How does one define racism?
I think this one will suffice.
I don’t think there is a more apt definition of bigotry, if not all out racism, then as such. If someone has a preconceived notion in their head that they use as a litmus test to verify the authenticity of someone else’s race, then I don’t think it is a stretch to say that holder of said notion might be susceptible to bigoted or racial biases.
It’s one thing to have these preconceived notions, or schemas, about groups of people, but these mental shortcuts are simply ways to cut psychological corners. These schemas themselves are not adequate enough to judge whether or not someone is “acting” like their race.
Take Russell Brand and his comments about author and editor Jason L. Riley. Riley was on Fox News lending his opinion about the riots in Ferguson and how the progressive movement along with race baiting have led to a lot of the misbehavior of some of the rioters.
Again, this is merely Riley’s opinion and Brand certainly is within his rights to disagree with him. Where Brand steps over the line is when he actually starts to question Riley’s loyalties to the black race. If you haven’t guessed so far, Riley is a black and Brand is white. You figure it out…
In the clip, Jason Riley is introduced as the editorial board member of the Wall Street journal and the author of the book, Please Stop Helping Us: How Liberals Make it Harder For Black to Succeed. Brand adds is own commentary by saying, “Author of the book: “I am a convenient African-American who will betray my racial roots for Fox News.”
The video clip continues with Riley stating his position that black criminality is not in fact due to racism and poverty but by other nefarious reasons. To that, Brand says, “Could he [Riley] have any more of a ‘Richard Pryor doing a white person’ type voice.”
Brand goes on to say, “I imagine he lives in a white neighborhood that fellow… I’m a white person, I’m outraged almost racially by this sense of betrayal.”
Russell Brand is that rare specimen of aloof irony in that what he thinks he’s doing by making these comments is taking on the big machine of white supremacy, racism and injustice but, in actuality, he is voicing a very old and racist mindset that gave us the minstrel shows of yesteryear.
Just as white actors painted their faces black and acted out the black caricatures in their heads, Brand gives voice to the his own black caricatures and concludes that Jason Riley is what Rob Parker said of RG3:
“… but he’s not really down with the cause…He’s not one of us. He’s kind of black, but he’s not really the kind of guy you really want to hang out with.”
See, Brand has a certain idea in mind of how a black person should think and behave and this is the lens in which he “analyzes” the tensions in Ferguson, Missouri. When someone like Jason Riley comes along and runs against his black schema, Brand is befuddled and assumes that that Riley is a traitor to his race. But what Brand is really saying is that Riley is a traitor to the idea in his head of what a black person should be.
Everyone has certain ideas in their heads about groups of people based on the simple experiences of being human. But what fair-minded people do with these ideas is not hold people to these standards. I myself have several ideas about several different races of people but if someone does not comport to my general ideas, I don’t then call that person a traitor to their race. I am not sure where Russell Brand gets his authority to judge anyone’s racial or ethical authenticity.
Comedian Bill Cosby and Dr. Alvin Poussaint have, for a long time, attacked and ridiculed the attitudes that Brand has of blacks needing to think and behave a certain way.
On PBS News Hour, Dr. Poussaint shed some light on the subject of the anti-education and anti-intellectualism element within some of the black youth.
Oh, I think there are real problems, and I think it is getting at it, I think the fact that Reverend Jesse Jackson has him out to address his convention, the fact that other black leaders all over the country, parents, people I listened to in the community are all very concerned and interested in what Bill Cosby had to say and most of them, I would bet, support what he said, that there are issues and problems that need to be addressed, and yes everyone would agree that there’s been improvement in a lot of areas. But we’re still far, far behind, and we shouldn’t be complacent about our current problems. And Bill felt that people are too complacent and not doing enough.
When we — a generation gap, for instance, is that a lot of black youth now are anti-education and anti-intellectualism, who feel that getting an education is being white, is acting white. We never had that in previous generations, this is something new. I think this is very, very disconcerting that black youth are culturally adapting such postures when the high school dropout rate is so high, when they’re going to jail at increasing rates, it’s in fact really very high, and in jail about 70 percent of inmates have not graduated from high school. So Cosby’s plea around educating, parents really tending to their children, reading to them, teaching them how to speak standard English is well taken and very important.
In an interview with the late Tim Russert, Bill Cosby lambasts the notion of blacks “acting white.”
Cosby says, “A kid is studying and they say to the kid, ‘You’re acting white.’ Which is a put down to make this kid stop studying.” Brand says that Riley is betraying his race, I would use Cosby’s words against Brand by saying, “What are you saying about black people?”
Instead of attacking Jason Riley opinions and ideas about race in regards to the situation in Ferguson, Russell Brand questions Riley’s authenticity as a black man. If nothing else, this proves that many people still have a long way to go before they can judge a someone by the content of character and not the color of skin.