TheGrio Daily

Defining racism and white supremacy

Episode 19

“Every generation believes that their generation is less racist than the previous one.” With the help of our dear friend Ms. “Merriam Webster,” Michael Harriot breaks down the definition of racism and white supremacy. He gets to the bottom and delivers a message you won’t hear anywhere else.

Music Courtesy of Transitions Music Corporation

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Michael Harriot [00:00:05] Hello, I’m Michael Harriot world famous wypipologist and this is theGrio Daily, the only podcast that doesn’t use a measuring cup when we make Kool-Aid. No, we pour the sugar into the pitcher until the ancestors speak to our hearts and tell us to stop. And we’ll be here every morning giving you the rundown of the things that you need to know to get you through the day. Think of this as your own special Griot, helping you decipher what’s going on in the village. 

Michael Harriot [00:00:36] I’m Michael Harriot, and this is theGrio Daily. And one of the things you’ll find out about this podcast is I really actually do study wypipo. For years, I taught a university class called Race as an Economic Construct, from where we examine race using data, history and economic theory. And I used to do so my first day of class. One of the first things I used to do is I used to ask people what the definition of racism is. And, you know, people had all kinds of things. They say, you know, it’s when you hate Black people or when you don’t like somebody because of their race or when you’ve got a prejudice against somebody. But, we’re going to be talking about racism a lot on this podcast. So if we’re going to do that, we’re going to have to have an exact definition. We’re going to have to understand exactly what it is and come to some kind of agreement. So I know you’re going to find it hard to believe, but there are these books that have words in them and the words define other words. It’s called a dictionary. I’m serious for like I don’t care if you don’t believe me. I swear you have seen like two or three of them. So when I defined racism, I like to go to an objective source. And my favorite source, you know, my favorite dictionary is my girl, Merriam Webster. Like, you know, that just sounds like a Black woman who’s cool as hell to me. Right. So let’s let Merriam Webster explain what racism is. 

Merriam Webster [00:02:17] Hey, y’all. Is your girl Merriam Webster. And I’m here with a dope definition. Today’s word is racism. Now, racism is a belief that race is the fundamental determinant of human traits and capacities. It says that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race. It’s also behavior or attitudes that reflect and foster this belief. It’s the systemic oppression of the racial group to the social, economic and political advantage of another. Hmm. The more you know, the more you grow. 

Michael Harriot [00:03:11] Yeah. That’s my homegirl, Merriam. See and she’s right. See, a lot of people think that racism is about hate or it has something to do with what’s in your head. But according to people who define things, racism doesn’t require you to hate people. It doesn’t exclude people who say one of their best friends is Black. Or I dated a Black guy in college. You can still be racist if you dated a Black guy in college. You could still be racist if you raised Black kids or if you married a Black guy who got some side babies. You can still be racist if you’re brother in law’s Uncle’s sister, cousin, nephew adopted a Black baby. None of that excludes you from the subset of people who are racist. Racism is the product of that belief, and I know that conflicts with what a lot of people believe. For instance, every generation believes that their generation is less racist than the previous one. Like we think, like, young people are going to stamp out racism and the next generation is going to be racism free. But that’s not actually true. How do I know? Because first of all, everybody’s been saying it since like time began and there’s actually data on this. See, for years, the National Opinion Research Center, or what we call the NORC, not, N.O.R.E, that’s N.O.R.E .You know, he got a good podcast, you should check it out. 

Merriam Webster [00:04:28] But the NORC has been doing a survey like this really huge survey, one of the biggest in the world since 1941. And one of the cool things about the NORC is that they asked the same questions every year. Right. They have a subset of questions that they ask every year so they can track and see how people in each generation perceive society. And every year they ask people, white and Black, if Black people are less intelligent than whites, they don’t ask them, What do you believe? They just ask, Hey, are Black people less intelligent than wypipo? About 23% of white millennials believe that Black people are less intelligent or wypipo. In fact, over the last century, no matter what era they were born in, about one in three wypipo think that Black people are lazier than whites. And I don’t even know where they got that from because they said, Oh, I forgot why people don’t know history. Right. Because they don’t know about all that free labor they got. But. This actually fits the definition of racism, and it’s how white supremacy works. Now, I know what you’re saying, but white supremacy, that’s like racism or steroids, right? Well, again. We’re going to use that little book that we were talking about earlier called the Dictionary. And actually, white supremacy is not very much different to racism, even though we think it’s like supercharged racism, like Super Saiyan racism. No, it’s not really that. But don’t take my word for it. Let’s ask my girl, Merriam, like where Merriam at? She probably know. 

Merriam Webster [00:06:14] Today’s word is white supremacy. The belief that the white race is inherently superior to other races and that wypipo should have control over people of other races and 2. The social, economic and political systems that collectively enable wypipo to maintain power over people of other races. Now, I tuck that one under your fitted and your bonnets. 

