Although it is common to hear it in public discourse, particularly in regards to television and radio, the truth is that the concept of “reverse-racism” or “reverse discrimination” is at best a bogeyman erected by the corporate media and at worst a myth. Glenn Beck and company in particular have become obsessed with painting organizations like La Raza, the Nation of Islam and the Mexica Movement as “similar” or “on the same level” as groups like the Ku Klux Klan.
In fact, it would be nearly impossible to make the case (not to say it hasn’t been tried by more than a few hysterical mouthpieces) that these movements have anything in common with the tactics or beliefs of the Hitlerites. There is no fundamental comparison between the nature of the Nation of Islam and the violent nature of the Brownshirts. Unlike “white” and Eurocentric racism, “black” and “brown” racism is not inherent in the system. The NOI and other similar groups have never been institutionalized in society or received the same funding from state organs like the Klan or the Nazis; in fact these groups are mostly a reaction to white racism and chauvinism.
One approach to this question, namely the “racism is racism” angle, runs the risk of being reductionist. Whatever racism might exist within the African-American, Hispanic, Latino, Chicano, Hawaiian, etc., communities, none of them are on par with the prevalence of white racism and Eurocentrism in American society. Others detract such movements as “nationalist.” While this is true in a sense, in certain contexts (not all) nationalism can be an advanced expression of internationalism in the broader anti-imperialist struggle.
The roots, goals and ideology of groups like the NOI can be openly debated, but it would be a mistake to lump these movements emanating from historically oppressed nations and ethnic groups with the KKK or the Nazi party, whose ranks are boosted with far more sympathizers and paymasters among the actually-existing ruling layers. This is not to mention that neo-Nazi groups have been connected with far more violent and criminal activity, including political and racial murder, than any organizations or movements based on Chicano nationalism.
White TV personalities make mountains out of molehills from groups like the NOI or MM in order to whitewash true and institutionalized racism. The Mexica Movement, for example, has the intention of expelling all Europeans from the Americas through democratic means. The Mexica Movement claims a Pan-Indigenous ideology but is mostly restricted to southern California and the Chicano/Mexican-American population. Despite these facts, Glenn beck, Lou Dobbs and the Minutemen repeatedly called these groups “Nazis” and devoted entire segments of their news shows to a small group as if they were actively committing genocide against whites.
Such sensationalism has ulterior motives. By making such a small group their focus, media personalities try to paint the immigrant rights movement as a front for sedition. These same commentators have also made much of the supposed NOI-Obama links; all one heard from commentators was that since he had support from Louis Farrakhan, Obama must be an NOI sympathizer. Beck would later also claim that Obama “has a deep-seated hatred for white people.” All of this is to incite racial tension over a supposed loss of white privilege.
Indigenous or African “reverse-racism” has never been responsible for crimes on the scale of those committed by European imperialists who used racism as ex post-facto justification. We workers need to make the distinction between the justifiable resentment on the part of oppressed nations and ethnicities and the white supremacist mainstream of the US right and their liberal counterparts.
To truly combat racial prejudice, to work to build a society where people are not judged and condemned based on the color of their skin, one needs to understand that racism is a system and not merely the problem of “individual racists and bigots.” Racism, when understood in its proper context, is the ideological manifestation of colonialist oppression. It is the mind-set of white domination over colonized peoples the world over.
The very notions of race that lie underneath the naked prejudice these definitions inspire came about in the era of ever-expanding imperialism. From measures in law and culture to segregate and ascribe social statuses to those of “inferior races” to the use of these legal and ideological tools to colonize, enslave and annihilate entire populations of people, this force was always used to advance ends of capital, for if there were no such mechanism white workers and the masses of the oppressed worldwide would be more capable of standing together against their mutual oppressors.
When we divorce our understanding from racism as a system, when we liberalize and individualize this definition, when we ignore the whole history of racial oppression and confuse the attitudes of anti-colonialism for colonialist ideology itself, we make ourselves powerless to resist. It is to whitewash an oppression that has had long-lasting consequences for the political voice, economic independence and well-being of peoples the world over.So, when one wants to understand who the beneficiaries and practitioners of actual racism are, ask yourself: who holds power in this situation? When it comes to colonialism, the answer should be obvious.