Content warning: sinophobic slurs, homophobic slurs, mentions of violence.
Recently I came across a conversation online within the LGBTQIA+ community, in which I witnessed a white gay man compare homophobia to racism. He asserted that it was because gay people had gotten help from straight people that marriage equality had been granted in the U.S., then going on to state that it was because of white people that all laws that permitted racism had been abolished. I’m not going to delve into why this is wrong and how, while many racist laws are no longer in place, some are still in effect today. But this isn’t the first time a white person has falsely compared racism to other systems of oppression.
Growing up as a multiracial person of color, I was incredibly whitewashed. My view on racism and race issues was similar to that of a white person, and I would try and distance myself from my Chinese heritage and culture every chance I could. Now, as an almost adult who considers themself to be somewhat woke (although always learning), I’m able to see systemic racism for what it truly is.
Making comparisons and analogies between complex things such as different systems of oppression is something I used to do quite a lot, as part of my initial whitewashed education of racism. I thought that homophobia, racism, transphobia and indeed all systems of oppression were equal and the same. I was brainwashed into thinking that calling a Chinese person a ‘chink’ was the same as calling a gay person a ‘fag’. I foolishly thought that these were all the same and that racism is interchangeable with any other system of oppression. However, this is not the case.
The fact of the matter is, racism has its own unique history that isn’t shared by any other oppressive system in place today.
The oppression of people of color (and indeed this can be broken down further to individual races) is very unlike the oppression of queer folk, and while both are important issues that need to be discussed, it would simply be wrong to place them on the same level.
Furthermore, it is rather patronizing to be told that my experience as a gay person of color is in any way comparable to that of a gay white man. Despite my white-passing privilege, I have experienced racism to an extent that white people will never reach. They will never truly understand racism in the same way that people of color do because they can only ever attain an understanding coming from a perspective that is academic, as opposed to people of color coming from a place of experience.
Finally, white people need to stop using our oppression to support their pro-oppressor agenda. We haven’t been beaten, bullied and brutalized for centuries just so you can make some ignorant speech about how we should be kind to our oppressors. We’re endlessly told that we need to respect white people so that we have their support, so that they’re on our side, but when push comes to shove, they do absolutely nothing to remove the systems of oppression they’ve put in place and maintain to this day. To put it simply: our oppression is not something you can weaponize in order to appeal to and uphold white supremacy.
It is time that we stopped comparing racism to other systems of oppression, because the way we view people of color is completely different to how we view people of other marginalized minorities. Both conversations about racism and other systems of oppression are valid and important, but if you have to resort to an inaccurate and flawed comparison to make an argument, it’s probably a sign that you’re wrong.