Friday, September 30, 2011

Watering Down 'Racism'

First, let me establish that in this country, there still exist people of one race, gender or ethnicity that have feelings of fear or hostility toward people of another race, gender, or ethnicity.   With that being said, I think that when people call other people racist, or declare a statement or position as racist, it does no service to the battle to fight racism.  Over my entire life, I have heard that term coined so many times by those that financially benefit from stirring up racist sentiments, and more often than not, there is no validity to the statement.  Racism, as stated previously, is not a disagreement in values or thought by one person of a certain race, gender, or ethnicity by another person of a different race, gender, or ethnicity.  But that is how it is most often used.  If one’s disagreement is motivated by the animosity against another’s race, gender or ethnicity, then you have some validity to the racist label.  To be able to judge with all impartiality, you must either know the motives of the person accused of racism, or the act or word must be such that the racist element would be judged beyond reasonable doubt.  Take our current President.  Few are able to offer criticism of Obama without being called racist.   Most recently, an individual put a sign in their front yard depicting Obama in a diaper saying, “Change me, I stink.”  The cries of racism have been intense, but let’s look at this impartially.  There is nothing in the statement itself that indicates racism.  To make that statement racist, you would have to change it to say, “Change me, I stink and I’m black.”  Now it is a statement beyond reasonable doubt of racism.  Now let’s look at the picture.  There is nothing stereotypical in the picture itself.  You could substitute a leader of any other race and the message is the same.  The only thing you are left with is intent.  There is no known statement of racist intent relating to this sign.  Unless we are willing to get into the business of thought police, we will never truly know the intent, nor should we judge the intent.   The point of this exercise is that those that are crying foul about racism for something like this do a disservice to the fight against racism. 
Imagine if we used the term “murder” the same way.  Suppose every time there is a disagreement between people, one of them says they were murdered.  Suppose these calls all go to the police and the police have to be dispatched to investigate whether there really was a murder.  It would be really easy for the real murders to go unnoticed in this scenario.  The reason why I use murder is because it is a very important charge that deserves our full attention.   For us to use our resources wisely, we need to declare murder only when a murder has happened.  We need to do the same thing with racism.  Right now, the real racism is being lost in the noise. 

1 comment:

Kansas Bob said...

Maybe racism exists on two levels - the overt and the internal. Of course the overt is what we see but the internal, though very real, is sometimes not seen because it is cleverly veiled. So, like you, I think that it is best to believe the best about people even when, in reality, their words and actions are motivated by racism.