The alleged playing of the race card is almost always a charge on the part of those exhibiting prejudice or racist behavior as nuclear option way out of a racialize situation usually of their own making. Exercising their personal frustration at not being able to talk, however they want to people. It is a crude attempt to dismiss someone by insinuating they are being a baby or emotionally unstable exactly like telling a little kid to stop making up stories (why you lying?) or they will be punished.
The power privilege reserve for itself is the construction of reality (my way or the highway, you broke the law boy, etc.). So when, let us say, a “white” person feels a deep personal indignation because of the immediate racial truth they are experiencing most likely because of their proximity to you it is safe to assume their reaction is a defense of settler power and control. I mean NO ONE EVER accuses brown folks of playing the race card when everyone is grinning, shuffling and head scratching, no everything is hunky dory when the dark people are smiling.
The “race card” as a construct of power is a safety valve built into the self-correcting code of settler colonialism. It is the voice of hegemony saying “I didn’t tell you to say/think/voice opposition” and each of those Agent Smiths moving through the bodies of us plugged into this Matrix of settler colonialism are working to correct the anomaly of resistance.
The race card then gets played – its played all the time by those who are constantly invoking it by attempting to reduce the genocide and the subjugation of millions to a cheap parlor trick. This little sleight of hand though is not very slick. We know who they are. We know how they play the race card. How there are jealous, violent, and envious of what they cannot have.
Besides who wants to play that hand, in our world it is a loser: I am Black, I am Indigenous. Who wants to play that hand? How comforting it must be to speak with such authority, to be so sure of your position that you can dismiss 500 years of history simply by accusing someone of “playing the race card.”
We were slaves = Race Card, Genocide = Race Card, Death by the police = Race Card, Intergenerational Poverty = Race Card
Or as and old friend of mine, who I had to block on Facebook and in real life told me once “They don’t deserve what I have because they didn’t work for it.” That is the real race card, the all purpose pass, the mark of the beast – to buy and sell. That card to the gated community, that card makes all the differences because it is automatic validation: you belong, you get to play, and you all right, you can walk down the street with Skittles and Arizona Ice Tea. The race card, watch how it is dealt.
How easy it is for settlers to dismiss history. To see oppressed peoples as different. Different because we will not stop, we will not give in, and that is what makes settler loyalists think “they want what belongs to ME or US. This is mine. MY world, MY reality, MY way of being, MY order and if they don’t accept that then they must be playing a twisted game (race card). MY CARD. MY CARD. Not your card. You don’t say, you don’t decide, you are decided and it was I/WE/US who decided – you are wrong.”
Oppressed peoples cannot play the race card, it’s a calling card handed out on behalf of the settler colonial system. It announces the presence of power and control that cannot be ignored. Why would oppressed people play this card, a card printed with their blood.