Posted on March 11, 2024

Sheryl Swoopes Is Right: Black People Can’t Be Racist

Clyde W. Ford, Los Angeles Times, March 10, 2024

WNBA legend Sheryl Swoopes has come under an avalanche of criticism for saying that Black people can’t be racist. Last month Swoopes questioned the ability of University of Iowa women’s basketball player Caitlin Clark, who is white, to break the Division I scoring record. Her remarks, some of which she has walked back and apologized for, caused a fuss on social media, where some users accused her of racism. Swoopes responded to the accusations in part by commenting that Black people can’t be racist, causing even more backlash. But Swoopes is right. Black people can’t be racist, at least not according to the most useful definition of racism, given by a group of mainly white legislators in 1968.

This group was formed in 1968 after urban Black communities throughout the 1960s erupted in racial unrest, primarily over a pattern of police abuse and killing of young Black men. {snip}


{snip} Instead of finding that outside agitators or troublemakers instigated these uprisings, the commission squarely pinned the blame on white racism. “White racism is essentially responsible for the explosive mixture which has been accumulating in our cities since the end of World War II,” the commission said. But the Kerner Commission did not stop there. It went on to offer a clear and extremely useful definition of racism. Racism was not simple hatred or prejudice based on skin color. Racism occurred when power was added to prejudice — the power to affect someone’s life physically, economically, educationally, politically or otherwise.

Black or white, anyone can be prejudiced. I might not like you because of your skin color, and that makes me prejudiced. But it doesn’t automatically make me racist unless I also have the power to impact your life because of my prejudice. There are few, if any, areas of American life where Blacks hold such power. Thus, Sheryl Swoopes was correct. Blacks can’t be racist — but that doesn’t mean they can’t be prejudiced. They can.