A few days ago I received an interesting remark on my Black Pete post: “Just another white kid trying to dictate what is racist or not. Nothing to see here.” Now, aside from the fact that I was in no way saying that the character of Black Pete isn’t racist, I find that a very interesting remark, because it implies an important question: does it actually matter what white people think about racism? According to a large group of people, apparently, it doesn’t. I’m going to disagree.
I have said this before, but I often feel like equality-movements are stuck in the past, and that activism isn’t properly thought about. We just do whatever we think is fun and whatever used to be effective, and that’s all. This particular situation is one such example, because in the 1950s, it didn’t matter what white people thought about racism. Now it does.
When Martin Luther King gave his famous “I have a dream” speech, he lived in a time in which not every black person agreed with the fact that they weren’t inferior to white people. He lived in a time in which people had to be convinced to stand up for their own rights and when racism was so badly indoctrinated into everyone’s consciousness that people actually accepted their own inferiority. His efforts were aimed at convincing black people that they should be equal, so that they could inspire changes in the law.
Things have changed, since then. In the Western world, people of all races are equal by law (save the occasional “reverse-racism” law, but that’s irrelevant here) and I think it’s safe to say that just about every black person believes that they should be equal. And that means that the goal has changed. It’s no longer about convincing black people to stand up for their rights or about convincing politicians that racism should be abolished by law. It’s about convincing white people that all races are equal.
So far I haven’t said anything new. I do assume basically everyone will agree to this point, which is exactly what I find so strange… because then why do so many people still think that the opinion of a white person doesn’t matter when it comes to racism? Isn’t that a little paradoxical? Doesn’t that mean that the goal is to convince white people without considering what white people think? Rule number one of every politician, celebrity or rhetorician when they want to convince people is to consider their audience, so why are so many anti-racism activists ignoring that audience?
Of course it’s a problem when white people think that black people are just complaining about a non-existent issue, but why is that not taken as a sign that something is wrong? Why is that only seen as a fault in white people’s thinking, and not as a fault in the activism? The entire purpose here is to get white people to agree, so when they disagree, something is going wrong and improvement will be needed. Improvement that sure as hell won’t be coming from the racists themselves.
That is the point I wanted to make with my post about Black Pete. It doesn’t matter what a black person finds racist as long as he or she cannot convince the supposed racists that there is an issue, because then nothing will change. Calling an entire country racist, like many did, isn’t going to convince those people, it will turn them against you. All it does is convince those who already agreed, but that’s pointless. We are past the age in which black people had to be convinced of their own rights. Now it’s time to convince white people, and that can only be done by considering their thoughts and reactions, whether you like them or not.
I do realise that this post can be interpreted as me saying “listen to me because I’m important.” As you can imagine, that’s not quite what I’m trying to say, but I do see the issue. Let me just stress that I mean this all on a general level, and not at all about myself.
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