This thesis is based on participant observation on a Rastafari discussion forum on the internet, run by a Trinidadian organization dedicated to personal empowerment and spiritual development, as well as to collective Black liberation and social justice. Black experiences and analysis of racism, as well as personal and political strategies to resist it, are central topics of discussion. The forum is primarily oriented towards Diaspora Blacks, but there are also a number of white Rastas who tend to downplay the significance of white racism and Black resistance. The ensuing interracial dialogues on racism are the main focus of my thesis. Most whites define racism as prejudice and discrimination, and suggest good intentions and “colorblindness” as a solution, while Blacks define it in terms of group dominance, structural inequality and cultural hegemony. Black Rastas point out that whites tend to show dominating behavior in the discussions, and see this as a reflection of a “white superiority complex.” Black Rastas consistently confront whites and hold them responsible for their conduct, although it is usually unintended and unconscious. Through this confrontation, many whites become aware of their taken-for-granted ‘white privilege’ and start “unlearning white superiority.”
Rastafari resists the hegemonic ideology in two ways. It resists cultural imperialism by rejecting the imposition of a Eurocentric definition of reality on Blacks. Eurocentric knowledge claims are delegitimized when they fail to meet the criteria of an alternative Rasta epistemology where knowledge must be experience-based and morally engaged. Allegedly universal and objective knowledge claims are exposed as a reflection of the experiences and interests of privileged whites. Rastafari also rejects the competitive logic of capitalism and imperialism, which justifies that the stronger defeats the weaker. Instead, Rastafari promotes a spiritually informed ethics of peace and love, combined with uncompromising integrity in the face of opposition. As a Black liberation movement, Rastafari represents the struggle of one of the most oppressed groups, the descendents of African slaves in the Americas, fighting for their human dignity. In our common struggle for social justice, we may have some things to learn from the insights of the most oppressed, as our global community is no better than how it treats its lowest class.