Minorities: Agents of White Supremacy?

One scholar says yes, and thinks hip-hop can help tackle the touchy terrain of inter-minority racism.

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Dr. Nitasha Sharna (Diverse Issues in Higher Education)

Dr. Nitasha Sharna, a biracial scholar of cross-cultural relations, is doing away with the notion that minorities are solely the victims of white supremacy. They can also be the perpetrators, she said in remarks at the 24th annual meeting of the National Conference on Race & Ethnicity in American Higher Education.  

Another twist: Hip-hop could be part of the solution.

Sharma's comments were in the context of a discussion she led titled, "Let's Talk About Inter-Minority Race Relations and Racism: (South) Asian/Black Relations Mediated Through Hip Hop Culture." (Growing up in Hawaii with an Indian father and Caucasian mother, she says she personally felt racially stifled while attending the University of California, Santa Cruz as an undergraduate and sought refuge in hip-hop.)

She now asserts that South Asians and African Americans hold increasingly racist notions of each other in the post-Sept. 11 era and, along with other people of color, are increasingly likely to engage in white-supremacy behavior.

What exactly is "inter-minority racism"? "It's more than just having a negative idea about someone; it's about oppressing them. Some minorities uphold white supremacy in what has become multiracial white supremacy, " Sharna explained.

She discussed, for example, how some South Asians unfairly scorn blacks, and black Americans may unfairly typecast South Asians "as terrorists."

Meanwhile, both groups battle stereotypes and legacies of discrimination: "Blacks are underrepresented in higher education, overrepresented in incarceration and stereotyped as overly sexual and innately athletic. South Asians are earning more income than almost everyone else, including whites; they're overrepresented in higher education, yet viewed as asexual, nonathletic," she explained.

She added that, as uncomfortable as people may become from the acknowledgment of such observations, "it's important we not shy away from talking about our differences," because only through honesty "can we develop models for multiracial alliance." For her part, she says she tries to encourage her students, regardless of their backgrounds, into polycultural exploration of hip-hop "without de-centering hip-hop or taking it away from black Americans, who have already had so much taken away from them."

We like Sharna's angle. To effectively lead what's sure to be a complicated and painful conversation about inter-minority racism, she's right that brutal honesty is a must ... and a good beat won't hurt, either.