In the twenty first century, with racial tensions and diversity being at the forefront of sociopolitics, most people have come to an agreement that despite feelings of resentment or even prejudice, it is not fundamentally possible to be racist toward white people. This train of thought results from systematic oppression of other races and cultures by white people. While this history is incredibly valid and the decolonisation movement is returning stolen power to people of colour, I still disagree with this statement. It’s true, in this day and age, that being white opens you up to a lot of opportunities (read: basic rights) that a person of colour might be disqualified from, and as someone who’s been on the wrong end of enough racist slurs, I can tell you those things weren’t said to me because of the white half of my heritage.
For example, my parents both moved to the United States to find work opportunities. My father – white, posh – was automatically treated with more respect due to his origins, yet my mother, coming from Shanghai, received no such positive treatment. The United States is a white-dominant country, thus my mother, being from China, experienced some racism toward her, but my British father never did.
But to say it’s impossible to be racist toward white people is incorrect. In fact, it’s incredibly Eurocentric, which itself is a form of racial exclusion. When people talk about having anti-immigrant sentiment, what they really mean is that they do not view people of other races as having a place living in their country. For the Western world, that generally means anyone who doesn’t fit their definition of white, because let’s be real, immigration between Western countries, even when accompanied by prejudice, isn’t viewed in the same way.
A concession to the above statement: minorities don’t actually have to cross ‘racial’ lines. European immigrants to the UK often face various amounts of racism, depending on where in Europe they come from. For example, Romanian immigrants have been known to claim they are Polish due to a much heavier prejudice among Brits toward Romanians. Historically, the Irish have long been oppressed, despite being very much white, by both the British and the Americans. Within a larger race (such as white, or Asian) there is often a hierarchy of individual ethnicities and cultural backgrounds, and this can complicate the discourse on race relations further than just prejudice based on skin colour. These Europeans are technically no less white than ethnic Brits, but they are still seen as inferior.
So, what I’m trying to say here is that the statement that racism toward white people is impossible needs to be qualified. You cannot be racist toward white people in a country with a majority-white population (or in a country where white people have established supremacy via colonialism, such as South Africa). Minorities in countries like the US or UK face racism and slag off white Americans or white Brits for having white privilege because they are people of colour often forced to fit into a white mould. But people often forget that sometimes, the mould isn’t white. Modern racism generally targets minorities, and in Western countries that usually means those who aren’t white.
Having lived, and more importantly gone to a local, Chinese-speaking school, in Shanghai, I have seen firsthand how racism toward white people is manifested in the Eastern world. I speak Chinese fluently, even in an academic context, and have always been in touch with China’s culture. Yet no matter how high my marks in Chinese class were, no matter how at home I felt in the streets of Shanghai, I was always looked upon as an outsider. I distinctly remember one day, when my friends and I sat at a table at the canteen, and a classmate said to me that I could never understand China the same way that she could because ‘Chinese blood flowed through her veins.’ I immediately went to remind her that Chinese blood flowed through my veins as well. ‘No, it’s not the same,’ she told me, with a scathing look on her face, ‘your blood’s been tainted.’
Due to word limits, and only being able to speak for myself, I can’t give you every single example of racism toward white people. I can only speak for what I know, and what I have seen. But even though Western culture has reached China and is increasingly being embraced, Western people themselves are ostracised. Expats live in their own communities, go to their own international schools. There is no place for white people to be integrated into Chinese culture. There is no place, in many other countries, for white people to be integrated into their cultures either.
Somehow, the discourse on race relations has been entirely dominated by the West, if not America specifically with its current sociopolitical situation. This might be because Western countries tend to be more vocal about racial discrimination within their borders, or because Western countries are becoming increasingly racially diverse (as opposed to many non-Western countries not having a large population of immigrants from other races). Whatever the reason, even with a fast-globalising society, people live in their bubbles of what racism, and race relations as a whole, means to them and the societies that they themselves live in, and forget to factor in the rest of the world.
I want to clarify that nobody’s doing this on purpose, nobody’s consciously making the decision to exclude societies that aren’t their own from the dichotomy of race relations. Racism is complicated, especially in the modern political context. It’s normal to think about what’s going on in your own country, or a media-dominating country such as the United States, before considering other parts of the world. Just remember, the next time someone says it’s not possible to be racist to white people, they’re probably forgetting about the non-Western world or forgetting to factor in racism within the Caucasian race.