Disclaimer: I know that the different backgrounds and views will lead to misinterpretations of this article. Therefore, I feel the need to disclaim that I am not trying to discredit or devalue any of the oppression and racism that Black people went through and continue to go through. I am simply trying to bring light to the issue that is the Black/White binary.
The topic of racism is highly dominated by the issues Black people go through. We all learn about the slavery in the South where Black people were the victims. But what about the slavery that was the Bracero Program? I never learned about this in history class even though it plays a big part of U.S and Mexican history. I did not learn about the slavery of my own people until I was getting a college education and that speaks volumes about how histories are erased.
The Bracero Program is just one example of the hundreds of untold, unrecognized stories of other people of color (POC). These histories do not play a role in explaining the real racism and oppression other POC endure in current day. Some Black people feel the need to argue that their struggles are more than another group of POC. As Cherrie Moraga says, “the danger lies in ranking the oppressions.”
It is not Black people’s fault that the race discussion is dominated by them and their struggles against White people; that was just how we were all educated. To be honest, I feel hesitant to ever say I had a similar racist experience as a Black person because people will look down on me. It is as if my struggles and oppressions are not worthy of a listen because “Black people have it worse.” But why must we rate our oppressions? The classic line of “there are people who have it worse than you” is so toxic because it says to the person “because others have it worse than you, your experiences, feelings, and struggles are not important. Get over it.”
By offering a two-dimensional discourse, the Black/White binary limits understandings of the multiple ways in which African Americans, Native Americans, Asian/Pacific Islanders, Chicanas/os, and Latinas/os continue to experience, respond to, and resist racism and other forms of oppression.
Tara J. Yosso writes about the Black/White binary in a simple yet impactful way. She also mentions intersectionality which is another important conversation. I will leave you with an excerpt*:
As a result, many of the critiques launched were articulated in Black vs White terms. Women and People of Color who felt their gendered, classed, sexual, immigrant and language experiences and histories were being silenced, challenged this tendency toward a Black/White binary. They stressed that oppression in the law and society could not be fully understood in terms of only Black and White. Certainly, African Americans have experienced a unique and horrendous history of racism and other forms of subordination in the US. Other People of Color have their own histories that likewise have been shaped by racism and the intersecting forms of subordination (Espinoza & Harris, 1998). By offering a two-dimensional discourse, the Black/White binary limits understandings of the multiple ways in which African Americans, Native Americans, Asian/Pacific Islanders, Chicanas/os, and Latinas/os continue to experience, respond to, and resist racism and other forms of oppression.
For example, Latina/o critical race (LatCrit) theory extends critical race discussions to address the layers of racialized subordination that comprise Chicana/o, Latina/o experiences (Arriola, 1997, 1998; Stefancic, 1998). LatCrit scholars assert that racism, sexism and classism are experienced amidst other layers of subordination based on immigration status, sexuality, culture, language, phenotype, accent and surname (Montoya, 1994; Johnson, 1999). Indeed, the traditional paradigm for understanding US race relations is often a Black/White binary, which limits discussions about race and racism to terms of African American and White experiences (Valdes, 1997, 1998).
*Yosso, Tara, Race Ethnicity and Education Vol. 8, No. 1, “Whose culture has capital? A critical race theory discussion of community cultural wealth”, Carfax Publishing, 2005.