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.