Jul 23 2010

Who is a racist?

Category: race,racismharmonicminer @ 12:36 am

Who is a racist?

Is it someone who has a low opinion or expectation of members of another race, on average?  Is it someone who thinks there are differences of any significance between the races?  Is it someone who views others through the lens of their race more than their personal characteristics?

I hate dictionary definitions of socially loaded terms, but here’s one definition:

“Racist” at Dictionary.com

a belief or doctrine that inherent differences among the various human races determine cultural or individual achievement, usually involving the idea that one’s own race is superior and has the right to rule others.
a policy, system of government, etc., based upon or fostering such a doctrine; discrimination.
hatred or intolerance of another race or other races.

So, according to definition one, if you think black people are, on average, likely to be better basketball players, boxers, or sprinters than white people, that means you’re a racist.

If you notice that Asians, on average, have higher IQ’s than whites, blacks, or anyone else (except maybe Ashkenazi Jews), and seem to perform in line with that potential when they immigrate to a country where they don’t even speak the language, and in the next generation are doctors and lawyers, that means you’re a racist.

There are many examples of this sort.  This part of “definition 1” is clearly ridiculous.  Are you a racist if you make the medical observation that blacks are more prone to sickle-cell anemia, or that Ashkenazi Jews seem to produce an inordinate percentage of very smart people?

What’s especially interesting in this discussion of the relative abilities of the various racial groups is this: those who cling most fiercely to the dogma of exactly the same potential equality of all the races are those who mock Intelligent Design, and insist that Darwinism is the explanation for every characteristic of every life-form.  These ideas are mutually contradictory.  If there are different races (a matter that some deny), they are biologically distinct.  They split long ago (at least 20,000 years back, probably twice that) in the human family tree.  How can a biological argument be made that they are now identical in all capabilities?  Surely natural selection has done its work, and people descended from different climates and environmental challenges will have arrived at different biological destinations (which means different physical and intellectual capabilities, among other things, especially if you’re a believer in the materialist theory of mind).  If you’re a Darwinist, you can’t avoid this conclusion.

But any Darwinist university faculty member who dares make this obvious point is likely to be looking for work very soon, in today’s politically correct environment.  Of course, non-Darwinist university faculty are likely to face different, uh, professional challenges, since not being a Darwinist is seen to be equal to belonging to the Flat Earth Society, which puts intelligent faculty who’d like to be intellectually honest in an impossible position.  They’re damned if they’re Darwinists, and damned if they aren’t.  Like Socrates, telling the truth to the young about this, from either a Darwinist or non-Darwinist perspective, is equivalent to drinking professional hemlock.

I do resonate with one part of “definition 1,” namely that you are a racist, for sure, if you think a particular race has a right to rule another.   A reasonable extension of that principle is that if you think a particular race should receive legally granted or publicly funded benefits that are not available to all, just because of their race, you’re probably also a racist, because any benefit you receive in such a structure was extracted from someone of another race, who is made to work for your benefit, probably against their will, by an exercise of state power.

What, you say that sounds like I’m saying that affirmative action, preferences, racial set-asides and the like are racist?  Deal with it.  That seems to be the clear implication of Definition #2 above, which is all about using state power to discriminate, to pick winners and losers, to force some people to serve others.

Does it make you a racist if you don’t like most people of a particular race?  I would say no, unless you think your dislike gives you the right to treat them unfairly or unjustly with the backing of legal authority, state power, or even just institutional power (not talking “social justice” here, either).  You are probably a troubled person, from my perspective, if you see race as more important than individual characteristics…  but you’re not a racist if you don’t think you have the right to do anything about it, and so you don’t.

Definition #3, “hatred or intolerance of another race,” really depends on what you think you have the moral right to do about it.  If you hate, but take no action to express it or act on it in some unjust way, the hate hurts you more than the object of your hatred.  If your intolerance expresses itself in enforced segregation on the object of your hatred, that’s certainly racism.  If your intolerance merely expresses itself in your moving to another neighborhood, that is your right, and causes no harm to anyone else.

Are you a racist if you say things about other races that make them uncomfortable?  If so, then every diversity-activist is a racist, because many whites are really, really weary of being lectured to about “white privilege,” especially when they feel that they’ve worked very hard for everything they have, and have suffered themselves.

Are you a racist if you harbor negative opinions (not necessarily active dislike or hatred, merely opinions based on observation) about an entire race?  If so, then Jeremiah Wright is surely a racist, as are most Black Panthers, not to mention the Nation of Islam, along with the KKK and the White Aryan Brotherhood, and many Asian cultures as well.  What if you do your best to make careful observations about average behavior of a particular racial group in a particular society, and then generalize about what you can expect from members of the racial group in question?  If that makes you a racist, then most of the NAACP is likely also racist.

Let’s refocus:  if you have certain opinions of, say, fat people as a group (even if you admit there are individual differences), does that make you a “fattist”?  Only if you think you have the right to do something to or demand something from another person, simply because they’re “fat.”

What about red-haired boys in American culture?  It seems to just be “hot” to be a red-haired girl, but the famous taunt, “I’d rather be dead than red on the head,” is something every red-haired boy hears a lot while growing up.  (It may be partly a remnant of anti-Irish bigotry of an earlier time in America, with red hair as a relatively common Irish characteristic.)  Red haired boys are often targeted for abuse just because of their red hair.  Take it from me.  There were several leading black male actors in TV and films before there were ANY red haired ones…  and there aren’t many now.  Red haired boys are often the victim of “hate speech” and even “hate crimes.”  Are you a “reddist” if you associate certain personality types with red hair?