Michael Harriot [00:06:50] So according to the actual dictionary, America isn’t technically a racist country. It’s a white supremacist one. And if you go back to like the first definition of racism that we were talking about a few seconds ago, white supremacy is really just a tool that enables wypipo to oppress other racial groups. For, again, remember that definition. Remember. Ya’ll ain’t forgot what my girl Merriam said that quick, right? The social, political and economic advantage of wypipo. And like racism, white supremacy doesn’t require intent. It doesn’t require hate. It doesn’t require people to come and burn a cross on your lawn or to have a swastika on their arm. No, white supremacy is just a method of control. Which also brings up a question. Right. And I know we’ve asked this question before. Can Black people be racist? Now, I know you’ve heard that racism must come with some kind of power, and a lot of people believe that. But, you know, my girl, Merriam, don’t have nothing about power by definition. But here’s the thing. Can you name one place in America or one situation where Black people have oppressed wypipo to the systemic, political, social or economic advantage of the rest of Black people? Sure. I did. Individual instances of Black people attacking or disliking wypipo. But that doesn’t reveal what those Black people believe. Right? That’s just the thing that they are doing. Like when you jump on a white person because of their race is just that white person. And, you know, a wypipo say God knows what’s in their heart. So unless a Black person admits that their belief is racist, all we can judge people by or their actions. And yes, there are individual instances of Black people actually committing acts of discrimination or prejudice and hate against wypipo. But it’s not systemic. Nor, again, does it give Black people in general a social, economic or political advantage. 

Michael Harriot [00:09:04] So as you can see, it’s not the action of a person or the belief alone that makes them racist. It must reflect some kind of systemic or institutional effect according to definitions. For instance, when one Black person hires a Black person over a white person, it doesn’t negate the fact that Black unemployment has been twice as high as white unemployment since they began measuring the unemployment rate. In fact, when Black employees look at resumes, they are more likely to hire someone if they think the applicant is white. So the only way that Black people are technically racist is against Black people. But we’ve met Candace Owens. Or like when wypipo claim Black people voted for Obama because he was Black, they said it was racist white. But that didn’t negate the fact that Black people vote for wypipo most of the time. Right now, I don’t believe all of the founding fathers hated Black people, but they created an electoral college, a constitution and laws that still collectively enabled wypipo to maintain a political advantage over Black people. Banks still have beliefs, but the financial industry created a system that gives wypipo an economic advantage. High schools and colleges might want more Black students. They might not hate Black students. But they adhere to a system of funding, teaching, testing and admissions that gives wypipo a social advantage over Black people. 

Ibram X. Kendi [00:10:46] Currently in most intelligence or tests, Latinos and Black people receive lower scores than than whites and Asians. The question is, is what is the problem? Is there a problem with the test takers or the test? And for 100 years, Americans have made the case that Black people or Latino people are not achieving intellectually as much as as other people, as much as wypipo. And I would argue, you know, the problem is with these test takers, the problem is with the test themselves. 

Michael Harriot [00:11:20] So America ain’t racist. It’s a white supremacist country. Maybe I should tell you the story. So back in the days like before I graduated from grad school, I got this job at a boat company. Now, this boat company was in my hometown. The owner came to me one day and he asked me why there was this perception in town that his company was racist. So to understand why, I’ll have to give you some background. See, my town was about half Black and half white, and he had, for most of my youth, a Black high school and a white high school. Right. But the white High School had this program, it was funded by this man’s company, and when you finished high school, you learned how to make boats. And you automatically, if you graduated from that program, got a job at this company. Now, that program didn’t exist at the Black High School. It doesn’t matter why, right. It doesn’t matter whether he did it because it was his alma mater or he couldn’t afford tools, so he just arbitrarily picked one high school. But his company had created a social, economic and political system that collectively enabled wypipo to maintain power over people of other races. That is white supremacy. They could get a job simply because of the fact that they went to the white High School. And that’s white supremacy. 

Michael Harriot [00:12:57] So if somebody calls you a white supremacist and it fits that definition, don’t be mad at me. Don’t be mad at my girl Merriam. Be mad at the dictionary, because actually words mean things. Now we got to get out of here. But don’t forget to download theGrio app. Don’t forget to subscribe on your favorite platform. And don’t forget to tell at least one person about theGrio Daily. But we’ll get out of here. In the Black is way possible with a traditional Black greeting. “Tell your mama them I said ‘Hey’.” Thank you for listening to theGrio Daily. If you like what you heard, please give us a five star review. Download theGrio app, subscribe to the show and share it with everyone you know. Please email all questions, suggestions and compliments to podcasts at theGrio dot com. 

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Guest [00:14:11] Okay, so this is a trick question. 

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