Saying 'I'm Oppressed, Too' Doesn't Absolve You From Anti-Blackness

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Playing Into the Oppression Olympics Won't Absolve You from Your Anti-Blackness
Self

The Latinx and Asian-American communities are very complex communities as they are considered to be "in-betweeners".

They can be complicit in white supremacy, or they can actively work against white supremacy to fight for the liberation of all people, especially the Black community.

However, many people in the Latinx or AAPI community use their status as people of color to say they "can't be racist", or they equivalate their oppression as POC to the Black community's oppression, and that itself is racist and anti-Black.

Growing up in the Bronx, where a majority of people are either Black or Latinx, I remember having light-skinned Latinx classmates who said anti-Black things. At the time, I didn't understand most of what was going on, but looking back on the situations I was put in I realize now I should've stood up to them and called them out for their anti-Blackness. 

I remember specifically one classmate, who was a white Puerto Rican girl, always bragged about hanging around her white friends and having a white boyfriend. She assumed that being around white folks elevated her social status, but what she didn't realize was that she was actively participating in white supremacy.

Anti-Blackness is so prevalent, even within communities that are a majority POC. It was even surprising for me, as someone who grew up in a predominantly POC community, to see anti-Blackness occur all the time. 

But this experience taught me a serious lesson: POC communities can still be anti-Black.

And let’s be clear: just because you are a person of color does not mean you cannot be racist or anti-Black. 

There have also been many times growing up where I’ve heard AAPI communities or Latinx communities say that "they’re “oppressed, too” and compare their experiences to the experience of the Black community. But the racism that AAPI communities face and Latinx folks face is different from that of the Black community. 

RELATED: Why I Think Black People Can't Be Racist – Even Though Some Black Scholars Disagree With Me

Take for example the scene on the show Insecure, where Molly tries to get a towel from a hotel worker.

The hotel worker asks Molly to see her key card before giving her a towel, but Molly doesn’t have hers on her. The hotel worker refuses to give Molly the towel and Molly gets upset, especially since she saw a white couple before her receive towels without showing their key card.

Victor, Molly’s boyfriend’s brother, shows his key card and is able to get a towel from the hotel worker. Once they head back into the pool, Molly explains to her boyfriend, Andrew, that she’s upset because of what just happened. Victor then jumps in and says, “Hey just to ask, do you really think it was about race?”.

He goes on to say, ”Devil’s advocate, what if it wasn’t (about race)? What if she was just doing her job? Her boss could go off on her for not checking. You don’t know for sure so you could be making your life harder by assuming."

Here you can see he’s obviously gaslighting her.

He ends by saying, “You think I don’t experience racism, either? I do! And it sucks. But how I react to it is my choice, you don’t have to give it so much power." 

This is a typical example of a person of color playing into the oppression Olympics, where they compare their experiences of racism with that of a Black person and say their oppression is just as bad, which in turn downplays anti-Blackness.

Let’s take another example. Mia Ponsetto, or “Soho Karen,” accused and assaulted a young Black boy for stealing her phone. In the end, it turns out he didn’t even have her phone, so her racial profiling was indicative of anti-Blackness. However, in her interview with Gayle King, she claims that she can’t be racist because she’s a woman of color. This is absolutely not true. This is also an example of the oppression Olympics, where Ponsetto explains she's also oppressed, which again, downplays anti-Blackness.

RELATED: To Soho Karen From A Fellow Puerto Rican: Just Because You're A POC Doesn't Mean You Can't Be Racist

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Let’s also remember that Latinx is an ethnicity, not a race, which means you can be Latinx and still be white and still be anti-Black, which is the case of Soho Karen.

It is absolutely a fact that people of color are oppressed in our white dominant culture, but different racial groups experience racism differently. And if we go back to our definition of racism, we’ll know that the root of all racism is anti-Blackness. This is why anti-Blackness is not only prevalent in white communities but other POC communities as well. This is also why we have colorism, which is an arm of racism. 

As an Asian-American Latina myself, I still have to ensure that I am constantly aware and working on myself so that I don’t perpetuate anything problematic. If our communities want to achieve liberation, it’s important that we also fight against anti-Blackness, because our liberation is tied to the Black community’s liberation. 

RELATED: Spike In Anti-Asian Racism Calls For More Cross-Cultural Solidarity Than Ever — Here's How

I write this as a call out to myself, for all the times I was complicit in anti-Blackness growing up and also as a way to educate my own communities. Our education should not rest on the backs of Black folks, we should be educating ourselves and each other. 

When someone says they've experienced racism or any other form of -ism or -phobia, it’s not our place to invalid that experience, especially if you are not from that community and you don’t share the same experience. Most importantly, it’s important that we actively stand up to any form anti-Blackness and not allow it to persist or grow. 

It’s time we as the (white) Latinx and AAPI community learn to de-center ourselves so we can propel the Black Lives Matter forward and achieve liberation for all communities. 

Angelique Beluso is a sex educator and writer who covers feminism, pop culture and relationship topics. Follow her @AngeliqueBeluso.