You’re a “reddist” only if think that your opinion of red-haired people gives you license to abuse them at your whim.  (I knew some people like this, growing up as a red-haired boy.  There may be a reason why red-haired boys seem to grow up either timid or aggressive, but rarely in the middle.)  I’m sure red-haired Vikings were more socially acceptable in their cultural context… but then they were not a minority.

There are all kinds of personal characteristics that people have little or no control over, from the color of hair to a tendency to fat, from a tendency to smallness to a tendency to bigness (think Samoan!).  If you think any of them give you license to do something to or demand something from another person, just because of a characteristic of that nature (including skin color), you are certainly a bigot of some kind.

It is not racist to have a low opinion of a particular racial, ethnic or social group.  We are all entitled to our opinions, and we all have various experiences that shape them, as well as the inputs we get from reading, the media, etc.  If you let your opinion of a group cause you to miss the (far more important) characteristics of individuals, the loss is yours.  None of us “treat everyone the same.”  But if your opinion of a group does not cause you to demand something from or do something unjust to members of that group just because they are members of that group, then you are not a racist.

What has happened in modern political correctness is that behavior, perspectives, or speech that would formerly have been called merely racially oriented (or race conscious in some way) are now called racist, if “white” people do them (though not, apparently, if “minorities” do them).

It is a terrible idea to compare politicians you don’t like to Hitler (even if you think they are evil people who want more power than they should have) because it devalues the extraordinary evil that Hitler personified.  (Overuse of the word “holocaust” is a similar problem.)  Similarly, the meaning of the word “racist” is devalued when you apply it to people just because they have different viewpoints or attitudes than you may wish they had.  If a person is assumed to be a racist for holding the opinion that affirmative action, set asides, preferences and quotas are a really bad idea, what word do we have left for people who thought slavery and state enforced segregation was just dandy, or who were untroubled when the laws against murder were not enforced against killers who lynched blacks?   What word is left for people who think minorities need not apply, because they should have no chance, and who try to make sure that they don’t have that chance?

You are not a racist just because you believe that the “war on poverty” was a terrible idea, that the welfare culture and easy access to abortion are killing African-Americans disproportionately, that affirmative action and quotas (and the smokescreen for them, “diversity”) do more harm than good, and that multi-generational poverty in the USA is a values problem, not any longer a “discrimination” problem.  You are not a racist just because you believe in tax cuts, capitalism, law enforcement and criminal punishment, border enforcement, and the like.  You are not a racist because you think the US Constitution is a pretty good document, and should be followed according to the understanding of the people who wrote it and approved it, as amended (as opposed to the understanding of judges who keep finding new meanings in the wording that were never intended by those who wrote it and approved it).

A racist is a person who thinks and behaves as if they have the right to demand something from another person, or do something to another person, just because of that person’s race, often or mostly using state power, institutional power, or sanction (either explicit in law, or implicit in “wink-nudge” refusal to enforce the law to protect all equally).

“Racism” that doesn’t result in racist behavior or explicit endorsement of it isn’t really racism.  You may have all kinds of  opinions, and you may even express them, but if you do not believe you have the right to take unjust action against people because of their race and do not encourage others to do so, you are not a racist.

Racism is a truly evil thing.  We should not minimize it by applying the word to mere matters of opinion, preference, economic perspective or political orientation.

2 Responses to “Who is a racist?”

  1. innermore says:

    Isn’t it ironic. Humans do possess exactly the same potential equality on this basic level: we were created by one God. Yet people who passionately prescribe to this “consciousness” are mostly Atheists, Darwinists, Leftys, whatever. And people who passionately object are Christians, Moralists, Creationists, whatever. I suppose it is how one interprets equality.

    “It is not racist to have a low opinion of a particular racial, ethnic or social group.” I say it is not racist to have a low opinion of all racial, ethnic or social groups. Like you said, if your low opinion of a group causes you to miss the attractive characteristics of its individuals, that’s your loss. But if allowing our high opinion of forming groups in the first place causes us, in time, to ignore our own individual characteristics, it is everybody’s loss.

    That’s why really intelligent, compassionate people get real touchy and look like fools chasing their tails when they try to solve this naturally occurring problem. Group-forming is human nature. But the confusing thing is that it appears that everybody in a group is different. So to classify them in any way must now be unjust. So group-assignment is racist. So accusing somebody of racism is racist. And accusing somebody of accusing somebody of racism is racist. And on and on it goes.

    Homo-sapiens want to belong, so we form a group. As the population grows, so do groups. After awhile, societies (like ours) finally settle on a sufficient amount of well-defined groups, don’t they? So, at this point, aren’t we now mostly assigning (assuming) individuals to a predefined group? And in doing so, (saying it your way) aren’t we unjustly using State power to demand that a person behave a certain way, or do something he or she may not want to or can not do? I’m sure you could site many examples of this. Apparent racism is just one of the many pitfalls in the critical necessity of having groups, which is why I don’t like them very much.

  2. Sam says:

    I think part of the problem is that most of the time when the word “race” is used “skin color” is what’s really meant. I used to work with a black woman who would get upset when she was referred to as African-American because she was Jamaican.

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