To the Editor:
I have just read Unai Montes-Irueste's article about prejudice in The Dartmouth of November 10. ["Prejudice Against Whites Comes from Prejudice Originated by Other Whites"] Discussions such as his are important and I agree with most of what he says. Yes, stereotypes and prejudices arise from "white control" over the institutions of this nation. Yes, stereotypes about whites are based on comparisons to those of other races, largely because whites have always needed to define themselves against people of color to excuse their imperialistic and inhumane actions.
Two of the examples Montes-Irueste used as stereotypes--Latin American men and African-American women--are telling. Both of these develop the reality that stereotypes arose from a white need to see people of color as more sexual--read more primitive, especially compared to those oh-so-civilized Europeans--in order to excuse their colonization, rape of colonized or enslaved women, and erasure of indigenous cultures, among other things. Many of his points are true and very important in a discussion of the history of prejudices and stereotypes, a discussion which will hopefully lead to understanding, and, in time perhaps, an erasure of these stereotypes as social creations which are not realistic or fair.
Nonetheless, I was still bothered by the article, and I think that my problem lies in Montes-Irueste's ultimate point that all prejudice against whites arises from other whites and is therefore not "true and original." I am left wondering how this point is helpful to discussions of race relations. To say to me that no "true and original forms of discrimination exist against" me, denigrates any discrimination I have felt, and implies that if I am discriminated against it does not matter as much as if a person of color is discriminated against.
Certainly, my experience of prejudice and discrimination over my lifetime will be minimal compared to that of people of color in this country, and I will readily admit that it is the documented actions of the ancestors of my race which might have led to those prejudices, as well as the excuses of imperialism I discussed earlier. However, that prejudice is still wrong and still needs to be erased, because I should not be judged based on the color of my skin or the actions of my ancestors (or even other white folks in America). I think--I hope--that Montes-Irueste would agree that all prejudice is bad. But his final paragraph places a value on prejudice against people of color as the only "true" prejudice.
This conclusion reinstitutes the problematic comparisons between people and their experiences which led to this mess in the first place. It also alienates white folks from the discussion of stereotypes, a discussion which we all need to be a part of. It is one thing to recognize the complex origins of prejudice in white imperialistic society. It is another to compare prejudices and their "truth", rather than understanding that all prejudice is wrong and must be erased.