VOCABULARY REFRESHER: RACISM

As I’ve mentioned before, I do believe that one of the biggest problems our society is facing with our current politics has to be vocabulary manipulation. It’s one of the most common tools used to take people’s opinions of other groups and turn it to something negative by the constant, repeated misuse of a word that makes it seem like something it’s not. I’ve brought up a number of examples in the past. I’ve seen it so often that I’ve been moved to address the issue directly and begin a series of articles that will specifically target some of the most common misused language and try to put it right. Our subject of study in this installment is “racism”.

According to some, racism is the biggest threat to our society today. For some politicians it’s the go-to buzzword for rallying the troops. For some it’s the hidden motivation behind everything that cops do. For some, it’s used synonymously with being white, supporting Red Team or supporting border security. But how accurate is it? Let’s take a look at the definition..

From Merriam-Webster…

racism
 noun

rac·​ism | \ ˈrā-ˌsi-zəm  also -ˌshi- \
Definition of racism
1:  a belief that race is the primary determinant of human traits and capacities and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race

2 a: a doctrine or political program based on the assumption of racism and designed to execute its principles
b: a political or social system founded on racism

3:  racial prejudice or discrimination


First I would like to point out that the (2) definition seems redundant. Those don’t seem like a noun so much as an adjective describing doctrines/programs/systems. (3) is more of a verb as it is executing action based on (1). The first definition is what most closely approximates what racism truly is.. a belief. We’ll move forward with that one.

Racism is a hot topic in politics today. Truly, it has been for quite some time. And the basis for injecting it into politics was relevant and necessary.. at first. We must all admit that, at one time, this country was very hostile towards those of other races. We have segregation. We have the Gary Act. The Trail of Tears. We have the Japanese internment camps. Those stains on our nation’s past have produced feelings that continue on today. There are those who say, despite all of the progress we’ve made, that people of darker hues are still treated as unjustly today as they were during these dark times.

But how accurate is that?

Knowing what we know from the definition above, we know that racism is a thought. A belief. With that being the case, we can firmly state that it is impossible to know what goes on in the mind of another and that the motivations for actions can be assumed.. not assured. To begin analysis on the perception of events let’s take the internment camps.

Franklin D. Roosevelt signed executive order 9066 to emplace provisions for the camps. This was not long after the bombing of Pearl Harbor and we were moving into conflict with Japan. The stated objective of the order was to ensure we minimized the ability of the Japanese to perform acts of espionage by implanting their people on American soil. Approximately 117,000 people of Japanese descent were housed within these prisons with no real evidence of wrongdoing or due process. All it required was that the individual be of Japanese ancestry. This led to a number of politicians to call for mass incarceration. Thousands of Japanese homes along the West Coast were searched and had property seized. Mexico and Canada followed suit with camps of their own. While this would be considered unjust by any measure today, was it racism?

The simple answer is “no”. While it effected the lives of individuals that belonged to a specific race, the thought process was purely political and centered on the nation’s security. We feared the enemy and feared that those among us who shared their ancestry may be agents. The thought process was justified, the following action was abhorrent. Still, by today’s measures this would be assumed racist automatically.

And how about the Trail of Tears? Untold numbers of Native Americans were uprooted and moved to strange lands while being forced to abandon ancestral lands where they had deep roots and the know-how to survive the environment they knew. Numerous deaths on The Trail. The struggles of adapting to and learning to live in unfamiliar territory. In this instance, there was no virtuous excuse for the horrors visited upon this people. No perceived threat that was handled incorrectly. But, was it racism?

Again, we come to the answer “no”. It was greed. The nation wanted land that did not belong to them. It wouldn’t have mattered who lived their or what their skin tone was. Those making the decisions were not in contact with or in any way effected by the natives. The ethnicity wasn’t the issue.. the property was. For context, you can look at how we rebelled against the Brits. We took their land with force in similar fashion. They had the same coloration as those who took their land from them. We forced them out just the same as those who had lived here before. Another example of what is largely deemed racist but was in fact carried out in the name of avarice.

Looking at segregation, we see a different story. The point and purpose of segregation was to separate “colored” people from the rest of society. The aftermath of the Civil War had long lasting effects and led to a very real air of racism that caused policies like Jim Crow laws to be enacted. We’ve all seen examples of this time period with segregated restaurants, drinking fountains and schools. The famous stand that George Wallace made against allowing black students to attend what had been a “whites only” school is burned into our collective memory. This was the very definition of racism and led to a great fracturing of society where these policies were implemented. There can be no doubt as to the motivation here.

