Racism ≠ Prejudice + Power; “Reverse” Racism = Racism

  • If racism were “prejudice + power,” what would the term “power” in the formula mean? What does it mean to have power? President Obama defines himself as black. We have several black cabinet members, black senators, black representatives. We have a black Supreme Court justice. We have black officials in all levels of government. The media, which has a lot of power to define our nation’s agenda, tends to lean left and to be highly sympathetic to a push for broader civil rights and anti-discrimination policies that are embraced by most blacks in the United States. There are communities in the United States that are predominantly black, where most of the elected officials, administrators, cops and other people in positions of power are black. It is certainly true that the United States, considered as a whole, is still fundamentally controlled by white people, who wield most of the available power in the land, but power is not an on-off switch, and as the prominent moral psychologist Jonathan Haidt’s research has suggested, non-white people increasingly are the ones who hold the reins of power and privilege in many types of discussions, including, most relevantly, discussions of race. (See my description of his research here: https://medium.com/@Zoobahtov/enslaved-by-history-parasite-privilege-and-the-silenced-majority-98eeea6b6151#.ikspkh26y.) The definition “prejudice + power,” then, is very tricky to apply and certainly shouldn’t give rise to a global presumption that only white people can be racist in the United States. Thus, if a black person in a position of power (e.g., the CEO of a big corporation) chooses to dictate a policy rejecting all qualified white applicants for a job in his company because she believes white people are evil, is that not racism? If a white person living in an overwhelmingly black community is repeatedly subjected to slights and exclusion, denied job opportunities or just regularly beaten up on the street, all on the basis of his race, are the perpetrators not fairly thought to be racists? If a black journalist employed by a prominent publication and, so, in a position of power and responsibility, chooses to use that platform to spout virulent anti-white rhetoric (as many do), shouldn’t that be considered racism?
  • Given the “prejudice + power” definition, is it the racial overtones of the belief itself or the race of the person who wields it that matters? Are we going to say that a white guy who believes in white supremacy is racist, but a black guy who believes in white supremacy is not? Conversely, if a white guy believes in black supremacy, is he racist just because he is white, or is he not racist because, while he himself, as a white person, may be in a position of power in our society, the belief he espouses would endorse the racial superiority of the purportedly powerless? And if we say he is racist in this scenario, why would we give the black guy who believes in black supremacy a free pass? What about a black guy who believes that black men are racially superior to white women and were destined to own and command a harem of such subhuman wenches, while treating their black counterparts with respect as prospective mates and equals, or even worshipping them as goddesses? Do we need to compare who has less power in our society, black men or white women, in order to determine whether or not this is a racist belief? If we relativize racism and come to conclude that it exists only when racial prejudice is deployed by those in power, don’t we roll down a slippery slope and find ourselves having to relativize racism all the way, having to refer to degrees of racism based on the extent of the power concentrated in the hands of the prejudiced individual and/or his racial community in a concrete situation under consideration? And, if so, isn’t this counterproductive, forcing us to weigh complex sociological factors and count angels on pinheads in order to form what should be a simple conclusion that someone’s race-based prejudice is a deplorable racist belief?
  • Isn’t having different rules in place for different races how we got into this messed-up muddle of a society in the first place? Isn’t it far simpler and more morally efficacious to embrace one single overarching principle that applies to everyone with equal force and that proclaims that any categorization ascribing superiority or inferiority or other positive or negative traits to anyone along racial lines constitutes racism? Is it really worth relinquishing this straightforward moral high-ground in order secure the dubious advantage of preventing white people from being able to draw a moral equivalence between racial generalizations they may make about black people and racial generalizations black people (or other white people) may make about them? Moreover, even if the traditional definition of the term “racism” could, in theory, be applied to white and black views alike, how would this in any way stop those still wishing to draw a distinction between white and black racism from availing themselves of other terms, such as “discrimination” or “oppression,” which already exist and the definitions of which generally entail exercises of power? To say this another way, if you really think there’s a difference between white racism and black racism or between anti-white racism and anti-black racism, then, as we sometimes tell kids, why don’t you use your words? There are many of them.

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Traditional Tradesman

Traditional Tradesman

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I am an attorney specializing in general commercial litigation. I am a writer specializing in general non-commercial poetry, fiction, drama, essays & polemics.