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Is Assuming Racism Racist?

M. D. Jackson is a college psychology professor, author, family counselor, and a mother of nine adult children.

When lines are blurred it is tough to see what is really happening.

When lines are blurred it is tough to see what is really happening.

Social Justice

Is assuming racism racist? You read that right. We are in the middle of social storm where emotions are high and objectivity has been tossed out the window with common sense. In this storm I am proposing that assuming racism is half the problem in this country. The other half of the problem is actual racism. As we delve into this sensitive concept I am asking you to dig inside yourself, be honest, and realize how your own thoughts may be contributing to issues of racism.

The recent firestorm of protests and social unrest in the United States was started by a police brutality situation in which George Floyd was murdered by four police officers in Minneapolis. Derek Chauvin had a 19 year career as a police officer. Previous incidents would insinuate that Chauvin’s behavior was not toward the black community but, rather the community as a whole.

In 2013, 24 year old Kristofer Bergh filed a complaint stating that Chauvin drew his gun in response to a nerf gun incident (Hawkins, 2020). The result of Bergh’s complaint is unknown. However, Berg is white. Wayne Reyes pulled a shotgun on police and was shot and killed. Reyes ethnicity has not been determined although he does not appear to be black in his obituary photo. Ira Latrell Toles was shot by Chavin in 2008 during what Chauvin described as a struggle over the officer’s gun(Adams, 2020), Toles is black.

While there were many complaints against Derek Chauvin, Most of his behavior was consistent with police behavior across the country. It is reasonable to expect to get shot if you draw a gun on a law enforcement officer. That is a reasonable assumption. Any person who says they would not shoot someone for drawing a gun on them is either lying or completely out of their mind.

We have a cop, who it appears, was not discriminating in his aggressive behavior. He and four other officers of various races held George Floyd to the ground prohibiting his ability to breathe until he died. The outrage over the video of George Floyds death set off protests and riots almost immediately. Black Lives matter activists raced to Minneapolis to begin what would become one of the biggest protests in United States History. The call for “justice” was immediate and continued long after all the officers were arrested and charged.

In the name of social justice, David Dorn a Retired police officer was killed trying to protect a pawn shop from looters. Businesses owned by people of every racial background were looted, burned, and people were beaten. In Washington protesters came after Trump and made several attempts to light the white house on fire even though Trump immediately called for an FBI investigation into the Floyd’s death. While it is true racism exists in the United States, it is not as rampant as the media would have people believe.

After knowing what I know about Chauvin, I cannot say with any certainty that his actions toward George Floyd were racially motivated. Chauvin appears to have had issues of power tripping toward people in general. While it may not matter at this point if Chauvin is a racist, the fact remains that the situation itself has been portrayed as a racial issue. The media has pushed a Black Lives Matter narrative that functions on a single assumption that George Floyd was murdered because he was black. Do we know that to be true?

The assumption of racism only happens when a person themselves are racist. When you have a situation in which race was never brought up, and the actions of those involved are their normal behavior, that is not racism. Now we can assume Chauvin is a jerk by some of the complaints however, he appears to have been a jerk to everyone. Maybe, at some later date there will be someone who can attest to Chauvin’s racism through his remarks or profiling tendencies. Right now all we have are assumptions about Chauvin’s actions. As a society we have judged Derek Chauvin’s actions as racists. Why? Well Chauvin is white living in a city known to have a racist past. The truth is the assumption of racism was made purely on the fact that Chauvin is white and Floyd is black. This is an assumption that only someone with race issues would make.

I was standing in an airport line and something sort of hilarious happened, I turned to the couple that was behind me and made a comment. Neither of them responded and the woman gave me a look that said she was not going to. Now I could have taken that a lot of ways. One of the ways I could have taken it was that they did not like white people. I did not take it that way because, that is a judgment against their character that cannot be determined by one interaction.

When we assume racism it is our own fault. Think about it, you are putting a negative judgement on a person by what color they are, that is the definition of bias. If we are to fix the issues within this country we not only have to let go of racists attitudes, we have to go higher in thought than that and stop assuming racism. It was the assumption of racism that started the protests, not the proof of racism. The reality is that people want to believe white people are racist. Assuming someone is racist gives a person a mental high ground of superiority however; it doesn’t mean it’s true.

