the slave-to-master complex which posits that the Mexican man is flooded by white people’s perspective on Black culture and, eventually, assumes that he is better than Black people. When people attempt to justify others’ subordination, while not even acknowledging their own, they listen to the master, similar to how slaves listened to the master when they told them of their fellow slaves’ escapes. This means that the Mexican man is basically a pawn of the white man, and has no power over what he is saying. He only listens to the white man because that’s the information that is available to him. This leads to the crux of my argument: people of color from two different ethnic groups cannot be racist towards each other.
Even if the Mexican man held a position over the Black person, or outwardly discriminated against him, he is not racist. The Mexican man’s power and hatred isn’t a result of that person, but a result of the person who he had to become in order to succeed. His assimilation to white culture and adherence to the white man’s perspective is a way to survive, like how slaves had to survive by selling out their friends and becoming the master’s favorite. A person cannot be racist if they dislike a group based off information made to brainwash them, and create separation between marginalized groups. Ultimately, people of color from different backgrounds cannot be racist towards each other. If anything, their hatred is a result of their ideas being white-washed.