Black on Transgender Discrimination
Recently in Detroit Michigan, a black shop owner refused service to a transgender person. Many people find it odd that a minority person who had been discriminated against would perpetuate that discrimination on another class. However, black discrimination against gays and transgendered individuals is often perceived as more strident than that of their white counterparts. One would think that a group that had been discriminated against at one time (or currently) would be more sensitive to others being discriminated against; however minorities often perpetuate the discrimination they receive rather than become more tolerant. A prime example is skin tone discrimination in the black community. Unlike the monolithic “black block” that many whites perceive, blacks discriminate against other blacks. Some lighter skinned blacks look down on darker skinned, and from hair texture to lip size and nose width, there are overt and subconscious views and discriminations at play. How does this white girl know and feel confident to broach such subjects? Unlike many in the white community I actually have real friends of color that are comfortable sharing their perspectives and daily realities with me. The difference between black friends and black associates is fodder for another article in and of itself. Getting back to minority discrimination, I’ve talked about the psychological mechanisms in depth before but it boils down to a feeling of empowerment and self-respect. Barefoot poor whites in the south were able to “at least” console themselves that they weren’t black and had privileges that blacks didn’t. Despite their poverty, lack of social status and education, there was a group they could feel superior to. Light skinned blacks can feel superior to darker blacks even if they aren’t “white” themselves. There is somebody lower on the food chain that they can feel superior to and abuse or discriminate against. This behavior takes back some of the power and loss of self-respect they perceive is lost due to white on black discrimination. To take the discussion into an even deeper and darker space, one may note the behavior of Jews in Hitler’s concentration camps. One may think that people in such a situation would band together, but wealthy Jews looked down on poor Jews, and western Jews looked down on eastern Jews. It was not hard for the Nazi’s to recruit Jewish “Kamp komandos” that would oversee the brutal behavior of their fellow Jews. The psychological ability to do so involved a subgroup feeling of superiority, where taskmaster Jews felt that the Jews they were brutalizing were beneath them. Given the prevalence of these examples throughout history, one should expect this sort of behavior rather than be surprised by it. Whites do not have the monopoly on discrimination. It is an unfortunate aspect of human behavior that will likely not be eradicated. However, education and teaching tolerance must be used to combat this darker side of human nature. The Jamaican shop owner has likely never thought about his prejudices against transgendered people in the light of the concepts discussed in this article. It is impossible to change human nature, but we can enlighten individuals and collectively if enough individuals are enlightened, society may improve. Hopefully people can use this incident to do some self-examination and improve themselves, and their friends. None of us are without prejudice but if we can understand the reasons for it, perhaps we can elect not to act on those innate impulses.