So how do we view them all so similarly when the situations couldn’t be more different? We’ve forgotten our history. Or just choose to ignore it. Our current political and societal norms are to view everything from the lens of our preferences. Some see the news and take what they hear at face value. If they’re told that the motivation behind everything is racism they take no time to evaluate the information. If a cop kills a black man.. it’s racism. If a policy is made that they don’t like.. it’s racism. As thinking people we are actively destroying our society based on assumptions that have no basis. As people living in a civilized society we have a duty.. a responsibility to give deep thought to issues that can have such a devastating effect on those around us.

Too often, we don’t.

But why is this important? Look at our nation today. After Jacob Blake was shot there was an immediate response from some in our society to protest, riot and attack their fellow Americans because they made an automatic assumption that the event was race-based and symbolic of an oppressive society. No evidence was known. What’s more, there was no curiosity on the part of those with intent to commit unrest regarding the victim, the officers involved or the details of the situation. It WAS racism and they were going to make people take notice. In the wake of that we’ve seen destruction, mayhem and death. As relevant information came out we found that Blake was wanted for domestic violence and sexual assault. The official report states that he had a knife and had brawled with police officers prior to the shooting. Do these things exonerate the police officers? No, but they do make a pretty clear statement that the victim was not randomly targeted because of race which would make the protests misguided at best.

This incident only led to more problems. By now most of us have heard the name Kyle Rittenhouse. He’s the minor who went to Kenosha to “protect businesses and help people” in his own words. With his rifle and his medical kit he made the journey to that fateful event from out of state. On that night he ended up being a shooter and killed two men and wounding another. He’s been branded a militia member, a vigilante.. and a white supremacist. The worst part of that is that he’s been labeled that by elected officials who should know better than to throw around such inflammatory terms considering what can come from that when our Big Voices use them. This is an excellent example of the egregious carelessness that pervades our political institutions today. And what’s the basis? Just because he’s white and opposed the damage that has been seen from these protests/riots? He’s made no claims of having a derogatory view of those with other skin colors. His victims were all white men. His stated purpose was to protect businesses from damage. How, in any of this, can one have the view that he’s a white supremacist?

Because the need for facts is quickly becoming a thing of the past.

The truth surrounding a situation is something that is considered excess baggage by many today. The news outlets and politicians don’t get kudos for waiting for evidence or investigations. It’s important to them to get a rise and become a “rallying point for justice” while people still don’t know enough to keep them from being easily manipulated. It’s the most irresponsible way for a person of influence to behave and it’s become the norm.

And what of “hate crimes”?

I know that this will be a wildly unpopular opinion, but hate crimes need to go away and there is a logical basis for this. As we have established, race or “hate” is a thought and you can never really know the mind of another unless they reveal it to you. So how can we even consider something to be a hate crime? Especially with what we’ve seen today with everything being labeled racist with no intellectual support we know that the idea of an elevated charge due to guessing what another is thinking is a gateway to something less than justice. How many times have police officers been branded racist when something happens? How many times have average citizens been subjected to the same treatment when they come into conflict with someone of another race purely based on that fact? Ask yourself, do you want to be accused of that just because the person you disagree with doesn’t match your skin tone? Especially if it somehow leads to a trial? How would you defend yourself from those charges?

You can’t.

Racism is an assumption (unless it is claimed by the person in question) and it’s become a very popular one. Probably because it’s impossible to refute and often people are more concerned about winning than any harm that may be imparted by making claims of this magnitude. So, when we claim a hate crime we are most often sending someone to prosecution on a “best guess”. Federal level charges for what you think another person was thinking.

Put yourself in those shoes.

And what does “hate crime” really say? Is it worse that you get shot for your skin color than it is when you get shot for your shoes? To provide a junkie with their next fix? If a family member is killed does give you comfort to know that it wasn’t a racist? It also opens the gateway to other “thoughts” being prosecuted. Is that what we really want? It’s dangerous. Murder is a crime. Making another level.. “murder plus” if you will.. when it is so easy to brand someone a racist is just irresponsible. And if you take into account the fact that so much hate is acceptable with only that one exception.. what are we really saying? Why isn’t it automatically assumed a hate crime if a woman kills a man? If a person kills someone of the opposite political persuasion? Those could both be framed as a discriminatory action against a group of people that are “different”. Prosecute the crime, not the thought.

The difference between what we see for usage of “racism” and what it actually is is stark. We’ve bandied the word about and given it so much power that’s it’s become a weapon in a very real sense. Racism is a horrible thing. It’s something that should not be promoted and it does nothing to help our society. But it’s just as harmful to make it the go-to boogeyman for the sake of political expediency. It’s time to stop branding everything that you don’t like where two different skin colors come into conflict as racism. Anything else is going to ensure that this country goes through some very bad times. If you think it’s bad now…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Social Media Auto Publish Powered By : XYZScripts.com