‘Anti-blackness’ shows how racism can be specifically damaging for black people

Lifestyle

Racism affects different races in different ways.

Anti-blackness is the name for the specific kind of racial prejudice directed towards black people.

There is a tendency to lump all ethnic minorities together – for ease, or out of laziness and ignorance.

We see that in terms like BAME (Black, Asian, Minority Ethnic) and POC (people of colour). While these terms can be useful in some situations, they shouldn’t be used in reference to a specific race unnecessarily. For instance, referring to a black woman as a ‘woman of colour’, when you could refer to her as black, can undermine her specific lived experiences of being black.

The concept of anti-blackness pushes back against the idea that all ethnic minorities have the same lived experiences and can be shoved under a singular umbrella.

To be clear, all kinds of racism are deplorable, but it is still worth carving out clearer definitions for the kinds of racism that disproportionately affect certain groups – like anti-black racism.

Compared to white people and Asian people – black defendants at crown court are the most likely to be remanded in custody.

Between 2017 and 2018, black people in Britain were around 10 times more likely to be stopped and searched by the police than white people, and three times more likely than Asian people.

Black people are more likely to be unemployed and homeless than all other racial minority groups.

All of these examples show that racism affects black people in different and, in some cases, more significant ways than other minority groups.

That’s why it is important to highlight these differences by being clear about the specific type of racism black people in this country face.

Race equality thinktank Runnymede Trust defines the phrase perfectly:

‘Anti-black racism is the specific exclusion and prejudice against people visibly (or perceived to be) of African descent – what most of us would commonly call black people,’ says senior policy officer Kim McIntosh.

Kim says anti-blackness goes beyond bad feelings, negative attitudes or stereotypes.

‘Anti-black racism is a toxic cocktail that mixes these beliefs with how people with power make decisions, how government policies are made, or how state services are delivered,’ she adds. ‘It prevents us from enjoying or exercising fundamental freedoms on an equal footing – like the freedom to live and work free from discrimination or abuse.’

What is the history of anti-blackness?
Black people have been ‘othered’ and maligned across the globe, and Kim says the transatlantic slave trade was a major catalyst for this.

‘After slavery was abolished, slave owners branded former slaves as cursed with the “negro disease” of “laziness”,’ she explains. ‘Black people who moved from the Caribbean to Britain still face the same prejudiced beliefs.’

Last year, research by NatCen and the Runnymede Trust found that 44% of people surveyed thought ‘some races are born harder working than others’.

‘These beliefs, widely held, have consequences for black people in the workplace,’ says Kim. ‘And just a few weeks back, we had to endure long-discredited arguments that black people have lower IQs dominate the news cycle as comments by Andrew Sabisky, the short-lived adviser to Number 10, resurfaced.’

Kim says the term ‘anti-black racism’ is helpful and can help us unpick how and why racism affects different ethnic groups in different ways.

‘It’s important to note that not only white people are capable of anti-black racism,’ she adds. ‘People from other ethnic minority groups can enact anti-black policies and hold anti-black beliefs.’

How does anti-blackness affect black people?
Psychologist and anti-racism scholar Guilaine Kinouani says anti-blackness is based on the alleged inherent inferiority and ‘primitivity’ of Africa, its people and its nearer descendants, i.e. black people.

She adds that these ideas are principally rooted in colonial constructions.

‘While we may like to think such racist thinking has long left us, the reality is that within the system we have inherited: white supremacy, human lives in our society are stratified and, our life experiences and opportunities are still depended on our racial backgrounds,’ she explains.

Put more simply, our racial hierarchy places white people at the top and places black people at the bottom – non-black people of colour stand somewhere in-between.

‘Unsurprisingly, black people continue to pay the highest penalties on pretty much every social measure or outcome imaginable within social structures,’ adds Guilaine.

‘All things being equal, we are still the most vulnerable group to structural violence, social injustice, discrimination and to exclusion – in addition to a rift of negative health and mental health outcomes.

‘And, images, discourses about our alleged inferiority continue to abound.’

She explains it by saying that being black is a ‘highly taxed identity’ and adds that all non-black groups benefit from anti-blackness, not only white groups. Which expands on what Kim said about all non-black racial groups having the capacity to be anti-black.

‘This is a conversation that is difficult for many of us to have but it is an important one,’ Guilaine adds.

‘In the same way we now accept that white women, as a group, are often complicit in the oppression of people of colour, non-black people of colour also have a stake in the systemic injustice black people experience, and often reproduce it.’

She says that over centuries, many communities of colour have bought into colonial lies and anti-black stereotypes in an attempt to ‘gain access to structures of power’ and be accepted within whiteness.

‘The price of assimilating into structures of power has often meant stepping on the heads of those lower down the rung on the ladder of power, often those closer to our struggle.’

It’s all about awareness.

Acknowledging the ways black people can be disproportionately affected by specific kinds of racial discrimination is vital in order to dismantle these entrenched hierarchies.