As human beings we need to admit that we have zero insight into what it is like to be anyone other than ourselves. I cannot tell you what it is like to be anyone but me. While we can sympathize with others pain and grievances, we are not able to feel them in the same way they do, it simply is not possible. If I cannot tell you what it is like to be black then certainly a black person cannot tell me what it is like to be white. People need to stop pretending they know what it is like to be someone of another race. To appreciate and respect each other is the best we can do.

We are over three weeks into the protest. I still have not heard one person say George Floyd deserved his fate even after his criminal record surfaced. No person white or otherwise who has agreed with the behavior of these cops. Today someone on my Facebook feed posted up a video from 1976 of white children bullying a black girl on a bike. Our society is so bent on continuing racism that we will both assume it and keep it going by any means necessary. In the United States if there isn’t a war to fight we will fight against ourselves.

I tend to believe most people are just trying to live their lives. Most people, regardless of race, are trying to get to a comfort level in the world; we are trying to be better people, trying to raise kids, trying to make it through the day. Maybe if we stop passing judgement without proof, we can get through life without the hate, the violence, and the destruction. Loving others doesn’t cost us anything. Maybe instead of looking for and assuming racism, we should look for ways to love those who are different from ourselves. Life is too short and too precious to push the ideas we have seen the last few weeks. To rise we need to stop assuming and be the change. To rise we need to bond together and love each other a little more.

Adams, Biba. (2020). Minneapolis man says cop who killed George Floyd shot him in 2008.

Hawkins, D . (2020). Officer charged in George Floyd’s death used fatal force before and had history of complaints.

© 2020 MD Jackson MSIOP


MD Jackson MSIOP (author) from Western United States on August 06, 2020:

You assume that this article was written from the perspective that Chauvin wasn't a racist. It is not, I went into his previous incidents to show his history of racism toward Black people and instead had to restructure the entire article because his record didn't support it. I would encourage you to look up the statistics on racial violence. You might be surprised at what you find. As for your statement concerning my own racism or non-racism, that is your opinion and assumptions as well. Nothing in my life would back your assumptions, God knows our hearts and I'm not afraid to be judged by mine. I wish you well.

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T Ruyi on August 02, 2020:

As sentient beings, we live and die by our assumptions. For example, I’d say its a pretty good assumption that most of my friends won’t try to knife me in the back; another safe bet (assumption) is that there will still be plenty of food on the shelves of most supermarkets tomorrow morning. Whether or not these two remain the case in the foreseeable future is another matter entirely. Nevertheless, assumptions in and of themselves are not the problem; a failure to check them periodically is. Should things go right, they help us negotiate a path forward in our dealings with other people. Assumptions are not finite conclusions. They are fluid beginning and middle pieces.

If blacks cry foul over something as controversial but as real as police brutality, you can be sure that their claims are backed by something little more substantial than just mere assumptions. Like historical facts for instance! In the American context, white people –NOT black people– have been and still are the aggressors. Whites have enslaved, hung (for sport), tortured (for sport), brutalized, Jim-Crowed, scapegoated, hunted (for sport), experimented on, massively raped blacks, and then some. That legacy amounts to what has been labeled as RACISM, individual and systemic.

Your concept is a misapplication of a term called psychological projection also known as defensive projection. The aggressor –NOT the victim– is generally called out for his/her BAD and will thusly desire to DEFEND themselves from public shame and humiliation; hence, DEFENSIVE projection. For example a man is charged and inevitably found guilty of violating a female co-worker. In his DEFENSE, he might say something like the following: “She’s a tease. And actually, she came onto me! She seduced me! It was she who pursued me, not the other way around. I was at a low point in my life and she took advantage of that!”; Another common refrain would likewise suggest that people who ARE themselves cheaters, doggedly accuse their partners of infidelity.

