I have been lying low for a few weeks, reading, drinking in the mood in the country, thinking, visiting a new granddaughter Eadie in Savannah, and reflecting on the state of things. I have enjoyed the time away, but it is time to return.
One of the disconnects I see in the world and in the United States, in particular, is the inability to understand the difference between racial differences and racism.
Allow me to start with how I see the world now defining racism. This is very much a work in progress with even Merriam-Webster literally reviewing its own definition. My comments subsume much of that discussion.
1. Racism has been historically defined as prejudice, discrimination, or antagonism directed against a person based on that person’s inclusion in a particular racial or ethnic group, wherein that race or ethnicity is often a minority in the larger sample.
That is a fairly easy definition to understand, but is it enough? Allow me to continue. Remember, I am reporting as to how the world sees the word.
2. Racism is a belief that a particular set of characteristics attributed to a racial or ethnic group is the primary determining factor in capabilities and performance and that creates an inferior set of capabilities and performance.
The above paints the picture with a much broader brush than the first. The first is personal, individual whilst the second is a group of people. If you label one group as “inferior” then, by definition, the remainder are “superior.”
A bit more, please.
3. Racism is the intersection of racial prejudice, discrimination, or antagonism toward an individual with systems thereby resulting in a systemic program of discrimination and oppression which is based on social and institutional power thereby conveying extraordinary power to those who are not part of the targeted group.
This third definition is the basis for some of the power conveyed to white persons — white privilege and such hiring practices as — for an example — in the venture capital business.
[I pick the VC business as it is almost entirely lily white, it is in the midst of a paroxysm of guilt as to this reality, and is consuming itself with mea culpas pontificating as to how they are going to make it all better by funding more black entrepreneurs. This is what is known as low hanging fruit.]
All of these definitions are useful when evaluating the current discussion.
Racial is an adjective that modifies a noun that creates a distinction as to the use of noun.
“There was an inordinate amount of racial tension in the air just before the preacher spoke.”
While “racism” is typically universally bad, the word “racial” is not the same. It is a simple statement of fact.
The other day I listened to a moron on CNN protest that describing the crime statistics for those 15-30 subdivided by race was a “racist act.” The conversation never advanced because the speaker was never able to get the commentator over the fact that there was nothing racist about the data analysis.
The discussion was about why police were patrolling a particular black neighborhood with one speaker saying it was because the cops were racists and the other saying the data indicated that that was where the most crimes were being committed.
Bottom line it, Big Red Car
Here is the bottom line — not every racial distinction in society is evidence of racism. The use of race as a adjectival descriptor does not alert a listener to the impending utterance of a racist statement.
We have to be able to discuss racism, race, and use the word “racial” as an adjective to be able to have an intelligent conversation.