Black racism: A real problem, or pure politics?

Associated Press | 7/27/2010, 7:45 p.m.

Some liberals have long maintained that racism requires power, and so black people can’t be racist. Obama’s election undercut the first argument and made the specter of black racism appear more threatening.

Of course, the black power movement of the 1960s and 1970s — “We must wage guerrilla warfare on the honky white man,” said H. Rap Brown — was plenty threatening.

Joe Hicks was a black nationalist and proudly demonized whites back then. Now a conservative Republican and vice president of Community Advocates Inc. in Los Angeles, which works to improve race relations, Hicks says today that black racism is not widespread: “The average black person doesn’t dislike white people.”

But he does believe it has become more prevalent than white racism. “Bigotry among white Americans has been driven to the margins of society. White people fear being called a racist more than anything else. But as white people have slowly moved away from viewing themselves in a racialized way, black people have maintained their sense of racial consciousness,” which sometimes leads to bias, he said.

Gallagher, the radio host, says the appearance of anti-white bias at the Agriculture or Justice Department “creates white racists.”

“White people sit around, and they get angry and they think this is the world they live in, and it’s not fair. I hear it in the frustration of my callers,” he said.

“White America understands by now, you’d better be very careful in the way you treat people of color. In this history of this country that’s great advice. That’s as it should be. We’ve had a shameful past,” he said. “Now the fear is that the pendulum has swung so far the other way, that white people mind their P’s and Q’s and don’t say anything that can be perceived as racist, but blacks can talk about hurting people.”

Perry, the Princeton professor, pointed out that blacks have 10 cents of wealth for every dollar possessed by whites.

“We can hardly say whites as a group are suffering under the weight of racial discrimination. That said, we do have to find ways of talking about race with more openness but also with greater sensitivity,” she said.

“There is a lot of work for everyone to do in this regard, and people of color are no exception.”

Jesse Washington covers race and ethnicity for The Associated Press.