I have long thought so, and a recent news story reminded me of a lively blog discussion that touched on this. The blog discussion (here and here)concerned the definition of cultural racism used by a public school system:
Cultural Racism:Those aspects of society that overtly and covertly attribute value and normality to white people and Whiteness, and devalue, stereotype, and label people of color as “other”, different, less than, or render them invisible. Examples of these norms include defining white skin tones as nude or flesh colored, having a future time orientation, emphasizing individualism as opposed to a more collective ideology, defining one form of English as standard, and identifying only Whites as great writers or composers.
Cut to the news story that reminded me of these discussions: First Lady Michelle Obama Reflects on Talking 'Like a White Girl' . I was particularly struck by this exchange between Ms. Obama and a grade school student:"And when one student asked her, "How did you get to where you are now?" she credited, in part, her command of the language.
"I remember there were kids around my [Chicago] neighborhood who would say, 'Ooh, you talk funny. You talk like a white girl.' I heard that growing up my whole life. I was like, 'I don't even know what that means but I am still getting my A.'"
In other words, she got where she is by "...having a future time orientation, emphasizing individualism as opposed to a more collective ideology, defining one form of English as standard,..." What if Barack and Michelle had grown up with more enlightened teachers who knew that defining one form of English as standard was racist, and encouraged them to keep it real with ebonics? What if Michelle had been told to conform to a more collective ideology with her peers, rather than adopting the white ambition for individual A's? What if they had been told that "a future time orientation"- things like punctuality and delayed gratification- were white concepts, and it was racist to expect it of them? While they are both so talented they'd have succeeded at something, there's no way in hell she'd have been a corporate executive, and he the President of the United States. How many minority children have been kept from being all that they can be anti-racism programs, using modern definitions of "racism", that result in the child being totally unprepared for real life after leaving the public schools? And isn't any program that results in real harm to minority children racist, regardless of intent?