As Long as We Have Racism, We’ll Have Sexism—and It Starts With Our Word Choice

California State University-Fullerton’s Black Student Union during a rally at in 2014 after Michael Brown Jr., an 18-year-old Black man, was fatally shot by 28-year-old white police officer Darren Wilson. (CSUF / Flickr)

Journey to Justice: A Critical Race Theory Primer” is a joint initiative between Ms. magazine, the National Women’s Studies Association (NWSA) and the Karson Institute for Race, Peace & Social Justice. The primer includes articles, essays, lesson plans, an annotated bibliography and a COMloquium conversation that addresses and examines the perils of teaching critical race theory from kindergarten to college settings. Enjoy the sample below. To explore the full primer, head here.

I believe that racism and sexism are two sides of the same coin. If the women’s movement had not been encouraged by melanemic males to stymie the civil rights movement effectively, the civil rights movement would have been an enormous success and never allowed to fizzle. This would have resulted in melanacious and melanotic women joining because they realized that we cared about them, as human beings of different colors, but from the same ancestors.

It is time to wake up.

The sexist laws being passed all over this country require us to understand something most of us spend little time considering: Sexist behaviors and laws are the results of our citizens adapting the racist model for treating those we consider inferior. And as long as we have blatant, constant racism, we will have sexism.

We not only mistreat people of different colors—but we also use those same techniques to keep women in ‘their place.’ One of the things we use most thoughtlessly is words. Whoever said, “Words are the most powerful weapon devised by humankind” was right.

So let’s look at a few words used by racists and see if their use can be compared to the words used in sexist literature.

Let’s start with the word: race. Webster’s dictionary tells us that it means a specific group of people among the other meanings assigned to the word. And here is the kicker: That meaning for the word came out of France in 1580. 

Then, let’s look at the word miscegenation—which, according to Webster, means the union between a white person and a member of another race. Now, since ‘white’ is a misnomer where skin color is concerned, and the fact that members of different color groups are not of other races, the dictionary which we are exposed to in schools all over this country is offering to condition of the racist variety, instead of education, 180 days of the year, eight hours a day. And woe be unto you if you are a ‘white’ woman interested in a ‘Black’ man.

Now, let’s look at racism. Once again, it’s clear that our indoctrination from the age of 5 to 30 (during which time we are learning from the experts) is devoted to establishing and reinforcing the idea of several different races. According to the most ‘reliable’ source of information, ‘racism’ is a belief that race is the primary determinant of human traits and capacities and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race. And sexism establishes and reinforces the idea of only two genders and only one way to enjoy sex.

The idea of several races became gospel during the Spanish Inquisition when Torquemada and his minions ran all over trying to turn everyone they encountered into Catholics. They intended, in the beginning, to kill all those who were idol worshippers—and they had killed several Christians before they realized that you couldn’t tell what a person’s religion is by looking at them. They needed another way to determine whether one deserved to live or die, and they set upon skin color.

They decided that lighter-colored people were more likely to be Christian, and they knew that white was the color of purity and goodness. At the same time, Black is the color of savagery and evil, so those two words were introduced into the people’s lexicon at that time. This was in the late 1400s and early 1500s—and we are still willing to accept those two descriptive words when discussing members of different color groups. 

White was the color of purity and goodness. Black is the color of savagery and evil, so those two words were introduced into the people’s lexicon—and we are still willing to accept them.

Now let’s take a look at the word human, which is a bipedal primate mammal (Homo sapiens) of the family (Hominidae) to which the primate belongs. This ought to tell us that every human being on the face of the Earth is a member of the same race, regardless of their color (or lack of it). And that race is the human race—all of which means that we are all descendants of the first bipedal primate mammals who evolved in sub-Saharan Africa between 300,000 and 500,000 years ago. But they wouldn’t have increased in numbers if it hadn’t been for the presence of women among them.

Those brilliant bipedal primate mammals, because of the significant amounts of sunlight to which they were exposed, had very dark skin since their bodies produced large quantities of melanin, which protected their skin from the dangerous rays of the sun. Those first ancestors came into the world naked since they hadn’t been exposed to people who found the Homo sapiens body something sinful to gaze upon and could go clothes-free because of the weather. Those courageous and curious people began to leave the area of the equator and travel great distances over time.

