Summary: In this short clip, comedian Aamer Rahman explains that a lot of white people don't like his comedy. Rahman is an Australian stand-up comedian, best known as one half of comedy duo Fear of a Brown Planet, and much of his material is a not-so-thinly-veiled critique of white supremacy. Here, Rahman notes that he is often accused by whites of engaging in "reverse racism," a charge which leads him to openly ruminate about what it would take for a person of color to do something racist against a white person. He explains that his sardonic jabs at white society would be racist if he traveled back in time, convinced leaders in Africa, Asia, the Middle East, Central and South America to invade and colonize Western Europe, and begin exporting their natural resources. These new colonizers would then set up a trans-Asian slave trade where white laborers become one of the resources exported to giant rice plantations in China. The experience of being colonized would ruin Europe over the course of several centuries so that whites would want to leave Western Europe and settle in the homelands of the black and brown colonizers. In their new countries, whites would be forced to navigate social institutions that privilege people of color. Rahman concludes that if after hundreds of years of such colonization and institutional racism, he got on stage to crack jokes at white people's expense, then he would be guilty of "reverse racism". All laughing aside, the joke is actually an incisive, sociologically-informed analysis of racism. Rahman correctly describes racism as something more than just an instance of one person discriminating or being cruel to another person (TSC remarks on how comedians are uniquely positioned to level social critiques here). "Instances" of racism are so named because they are the products of a system of power--a system that derives its strength from a colonial history and a system that is encoded deeply within the workings of modern social institutions. To accurately label a practice as racist, one must take into account the historical and social context within which the practice occurred. Thus there can be no such thing as "reverse racism"; there is only racism, and in a context where people of color lack institutional power, they simply cannot be racist. The sociologist Eduardo Bonilla-Silva has recently noted that the growth in charges of reverse racism by whites is in fact evidence of the emergence of a "new racism", which seeks to operate in a more covert manner and attempts to confound understandings of racism by decontextualizing the way race works in and through contemporary institutions.
Submitted By: Lester Andrist