Friday, June 24, 2011

What is Racism?

The use of the word "racism" is getting very confusing.
  • If you are a member of the Tea Party and you stand for lower taxes, smaller government and a leaner social safety net based on means tests instead of universal social welfare programs then you are a racist.
  • If you are not a Marxist redistributionist, you are a racist.
  • If you criticize Islam as a totalitarian ideology disguised as a religion, you are a racist.
What is going on? What is the meaning of the word "racist" as used in these sentences? Why does the term "racist" get tossed around so loosely in so many contexts? Are Leftists really seriously concerned about racism or is this word just a focus-group tested, guaranteed negative emotion-producing evocation without specific meaning?

Let me tell you what I think racism means. It means the belief that members of one race are superior to the members of another race instead of judging each individual on his or her own specific merits. There can be black racism (against Jews, for example) and Asian racism (against blacks, for example) and white racism (against native people, for example). Racism is prejudice, which means literally to pre-judge, that is to look at the color of someone's skin and make assumptions about what he must be like in terms of his character. That is racism and it is evil.

Now, this definition does not fit into any of the sentences above. For months now, the Democratic-Media complex has been screaming and frothing about the Tea Party being racist. But the Tea Party contains various races working harmoniously together and is open to individuals who agree with its conservative political philosophy, just as the Democratic Party itself is.

So why do smug lefties turn up on TV and in print all the time perfectly confident that the Tea Party must be racist? They don't give evidence and they don't feel they need to do so. They just know.

How do they know?

Well, they are operating on the basis of a set of hidden assumptions that they believe and which I reject. But their standard operating procedure is to speak and act as if all educated/smart/cool etc. people accepted those assumptions. And some of the assumptions are Marxist. Here is how it works.

The assume (1) that the gap between rich and poor in terms of income is immoral and needs to be narrowed; this is what they mean by "social justice." They further assume (2) that the State is the entity that should redistribute the wealth by taxation and social welfare programs. They also assume (3) that since blacks in America, on average as a group, earn less than whites, they must be oppressed by whites and should have their incomes raised - or failing that, whites should have their incomes reduced by higher taxation.

Now, as I say, I reject all three assumptions. I don't think the gap between rich and poor is itself necessarily immoral. If wealth is acquired honestly by hard work, innovation and entrepreneurship, then there is nothing wrong with it. Rich people create jobs for others and invent/produce things others gladly use and they also pay taxes on top of it. What is wrong any of that? If Bill Gates is a bazillionaire, that does not hurt me. I'm glad personal computers were invented and I quite like using Windows, thank you very much. He can have enough money to fly to the moon for all I care.

Of course, when it comes to people who don't have the basics of food and shelter I think charity is an obligation. But I feel no obligation to ensure that the street person makes this or that percentage of the income of the wealthiest among us. These are two completely different things which get conflated by Marxists trying to confuse the rest of us. I object to Leftists pretending that it is wrong not to support the kind of irresponsible socialist policies that are currently pushing Europe to the brink of a financial crisis.

And the idea that if I take this non-socialist view of government and taxation, then I must do so because I think blacks are inferior is just absurd. I think they (the leftists) are the real racists because they apparently think that blacks - as a group - cannot and should not compete and work and try to get ahead because they are somehow inferior. The leftists think that the nanny state must look after black people because they - for some reason - need looking after.

Racism and political/economic philosophies are different things. I'm as sure that some conservative Americans are racists as I am sure that most are not. But that has nothing to do with the ideals for which the Tea Party stands. And I'm sure that many on the left are racist too.

As for the idea that one is a racist for criticizing Islam as Geert Wilders has done, that is just absurd and shows a lack of critical thinking. For example, I quoted Reuters in my last post:
Minorities groups said they would now take the case to the United Nations Human Rights Committee, arguing the ruling meant the Netherlands had failed to protect ethnic minorities from discrimination.
Whichever Muslim said that is not a very good Muslim because Islam claims not to be the religion of just one ethnic group but a universal religion for the entire world. There are Muslims found in many different ethinic groups around the world.

What the person might have meant is something like this: "In the Netherlands, most Muslims are of a certain ethnic minority and Wilders is actually a white racist who hates colored people but does not come right out and say so for fear of being labeled a racist and instead uses "Islam" as code for "Moroccan" or whatever."

If that is the argument one wants to make, then go ahead and make it. But citing his anti-Islam remarks and denying his right to criticize Islam does not make those arguments. For that you would need some sort of evidence that he actually despises people of color. And there is no such evidence.

What Wilders is being persecuted for is criticizing Islam and the reason he has a 24 hour bodyguard is because he is under threat from radical Muslims for criticizing Islam. This is what is at stake: can one freely criticize political religions or not? Can totalitarians who want to squash all criticism of their political ideology shut down critics using spurious appeals to a mythical racism that is presumed, not proven and not visible?

What is racism? It used to be a form of prejudice to be named, shamed and rejected by decent people. Now it is a tool of the Marxist-inspired left used to attack conservatives. Somewhere along the line the leftists discovered that we conservatives actually loathe racism and therefore take accusations of being racists very seriously. It stings to be accused of something like that. So, from the leftist point of view, the good news is that it works as a tactic!

Charges of racism against anybody should be examined carefully to see whether the issue is actually racism or a disagreement on economics/politics or multiculturalism. To be a capitalist or to think that English Common Law or Western liberal democracy is superior to Shariah Law have nothing whatsoever to do with racism.

No comments: