A look at Internalized Racism:
What is it about the black community, that we so readily hate or aspects we dislike that we lever toxic criticism of so-called “black traits,” foibles and idiosyncrasies, including mocking and even displaying a loathing for black culture?
Why do we doubt black successes, question it and demonstrate suspicion around black upward economic mobility, and why do we degrade, belittle and dismiss black achievements?
Why does this pathology of toxic and deep-seated negativity about “all things black,” run so deeply in our collective cultural veins that subconsciously and even hastily we seek out “whiteness,” and all things associated with white people by overtly denying our blackness?
So, what exactly is “Internalized Racism,” and why is it imperative for all black people to understand this pervasive, soul-destroying pathology?
Internalized racism; is a form of racism defined by sociologist Karen D. Pyke as the “internalization” of racial oppression by the racially subordinated!”
In her study The Psychology of Racism, Robin Nicole Johnson emphasizes that internalized racism involves both “conscious and unconscious acceptance of a racial hierarchy in which whites are consistently ranked above PoC, People of Colour.”
These definitions encompass a wide range of instances, including, but not limited to, belief in negative racial stereotypes, adaptations to white cultural standards, and thinking that supports the status quo (i.e. denying that racism exists).
Internalized racism as a phenomenon is a direct product of a racial classification system and is found across different racial groups and regions around the world where race exists as a social construct. In these places, internalized racism can have adverse effects on those who experience it.
For example, high internalized racism scores have been linked to poor health outcomes among Caribbean black women, a higher propensity for violence among African American young males, and increased domestic violence among Native American populations in the States. Scholarship addressing internalized racism has existed long before the emergence of the terminology itself.
In 1903, African American civil rights activist W.E.B. Du Bois wrote about the existence of “double-consciousness,” or “this sense of always looking at one’s self through the eyes of others, of measuring one’s soul by the tape of a world that looks on in amused contempt and pity,” to explain American racial minorities’ self-perception as heavily influenced by the white majority’s perception of them.
Sociologists Karen D. Pyke and Tran Dang wrote: “Due to the discomfort, confusion, and embarrassment the subject raises, an intellectual taboo surrounds the study of internalized racism. A major concern is that because internalized racism reveals dynamics by which oppression is reproduced, it will lead to victim-blaming and move attention away from the racist institutions and practices that privilege whites have at the expense of people of colour. Internalized racism also causes discomfort because it suggests that the effects of racism are deeper and broader than many would like to admit. As a result, it remains one of the least explained features of racism.
So, what is the root cause of internalized racism, and where does it come from, you would ask?
One may argue that the root causes of internalized racism stem from our upbringing or socialization as black people. This is to say that black people are deliberately or intentionally socialized, conditioned, acculturated, and even brainwashed into a system of oppression, dehumanization, self-loathing and even self-hatred.
Arguably, we are products of our environment, and our environment is the manufacturer of who we are, how we perceive the world and how we interpret it. Thus, the “dark side” (excuse the pun) of racism is internalized racism, a type or sort of double oppression for black people.