‘Negrophobia:’ When Keeping it Real Goes Wrong

Some people just shouldn’t write articles — especially if they’re bombastic and the writer hasn’t quite conquered the concept of words mattering and meaning things.

I like to assume that the good folks over at TIME magazine mean well when it comes to talking about race. But recent, and past, articles make me a little skeptical. And “Negrophobia” is the publication’s latest good intention gone bad.

According to the op-ed, negrophobia is the fear of Black people. Plain and simple. But oversimplification of an issue as intricate as racism (and why couldn’t they use that term instead?) is dangerous — especially when promoted on a platform as large as TIME’s.

Why is this dangerous you ask? Well, here’s three reasons:

1. Racism is not equivalent to average everyday phobias

I don’t know if Brandon, the Stanford junior who penned the article, understands this or not, but racism isn’t mundane and it doesn’t exist in a vacuum.

Racism is a system that actively oppresses Black folks, and people of color in general, by denying us equal access to education, finances and other resources. It’s the reason why Black men are disproportionately incarcerated and why Black and Latina women are the fastest growing prison demographic.

It’s the reason for the school-to-prison pipeline. It provides proof as to why a Black person is killed by the police every 28 hours. It explains how Black people comprise the ass end of most positive figures and thrive in each negative statistic.

Racism is evident in every aspect of a Black person’s life — a phenomenon that doesn’t parallel with phobias.

In short, it’s much more complicated than white people being scared. There’s something else, something bigger going on here.

2. It makes the assumption that racism is irrational and naturalizes its ramifications

The formation of race as a social identifier and barrier is a direct result of European world expansion. Europeans discovered new people who looked and acted differently; thus, the natives of the lands they conquered challenged pre-existing notions of what the human species was.

This led to the introduction of slavery, genocide, the African slave trade, Colonialism, concentration camps, Japanese-American internment, immigration laws that attempt to prevent America from becoming less White — the list is almost infinite.

And all of this was, and is, completely intentional and rationalized via Christianity, perceived higher intellect levels etc.

3. The oppressors are being painted as victims

Phobias are anxiety disorders where the sufferer goes out of their way to avoid the object of their fear, which often poses miniscule danger. When the phobia cannot be avoided, “the sufferer will endure the situation … with marked distress and significant interference in social or occupational activities.”

Phobias are established via clinical interviews and diagnostic guidelines found in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, according to Mayo Clinic. Medical professionals inquire about patient symptoms and complete a medical, psychiatric and social histories.

This doesn’t happen when racism is involved. White police officers who kill blacks are hardly, if ever, indicted and held accountable for their actions. Most racists aren’t even dubbed as such due to this idea that race no longer matters. So to say white people are just afraid of Blacks is entirely too generous.

Blacks aren’t feared, we’re hated. Blackness is seen as evil and disgusting. We’re painted as if something is wrong with us and, as a result, we suffer racism. We are the victims here. Not white people. They only benefit from racism. There’s no sociopolitical or economic downside for them.

Depicting racism as a phobia of Black people is saying that white people cannot help themselves. And that just isn’t true. This is also insulting to people who genuinely suffer from actual phobias.

So Brandon, maybe you should think a little bit harder about what you mean before you write things. I’d like to think you didn’t mean to convey what you did, but I can’t be sure. Write more clearly and effectively. Gauge these issues on a deeper level you won’t end up, essentially, explaining away racism.


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