In the case of your bogus-sounding theory, you did not provide an operational definition of racism (quite possibly on purpose). Such an omission of a very crucial element could also be seen as racism, especially given your credentials and more importantly ethnicity. What family counselor helps resolve household problems by choosing to disregarding the chronicle of that social unit? When doctors treat patients, don’t they ask for medical records i.e. a medical history which might help inform their diagnosis? You on the other hand, have chosen to elaborate on a very complex and manifold subject without so much as a description never mind the backdrop. You don’t know how anyone else defines racism. What’s more, your explanations surrounding the George Floyd case were superficial. You conveniently skipped over vital points of interest (like a knee on the neck). The actions of that white cop may have also been a product of bad policing, but somehow I just don’t see him angrily planting a knee on the neck of some white male. In any case, you know it’s bad when other white people have to step in and arrest you for it.

The question that should’ve been asked as opposed to assuming racism was: what constituted racism in the past? That answer is already given in the second paragraph. A follow up question could be: Who would’ve been able to fit that racist mold? White people (NOT black people) clearly. For example, black second class citizens of 1960 rightly assumed racism when they were forced to sit in the back of the bus because of their RACE. Hell, whites even had a law enforcing that practice. Whites by might could force their will on blacks, whereas blacks could not and still cannot force their will on whites. Racism is predicated on power. At most, blacks can be prejudiced (this word carries with it a cruel intent. A euphemism for this word is preference) but without power, they cannot be racists! Racism = Prejudice + Power. What are the features of racism today? Harsher punitive measures for blacks in comparison to whites for the same criminal offenses; higher rates of school discipline including suspension for black children in comparison to whites for the same antics; Housing discrimination; gentrification; Work place discrimination; Police brutality; and even some of the older forms of racism –not that you give a…

Even so, some folks persist in the belief that blacks can be racists today, when we couldn’t have been racists yesterday. How can we be racists today? What changed? Essentially NOTHING. Today blacks comprise a measly 10% (its actually less than that) of the entire US population. We own and command roughly 1% of the entire US wealth and resources. We do not have the numbers, we do not have wealth, we do not have the guns (we don’t even make the guns), and therefore we do not have the POWER! So much more can be said, but to no avail. I already know you will not see reason. I did not write this to convince you. You cannot be convinced. I do however believe that your article was a spurious attempt to further sully our already broken image in the world. I thought it was disingenuous to try and dress up your HATE in something resembling a scientific proposition or observation the way you did. Worse, it was cowardly. Very plainly, you don’t like Negroids. It is what it is. Such was your upbringing.

Sentiments don’t have to be justifiable in order for them to be valid. Although, it is very human to try and justify them anyway; we may not always be aware of what we’re doing. This internal justification is something our sanity requires. When we fail at doing so, the mind can break. That’s why some get PTSD. A lot of soldiers have seen, participated in, or did not stop some very bad stuff from happening to some very innocent people. Failing to find suitable justification, their minds break.

Quotes that immediately came to mind as I read your piece:

It belongs to human nature to hate those we have wronged. - Tacitus, 56 A.D.

No one ever became extremely wicked suddenly. – Juvenal, Roman Satirical Poet 2nd Century

John on July 14, 2020:

What really frightens me is that everything you're saying is common sense. It should go without saying. Yet to say it invoked a fear of reprisal and retaliation.

I am very disturbed seeing large numbers of people, either through indoctrination, intimidation or not knowing any better abandoning our most fundamental sensibilities in favour of just going along with it.

I am quite terrified to see politicians, public officials, influential people, major institutes, mainstream news and major companies going along with it.

All of which should know better and should be deflating the situation. It is strange to hear companies say things such as, as a car manufacturer it's our duty to take up social justice. Their duty is to make cars.

Many people may tag along thinking this is a harmless popular movement. I would urge caution. It's based on outrage culture. It's not based on positive emotion and it's not a grassroots movement. Those at the helm have ulterior motives, those feeding it have ulterior motives, those taking advantage of it have ulterior motives.

Its foundation is the principle of liberating oneself from the burden of rational thought. It doesn't work otherwise.

glasspoole on June 18, 2020:

Very courageous paper. I am in agreement with your viewpoint. How do we get others to ‘get it’?

Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on June 16, 2020:

I completely agree with you that we need to rise and bond together. We need to not think we know what it is like to be another race as you are right, theery muchre is no way we could know that. I like your final paragraph. I think you are absolutely right.

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