Unpopular Opinion: Black People Can Be Racist

So I had I conversation with my students and a co-worker that changed perspective on the controversial question:

Can Black people be racist ?

Initially I believed that Black people could not be racist and that in order to be racist one must have power. I argued that Black people, because we are a minority we do not have the economic, social and political power to be racist.

I was on to something but my conclusion was not quite right, and I realized this in trying to explain to my students why Black people cannot be racist.

A student of mine posed the question “If a Black person was in power and they decided for example, that they did not like White people and there for they are making it so that White children cannot go to school, is that racist ?” And I said no. I said if we are looking at it from the lens of America’s society, Black people cannot be racist. We do not have that power.

The argument started because my student is a Latina and one of my other students is African-American and he told her something she did was “mad Spanish” (stereotyping) and she said to me “Miss my friends are racist,” and that is when I proceeded to tell her that Black people cannot be racist and the argument commenced. She even brought in some more of colleagues to argue her point and I continued to try to explain to her the difference between racism, discrimination, prejudice and stereotyping.

Photo Credit: Google Images

Photo Credit: Google Images

That, I see now is where even I was getting confused in explaining.

I initially argued that Black people can be prejudice and have pre-existing thoughts and opinions of White people or other people, but we do not have that economic, social or political power to make any of our thoughts into actions

Photo Credit: Google Images

Photo Credit: Google Images

(which is wrong wrong wrong.)

Lesson: RACISM 101

According to Google’s Dictionary:

Racism-the belief that all members of each race possess characteristics or abilities specific to that race, especially so as to distinguish it as inferior or superior to another race or races.

Stereotyping-a widely held but fixed and oversimplified image or idea of a particular type of person or thing

Discrimination-the unjust or prejudicial treatment of different categories of people or things, especially on the grounds of race, age, or sex

Prejudice-preconceived opinion that is not based on reason or actual experience


Colorism-prejudice or discrimination against individuals with a dark skin tone, typically among people of the same ethnic or racial group

After my students were dismissed I went upstairs and continued the conversation with my co-worker who identifies as an Afro-Latina, and it was through that conversation that I realized the error of my conclusion.

(I immediately let my students know they were right, why they were right and thanked them. They were stoked to be told that they were correct and an adult was wrong.)

Allow me to explain:

Black people indeed can be racist because RACISM is the idea/belief and discrimination, prejudice, and stereotypes are the actions that come from one’s belief. Whether or not those actions can be carried out is based on economic, social and political power and that varies based on the circumstance.

Yasmine PaytonComment