Three Manifestations of Racism as an Abusive Power

by David Fitch

Power(1) is the external manifestations of White privilege in a society. For instance when we see all white people at the top positions of authority in an organization, or even more disgusting, whites-only drinking fountains,  segregated schooling, laws that discriminate against certain ethnicities for mortgages and other financial matters etc. etc. Power (1) resides in the obvious external manifestations of racisim.
In some sense, these external realities are the easiest to address, with laws, changing rules, quotas, etc. Ironically, these ways of addressing racism are the most common ones that white people like to do. We address the problem,we solve it we think, and we can now feel better about ourselves and move on.  It is what drives quick and easy activism. Gets quick attention. It attracts money. We white people love to deal with Power (1) racism.

Power(2) talks about a second level of racism where despite the changes in laws, and quotas, where now black and white people etc. occupy committees of power, THE WHITE SYSTEMS ARE STILL IN PLACE. We’ve just let black people in to our white systems. The power structures of racism are still there After all, for someone to talk about the “marginalized,” you have to be occupying the center of power from which to recognize others as marginalized. Our very language therefore  reinforces the antagonism. It preserves and maintains privilege for white society. As we learned at our faculty retreat, when we white people solve the Power (1) type of problems, we actually put ourselves more in power, more in control,  and we are able to feel better about it too.
And never do we get to addressing  the deeper more insidious parts of racism of Power (2) and Power (3).

Power(3) identifies the way racism is internalized in people’s very identity. It identifies this complex multi-generational socialization process whereby white people subconsciously learn to believe, accept, and live out superior societal definitions of self in ways that construct and reinforce white supremacy. In the process race is internalized. Race is internalized as part of the way things are to even my black brothers and sisters so that now they too even believe “this is just the way things are” and this is just they way THEY are. White standards and values become subconsciously internalized. And so in our rush to architect solutions at the level of Power number 1, we miss, we actually prevent the more deeper Powers, Power no 2 and Power no.3, to be dealt with.



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