Denying that Racism Exists 


To hear white American (and conservative blacks) talk racism is a thing of the distant past (and to some never really existed at all) and that blacks who complain of unfair treatment are either “playing the race card” or suffering from a newly discovered malady called the “victim syndrome.”  

This is the conclusion of Tim Wise in an article called “What Kind of Card is Race?” (To view this, go to his web site:  The reality, he says, is that the race card is “not much of a card to play,” sort of like playing the two of diamonds.  He says this because, among other things, it probably wouldn’t do any good to bring it up.  Why?  For starters, very few whites (as few as 6% according to some recent polls) believe that it is a "very serious problem."  Wise then states that “While folks of color consistently articulate their belief that racism is a real and persistent presence in their own lives, these claims have had very little effect on white attitudes. As such, how could anyone believe that people of color would somehow pull the claim out of their hat, as if it were guaranteed to make white America sit up and take notice? If anything, it is likely to be ignored, or even attacked, and in a particularly vicious manner.”

He goes on to state that few whites are aware of the scores of research documenting the importance of race in America.  For example, he wonders how many are aware that “black youth arrested for drug possession for the first time are incarcerated at a rate that is forty-eight times greater than the rate for white youth, even when all other factors surrounding the crime are identical?”  How many know that “Black and Latino males are three times more likely than white males to have their vehicles stopped and searched by police, even though white males are over four times more likely to have illegal contraband in our cars on the occasions when we are searched?”  Also, how many know that “students of color are 2-3 times more likely than whites to be suspended or expelled from school, even though rates of serious school rule infractions do not differ to any significant degree between racial groups?”

He could have also noted that the drug arrest rate for blacks is about 8 times greater than whites, even though surveys have consistently shown that there are few racial differences in illegal drug usage.  In fact, some surveys have found that whites are slightly more likely to use illegal drugs. 

Wise concludes that because they will be either ignored all together or severely criticized, blacks and other minorities rarely use the “race card” and instead choose to "stuff" their victimization from racism, “only making an allegation of such treatment after many, many incidents have transpired, about which they said nothing for fear of being ignored or attacked.”

There is a much bigger issue here and that is that most people in this society fail to see how larger structural forces that cause so much suffering.  Instead the tendency is to shift the blame onto individuals themselves and tell them to “suck it up” and stop complaining.  This is the conclusion of Bill Cosby and Alvin Poussaint in their book Come On, People: On the Path from Victims to Victors.  They write that “blaming white people can be a way for some black people to feel better about themselves, but it doesn’t pay the electric bills. There are more doors of opportunity open for black people today than ever before in the history of America.”  Also, “You can’t land a plane in Rome saying, ‘Whassup?’ to the control tower. You can’t be a doctor telling your nurse, ‘Dat tumor be nasty.’


Similarly, black sports columnist Jason Whitlock echoes this refrain while commenting on the killing of black football player Sean Taylor of the Washington Redskins.  With no mention of racism or the greater social inequality that is so rampant in America, Whitlock partly blames Taylor himself: “His immature, undisciplined behavior with his employer, his run-ins with law enforcement, which included allegedly threatening a man with a loaded gun, and the fact a vehicle he owned was once sprayed with bullets are all pertinent details when you've been murdered.” Taylor also seeks out a common boogie man, “Hip Hop music” as a cause of black on black homicide.

It is time for to get our collective heads out of our asses and recognize racism and inequality as the major sources of our problems.  Blaming the victims has never worked.

 © 2007, Randall G. Shelden. All rights reserved. No part of this may be reproduced without permission from the author.