Achieving REEI and Rejecting the Black-White Binary of Race

The Black-White paradigm of race has long shaped the American perception and understanding of race and racism. It is ubiquitous and rigid, and we must recognize how this binary binds our appreciation, recognition and real understanding of the lived experiences of the many “other’s” throughout American history. If we choose to understand race as only black or white we contribute to the “othering” and further marginalization of entire communities, cultures and ethnicities of people who exist outside of this construct. Truncating history for a more linear understanding of race and racism, ignores the origins of this nation, beginning with the genocide of First Nations people, the brutality towards and the enslavement of African Americans, decades of discriminatory practices and violence against various immigrant populations from all continents over various periods of time, and most recently with the separation of immigrant children from their families under “zero tolerance” policies on border control.
But it doesn’t stop there.
The evil genius of this black-white binary construct is how it strategically divides people of color in order to protect and maintain white supremacy and systemic racism. The simplicity of this divide and conquer strategy, layered with internalized oppression, has isolated and divided people of color since the birth of this nation. The binary often causes historically oppressed groups to irrationally compare the extent of harm they have experienced under the boot of white supremacy. As if to say that your wounds of racism are less severe than mine, and therefore somehow de-legitimizes your membership in the oppressed people club.
Equally disturbing is how this notion of one’s proximity to suffering is being used as a sort of rites of passage for white allies who feel they need to justify doing equity work – but that’s a blog for another time.
The bottom line is this; we know that all people of color are harmed by racism and discrimination, and we must acknowledge this history and the many lived experiences, while also honoring those differences. The binary only works to distract us from the range and reach of white supremacy in its totality. And let’s be very clear: white supremacy is bad for white folks too, especially those who invalidate it.
Racial justice work, is human rights work. People of color and their white allies must come together to maximize the collective organizing power. A racially inclusive paradigm creates enough space for all of us to fully participate in developing the real solutions needed to dismantle structural racism and the social construct of race in America.
Just imagine what that would look like…