Can You Be Racist Towards White People?

Rylie Robinson ’21 and Darley Boit ’21

Recently, one particular social justice subject has become a popular topic of conversation among Concord Academy students: Is it possible for white people to experience racism? The debate became prominent when two members of the freshman class had a discussion about it, and took to their Instagram stories to get the opinions of other students. They posted polls which called the attention of the larger community, which gathered together to discuss the issue in a pop up discussion during an Assembly block.

Many members of the CA community believe that you cannot be racist towards white people in the United States. These students are using the new definition of racism introduced by social justice movements. This definition states that racism is systematic, and relies on a skewed power dynamic between races in addition to intolerance for someone based on their race.

“Racism is systematic. You can be prejudiced towards white people, but not racist,” says Edward Myers-Rafferty ’21. This view is shared widely. Many students believe that one can say incorrect, prejudice, and hateful things towards white people, but that it is impossible to be racist towards them.

“I personally believe that racism is a system of oppression. If your on top of that system of oppression, you can’t be oppressed by those below you,” says a CA student who agrees with Myers-Rafferty’s claim. Students who agree with this argument believe that because white people have the most privilege compared to other races in the United States, they are on the top of the system of oppression. Therefore, it is impossible to be racist towards a white person.

There is another part of the CA community that believes that it is possible to be racist towards white people. These individuals define racism by the dictionary definition, which says  that racism is discrimination towards anyone based only off of their race.

“I think anybody can be racist towards anybody, and I think that framing racism as a system of power in a lot of instances is just trying to omit any form of white discrimination,” says a CA student who agrees with the dictionary definition. Many students believe that white people can be victims of racism, too, and that the new definition ignores these offenses.

“Minorities can still be racist regardless of whether or not they have an influence on the laws in their location, and creating double standards based on the history of racist ancestors doesn’t support the idea of judging people as individuals,” says Alex Lee ’21. His statement responds in part to the common argument that white people cannot experience racism because they are not minorities.

Lee shares, “For all the people that go by the new definition of racism: prejudice plus power, at some point whites won’t be in power more than another group, which means that everyone will eventually have to deal with some sort of prejudice against them.”

The two sides of the arguments overlap when students consider racism outside of the United States. In other countries where white people are not the majority, students’ arguments change.

“I’m not educated enough to know about the systems of other countries, but if the system of oppression is different, it’s possible to be racist towards different people,” says Emma Myers-Rafferty ’21. Bryan Montenegro ’21 sticks with the idea that racism has to do with which group is in the minority. He says, “If you live in Africa, there’s going to be racism towards white people because they are a minority there.”

This discussion has been ongoing for some time, and CA students are still exploring different ideas and opinions about whether or not white people can experience racism. While the conversation is ongoing, students look to discussing other social justice topics beyond this one that remain at the forefront of our time.