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Oppression Requires Participation

How Black People Can Be Complicit in Perpetuating Anti-Black Racism

The role that Black people play in reinforcing anti-Black racism is multi-faceted and often rooted in survival strategies within a hostile environment.

The intricate web of anti-Black racism is maintained not only by the actions of White people but also, paradoxically, by the very individuals it targets. This article provides an overview of the complex ways in which Black people, sometimes unwittingly, contribute to reinforcing the structures that oppress us. Understanding these dynamics is crucial for dismantling systemic anti-Black racism and achieving true justice for Black communities.

Internalized Racism

One of the most insidious ways in which Black people reinforce oppression is through internalized racism. This occurs when we absorb and adopt the anti-Black ideologies that permeate society. We may come to believe in our own inferiority or view our cultural heritage negatively, leading to self-sabotage and inability to see our agency and power. It can also lead to seeing ourselves as the exception but treating other Black people as if they are beneath us. Such internalization can manifest in various behaviors, from dismissing our own natural beauty in pursuit of white beauty standards to disregarding a Black colleague's leadership role.

Perpetuation of Stereotypes

Black people can also reinforce oppression by agreeing with stereotypes or trying to fit into a mold of how we think Black people should be. When individuals reinforce harmful stereotypes—whether consciously or not—we provide fodder for these stereotypes to be upheld and used against our communities. This behavior validates the destructive behaviors towards Black people and communities. Additionally, they can be used to justify discriminatory practices.

Model Minority Myth

Another way oppression is reinforced is through adherence to the "model minority" myth. This myth suggests that certain minority groups or certain people within a group are more successful due to their hard work and values, often pitting them against each other. By embracing this narrative, Black people may inadvertently support the notion that systemic barriers do not exist and that failure to succeed is solely due to personal shortcomings, rather than acknowledging the impact of systemic and structural racism.

Complicity in Systems of Power

Black people may also participate in systems that perpetuate oppression by seeking acceptance within these structures rather than challenging them. This can involve prioritizing individual success over potential harm to Black communities or other systemically marginalized people. Such participation helps maintain the status quo and can slow down progress towards justice and equitable outcomes.


It is often argued that Black individuals cannot be racist because they do not hold systemic power, which positions them as eternal victims and portrays White people as the exclusive perpetrators. This perspective diminishes the agency of Black people by implying that the resolution to racism depends solely on White saviors, who are historically responsible for its inception and continuation. This overlooks the fact that without intentional and informed efforts, we as Black people, can contribute to the perpetuation of anti-Black racism. This narrative oversimplifies the complex dynamics of racism and ignores the potential for each of us to either challenge or reinforce racial injustices.


The role that Black people play in reinforcing anti-Black racism is multi-faceted and often rooted in survival strategies within a hostile environment. However, recognizing these patterns is a vital step towards dismantling internalized, interpersonal, institutional, and structural racism. It requires critical self-reflection, continuous education, and a commitment to collective action against all forms of oppression - even when it comes from people who look like us. By actively working to dismantle internalized racism, challenge stereotypes, reject divisive myths, confront complicity, and break the silence surrounding injustice, Black people can expand our ability to be agents of change in the struggle for racial equity and justice.