Race Matters – Not Much

I am borrowing this Quote of the Day from Johnathan Pearce at Samizdata, who attributes it to the brilliant frequent commenter VeryRetired:

My experience of racists is that they are race based collectivists who are so utterly without anything to redeem them (and know it), that they pick out something they didn’t have to earn (race) and claim that as their most valuable asset.

I usually dislike discussing race. In part this is because I think individuals should be judged on their merits, and as far as I am concerned skin pigmentation is near the bottom of the list of personal variables that matter. And partly it is because the term “racism” is rarely defined, and I don’t like arguing with people who throw around accusations of racism merely because I make un-PC generalizations about PC ethnic groups or because I disagree with their particular take on the subject.

Nonetheless, while I think discussions about race are generally a waste of time, if one is going to have such a discussion it might be a good idea to define terms at the outset. I propose the following definition:

Racism is the advocacy and/or practice of treating different people differently based solely on their race.

Notice that my definition applies not only to the thuggish race-supremacists that so many of us, with good reason, like to hate, but also to people who advocate racial preferences “to remedy the effects of past discrimination.” It certainly applies to white so-called liberals who do not hold their black fellow-citizens to the same standards of conduct or achievement as they expect from other whites or from, say, people of Japanese decent.

However, it does not apply to people who make generalizations such as “there is a disproportionately large number of black criminals” or “many Muslims are our enemies.” These are observations — assertions subject to empirical validation — rather than prescriptions. (And Islam is a creed rather than a race, and certainly a proper subject of generalization since unlike skin color it is strongly correlated with individual behavior.)

There are some racists in our society as there certainly are in other societies. However, much of the talk about racism in our public discourse, and most of the accusations, are based on bogus assumptions about the inherent racism of making generalizations about members of particular ethnic or religious groups. Such accusations tend to stifle debate, and some activists with weak positions routinely use them for this purpose. That’s unfortunate. I think it’s a good idea to challenge the bogus assumptions and have a real debate, and that one way to do this is to insist on the definition of terms.

3 thoughts on “Race Matters – Not Much”

  1. Yeah! The huge irony is that the people who usually throw the word around are the real racists, because they interpret everything you say through the narrow filter of their own class/race/group mentality.

    I.e., they don’t understand what you mean because they understand what they’d mean if they’d say it.

    I think we need a catchy retort to show that that’s happening. Any suggestions?

  2. People whose self-esteem has only one leg to stand on generally manage to convince themselves that their one strength is the only thing that matters. For instance: trust fund babies with plenty of money but no particular talents tend to assume that possession of money is all that matters (which is why so many of them espouse liberalism, the philosophy that money is a powerful and dangerous force that needs to be kept in check by the government).

    If a person makes a big fuss about “race” it suggests to me that he has nothing to be proud of except his membership in whatever the “superior race” happens to be in his delusional world. This is kind of pathetic.

  3. A liberal college friend of mine says… “those dumb red-neck racists in Ohio”, after the last election. Made me think… who is the racist?

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