I am glad to read Pet Sin's November 2002 article White Americans' favorite excuses for Asians' favoring of white over black and brown. It is about time someone pointed out this phenomenon of 'racial double standards' when it comes to discussions on racism. From my personal experience, I've found that some people (both whites and non-whites) find it very easy to admit or even criticize white racism against people of color. But when the reverse happens, i.e. non-whites exhibit prejudicial behavior against whites, or non-white groups discriminate against each other, it seems almost taboo to discuss it.
I know a white gay guy who has dated a series of very racist Asians. His Asian friends often pass negative comments about dark-skinned people like blacks and South Asians. He has been in two long term relationships with extremely racist Asians. He doesn't agree with their views and certainly doesn't come across as a racist. Of course, some of you, by now are already asking, "If he is so against racism, how could he be on such intimate terms with such bigots?" Well, I don't know, but let's just assume that he has 'no racial prejudices', like he claims.
And the weird thing is, while this white guy never makes excuses for white American racism, he always makes excuses for immigrant racism against blacks. In the case of his Chinese ex-partner, who couldn't pass a day without making crass blanket statements (and sometimes even curses) against not just blacks, but also Mexicans and Indians, the white guy excuses him by saying, "This attitude is the norm among immigrants, even my own grandmother. People who come here as immigrants don't know the legacy of slavery in this country, so when they see the black ghettos and the crime, they attribute it to some ingrained racial inferiority. How can you blame them for not knowing better? And if many native-born Americans are racist, how can you blame newcomers for being racist?"
Well, there are a couple of things wrong with his argument. Firstly, most foreigners have been exposed to American culture while still in their homelands. They do have some inkling of America's slave past through the many films we export, TV serials like Roots (which was a big hit overseas) and books such as 'To Kill a Mockingbird" which are used as reading texts in non-American schools. Secondly, the 'slavery' excuse doesn't quite apply to the Mexicans and Indian immigrants whom his Chinese partner liked to curse at so much. Mexicans and Indians did not share the slave history of the American blacks, nor are they tarred with the same media stereotypes of crime and lack of education (at least not to the same extent as African Americans are). Thirdly, not all immigrants think like that white guy's ex. And fourthly, just because 'everybody' does something, it doesn't make it right.
When I pointed out the holes in his argument, the white guy couldn't make a reasonable comeback. His only recourse was to end the discussion and turn extremely rude and nasty, something quite different from his usual mild-mannered self. I was surprised that he would get so worked up and personal about a discussion that had nothing to do with him personally. Then I realized that for him, the issues in this discussion is not about me or even about his ex-partner. For him, it was important to defend his comfortable little bubble in which he could enjoy the daily companionship of Chinese and Thais without being faced with the fact that if he were black or brown, he wouldn't have the luxury of their love and companionship. In other words, it is painful for some individuals to face the fact that we do have 'white privilege', and many choose 'comfort' over 'honesty', and 'personal interest' over 'justice', regardless of the lip service they pay to 'anti-racist rhetoric'.
I don't think that whites should be held to higher standards than everyone else when it comes to being on their best 'non-racist' behavior. Non-whites should be held equally accountable for the harm that their prejudicial attitudes cause to society at large.