As they got farther and farther from the area of the equator, they were exposed to less and less sunlight. Hence, their bodies produced less and less melanin, which is why people in the Northern European countries are much less colorful, skin-wise, than those in Southern climates.

We learn very little—in fact, practically nothing—about the women who made these treks. Did these men reproduce asexually?

As those brilliant people traveled, they managed to populate every landmass on the face of the Earth. Therefore, every Homo sapiens that you will ever meet, and every Homo sapiens that you will not meet, is a descendant of those first modern human beings.

Think of it: Erect bipedal primates, without any modern technology, we’re able to travel around the Earth without any advice from melanemic people, since there weren’t any of those until the melanacious and melanotic people’s skin faded.

A Black Lives Matter protest in New York City in April 2017. (Wikimedia Commons)

And, today, we’re making heroes of melanemic men and women who can fly around the Earth in a spaceship that costs millions to build and operate, with all the safeguards in place. Still, we can’t afford to teach our children the truth about our, and their, beginnings. And, once again, woe be unto the educator who dares to bring the topic of something other than heterosexuality into the classroom.

Now, let’s throw in another word that makes my blood boil: Indian. The definition of this word is enough to convince any thinking person that they haven’t been thinking and has been rewarded for that behavior. An ‘Indian,’ according to Merriam Webster, is a native of India or the East Indies, and native inhabitants of this continent were given that name by Columbus, who thought he had reached Asia. We celebrate a man who was lost and make him a hero while ignoring or, worse, killing off those whose ancestors got here from 20,000 to 10,000 years before Christopher Columbus was a gleam in his father’s eye.

Now, let me offend those who are still reading this material: It’s bad enough that we use the language of the 14th and 15th centuries to miseducate young people—but we are also making up new words to excuse our ignorance.

Who hasn’t heard of unconscious bias, conscious bias, micro– and macro-aggressions‘? I’ve read the reasons and the use of these words; they are being used to give melanemic people a reason for their racist behaviors. It’s the old, “The Devil made me do it” alibi—and it has no place in educational institutions today. Nor have we any right to defend the males who routinely assault young women and girls and who decry the victims of this behavior when one or more of them insist on the perpetrator being punished. 

Racism is not the biggest problem in the U.S.; ignorance is, and, while you were born ignorant, you were not born a racist. That is a learned response. Unlearn it.

If you don’t know you’re a racist, ask the nearest melanacious or melanotic person who, because of the way you speak and act, thinks of you as a racist. Be prepared to feel attacked. To prevent your making a future mistake, go to my website and download the printed learning materials, the first three pages of which Judith Katz, who wrote the book White Awareness, permitted me to pass along at every opportunity. The bibliography, which follows those insightful ‘Katzian’ pages, and the books listed on it, should be read by every person who thinks they are not a racist. 

Remember this, if you don’t want to remember any of the rest of this paper: Racism is not the biggest problem in the U.S.; ignorance is, and, while you were born ignorant, you were not born a racist. That is a learned response. Unlearn it.

And I defy you to try to forget this statistic: Only about 15 to 18 percent of the population of the Earth is classified as ‘white.’ Melanemic people have been a numerical minority since the beginning of time. Relax, and enjoy it.

The way women are treated in this country is a holdover from the days of Naziism. Think about it: Governors all over the country (men and women alike) are getting laws against abortion passed. In other words, two people can have a pleasant or unpleasant experience, and the female is the one who is going to be required to spend nine months carrying the results of their experience. Pregnancy is hard work, and we don’t get paid for doing it. These laws are reminiscent of the laws passed in Germany during the Hitler years, and their purpose is to increase the number of ‘white’ babies being born today. Please, do yourself a favor, and read the book When At Times The Mob Is Swayed. You will become highly determined to put a stop to this nonsense after you ingest some of the words in just those few pages. 

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Jane Elliott is an anti-racism activist, educator, feminist and LGBTQ activist. She is known for her "Blue eyes-Brown eyes" exercise. She first conducted her famous exercise for her class on April 5, 1968—the day after Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated. Elliot's classroom exercise was filmed with her 1970 third-graders to become the documentary The Eye of the Storm.