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How to be Less Stupid About Race

Updated: Dec 8, 2023

By Brianna Lopez and Lori Huertas

Photo Credit to Ashley Mobley

Working knowledge about race and racial history is a powerful tool to further an anti-racist practice as Barry University students, faculty, staff members or alumni.

This Black History Month, a book on the South Florida People of Color’s radar is Crystal M. Fleming's 2018 book,  How to Be Less Stupid About Race.

The book outlines misconceptions that people perpetuate in the classroom, in the music industry, on television, and in government.

According to Fleming, here are six concepts to challenge our perceptions about race.

The KKK is hardly the problem anymore.

Photo Credit to Ashley Mobley

White supremacy did not begin nor end with the white sheet-donning, Negro-lynching Ku Klux Klan. Fleming claims that white supremacy has been a “social cancer” in our reality for centuries. It has “infiltrate[d] our institutions, laws, and cultural representations.” So, if you think that white supremacists are radicals, think again. She points out that “white systematically maintained by hundreds of millions of ordinary people, as well as by everyday institutional practices that protect the racial order.”

In order to be less stupid about race, Fleming suggests we must first understand that white supremacy is built into our American society and that it’s not a practice maintained by the worst people in our society.

Such systemic racism may be tough to notice.  See this article for examples.

Just because you haven’t experienced racism, doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.

BU Student Antonia Mobley. Photo Credit to Ashley Mobley.

This is what Fleming calls the gaslighting fallacy. One should not try to discount racism because they do not struggle with it. This sort of mentality keeps the bar for “intelligent racial discourse” very low, according to Fleming. Often, people get credit for just acknowledging that systemic racism exists because so much time is spent denying this fact.

Being less stupid about race means acknowledging that doing the bare minimum to fight race isn’t going to do much.

“People still get cookies for merely saying ‘people of color should not be killed’ or ‘white supremacy is wrong,’” wrote Fleming. This sets people back from having any real conversation about racism.

You can be educated and racist.

This is the class fallacy—the idea that people who are of higher class and therefore educated believe they cannot be racist. However, such an idea has been proved wrong by sociologists, as Fleming notes that racist views are most widespread among whites no matter their class status. Additionally, wealthy white families have “the most economic and political control over our society.”

Being educated doesn’t necessarily equate to understanding racism, which is why one’s education may not keep them from being racist. Fleming cites a 2017 study at Yale that showed that both whites and Blacks underestimate the racial wealth gap by 25 percent. This demonstrates an “unfounded optimism” about the status of racial inequality in society. Thus, having an education still leaves many people ignorant about race. White supremacy still exists even though Barack Obama was president.

Fleming invites readers to consider the simple-minded view that “white supremacy only exists if and when all resources and all power are held by ‘whites only.’” Essentially, many people believe that if any person of color has had any kind of authority, this must mean that racism and white privilege have disappeared. She hopes that people will understand that white supremacy does not hinge on every person of color in society being disadvantaged. The same goes for sexism, as well—having women in power does not deny the existence of misogyny. In fact, Fleming reveals that many successful Black people have released themselves from oppression by maintaining white supremacy. That is not to say that they do not acknowledge racism, but they do actively participate in perpetuating white supremacy and begin moving up in society while their racial group remains oppressed. Fleming cites an example that she knows may get some people riled up: Barack Obama. You can be a liberal and a racist. You can be a conservative and a racist.

As Fleming notes, “systemic white supremacy pervades politics on the left and the right.” Liberals and conservatives are both at fault for perpetuating white supremacy. Liberals point the finger while conservatives become the pot calling the kettle black, calling out liberal racism while ignoring their own part of white supremacy. This is how Fleming sees it.

Black supremacy in the U.S. is as real as a unicorn.

Black supremacy is a mythical idea created to deflect critiques of white supremacy, according to Fleming. African Americans have not created any of the aspects of so-called supremacy that whites have perpetuated for centuries. They have not “set up a system of racial oppression that involved an ideology of racial superiority and the centuries-long enslavement, torture, and systemic rape of white people,” for example. Fleming curates a list of white supremacist actions over centuries that Black people have had no part in recreating.

Fleming says simply — “If black people did to white people what white people have done to us, then yes, we could talk about ‘black supremacy’ in the United States. … But you know, just as well as I do, that there is no such thing as black supremacy in the US, just as there is no such thing as unicorns (sorry to break the news).” She ends this discussion by naming the only racist system in the United States—white supremacy.

BU Students Antonia Mobley and Evan Rodriguez. Photo Credit to Ashley Mobley.

The Buccaneer’s Recommendation for How to be Less Stupid About Race

Visit BarryU International and Multicultural Programs office:

The purpose of the Office of International and Multicultural Programs (IMP) is to provide resources, services, and programs that further develop the international dimension of Barry University.  Click here to learn more about their upcoming events.

Volunteer as a mentor at Big Brothers Big Sisters:

Barry University President, Dr. Mike Allen and Gale Nelson, President and CEO of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Miami, formalized a partnership to connect Barry University students, faculty and staff with mentorship and community engagement opportunities through Big Brothers Big Sisters of Miami. The agreement, known as the “Buccaneer Partnership,” will focus on one-to-one mentoring with the shared goal of empowering local youth to achieve success and personal growth by embracing cultural diversity. Click here to learn more.

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