Well, it might be just as bad, but the question is, is it racism?
I've always wanted to say no. It's not the same. A black person with a prejudice against a white person is not the same as a white person with a prejudice against black people. But I haven't had the language to explain why.
Last weeks' Stuff White People Do post helped me out. Guest blogger Robin F offers a "Racism 101 for Clueless White People." This is the part that turned on a light bulb for me:
The first thing you really need to understand is that the definition of racism that you probably have (which is the colloquial definition: "racism is prejudice against someone based on their skin color or ethnicity") is NOT the definition that's commonly used in anti-racist circles.
The definition used in anti-racist circles is the accepted sociological definition (which is commonly used in academic research, and has been used for more than a decade now): "racism is prejudice plus power". What this means, in easy language:
A. Anyone can hold "racial prejudice" -- that is, they can carry positive or negative stereotypes of others based on racial characteristics. For example, a white person thinking all Asians are smart, or all black people are criminals; or a Chinese person thinking Japanese people are untrustworthy; or what-have-you. ANYONE, of any race, can have racial prejudices.
B. People of any race can commit acts of violence, mistreatment, ostracizing, etc., based on their racial prejudices. A black kid can beat up a white kid because he doesn't like white kids. An Indian person can refuse to associate with Asians. Whatever, you get the idea.
C. However, to be racist (rather than simply prejudiced) requires having institutional power. In North America, white people have the institutional power. In large part we head the corporations; we make up the largest proportion of lawmakers and judges; we have the money; we make the decisions. In short, we control the systems that matter. "White" is presented as normal, the default. Because we have institutional power, when we think differently about people based on their race or act on our racial prejudices, we are being racist. Only white people can be racist, because only white people have institutional power.(more here)
While I, perhaps arrogantly, haven't considered myself a totally "clueless" white person, these categories were new to me. And I think they make a lot of sense.
This isn't the last word on the subject, of course. For another, also educated and race-aware, perspective I also recommend this post from Average Bro. He's not at all sure that black people can't be racist, and the discussion that takes place in the comments is worth reading.
I'd love to hear your thoughts, as well.