Can blacks be racist? One must first define racism in all of its manifestations before the
question can be answered. It is not a simple yes or no as some intellectually lazy people have tried to claim. Let’s look at the structure of racism. If it is defined as hatred toward another “race” (even though race has no real meaning), then blacks can be as racist as anybody else on an individual basis. We have seen this with darker-skinned blacks calling lighter-skinned blacks “White Boy” or “Meskin.” By the same token, we have seen lighter-skinned blacks call their darker brothers “black as tar,” or “Blue black,” and a color struck person praises and prefers lighter skin over darker skin. Both are crazy struck! Black people come in many shades other than black or brown. This means skin descriptions such as dark chocolate, brown, tan, coffee, golden, and high yellow. Non-racist people know that each shade has its own beauty and attraction.
If you define racism as the belief that racial differences construct a dominance of one race over another, by some false biological argument, then the answer is yes once again, and again on an individual basis. Marcus Garvey was guilty of this by claiming he was a “Pure Black man” because his skin was so dark. I am sure DNA would destroy his argument. However, the large number of whites and light-skinned blacks on the NAACP’s staff in the early 1900s, which Garvey came into contact with, and all the light-skinned black people in desirable positions in Black America, contributed to Garvey’s claim that darker skinned blacks were superior. In fact, Edward Byron Reuter (1918), a white racist sociologist, made the claim that lighter-skinned blacks are the ones who made all of the progress for black people. Both Garvey and Reuter were wrong.
Now let’s look at the bigger picture. If racism is defined as a distinct system of institutionalized advantage by those with most of the control and opportunity, then we are not looking at a position that blacks have power in; to oppress in institutional ways. Black people cannot be racist in this sense. From this standpoint the answer is a big no. As an identifiable group whose oppression is the result of skin color and other physical features, blacks do not control the joystick of power, nor do they control the power of privilege. On an individual plane, blacks can be as racist as anybody else, usually in the form of calling other ethnic groups by racist terminology; such as “Meskin, chink, peckerwood” and other derogatory terms. However, these individual foolish comments cannot be equated to the power of white supremacy and how it is a controlling mechanism.
In quoting Joe Feagin, one of the past presidents of the American Sociological Association, “Racism is more than a matter of individual prejudice and scattered episodes of discrimination designed by African Americans to exclude White Americans from full participation in the rights, privileges, and benefits of this society. Black (or other minorities) racism would require not only a widely accepted racist ideology directed at whites but also the power to systematically exclude whites from opportunities and rewards in major economic, cultural, and political institutions. This is what the KKK and modern day racists falsely claim. While there are Black Americans with anti-white prejudices, and there are instances of black discrimination against whites, these examples are not central to the core operations of U.S. society and are not an entrenched structure of institutionalized racism.” Therefore, in conclusion, the answer is yes and no, as the question is more complicated than one normally thinks.