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Thursday, March 4, 2010

What is Racism? Part 1

A question has been bothering me for a really long time. I hear the world "racism" (and "sexism") used every single time on the news if I happen to look at the news. But what exactly does it mean? I have no idea what it means.

One thing is clear, judging people from their reaction to this word it must means two things. First, racism is a fallacy. Second, racism is an evil thing to do. Therefore, whatever the definition for "racism" really is it must satisfy those two conditions, it must be a fallacy that a racist commits and it needs to be something which is evil also.

I have heard people give various definitions for racism but they all fail at satisfying those two conditions. A common definition that I hear is, "racism is judging a person because of his race" and a related one is "making a statement about a race of a person". These definitions fail for the following reasons. Suppose I was to say, "black people have black skin". This is a statement regarding black people, but that is a truthful statement. So the first condition is violated. Now consider this example. Suppose I want to hire some construction workers. Two people apply for my job. One of them is a strong build man and the other is a thin small woman. Since this is a construction business I would want to have the person who is more able to do difficult psychical work. Therefore, I will judge the woman and conclude that she is not qualified for the job. I have judged a woman based on her sex, but what is the problem here? I have not violated my first condition.

Here is another definition that I got from a dictionary, "belief that race accounts for differences in human character or ability". But we need to be realistic, race does account for differences in people. There are some diseases that only white people can have and some diseases that only black people can have. Furthermore, there are different neurological illnesses that can have different effects on different races. Black and white people are not exactly the same. Obviously not, they already look slightly different. Their bodies are nearly identical but there are some minor variations. This is why it is not a surprise why they can suffer different diseases. Let us for a moment assume that black people are more prone to violence than white people. In other words, assume for sake of argument that we can scientifically show that black people have a higher concentration of a certain neurotransmitter in their brain which makes then more likely to be violent by a small percentage. Further assume that there is a empirical result that shows that from 100,000 black and white people, 10 of the white were violent and 20 of the black were violent. Thus, it has been established that black people are slightly more prone to violence. If we assume that this is true then if I was to say "black people on the average are more prone to be violent than white people" does this count as racism? It cannot count as racism. Even if it insults some people it is a truthful statement. It should not even insult anyone because it is not a statement about a particular black person it is a statement about a general population of black people. Therefore, I disagree with the idea that all races are identical. Anyone who believes in this is living in a delusional fantasy world. It is true however that the differences are very minor. Because of these problems the definition, "belief that race accounts for differences in human character or ability" is not acceptable.

Here is another definition from a dictionary. Racism is, "discrimination based on the race of the person". But even this definition has some problems with it. Suppose I was a porn director and I was looking for black people to hire in my new movie. If any white people shows up at my studio then I will not hire him for my porn movie because he is white and I am looking for black people to hire. Therefore, I am discriminating against him. But does this violate the second condition to be racism? Is this an evil thing to do? No, not at all. It is perfectly understandable why I do this. I have nothing against white people it is just that I am looking for blacks for a porn movie. Therefore even this definition is not acceptable.

So let us try something easier, perhaps our definitions were too complicated. Let us just say, that racism is, "hating a race of people". This is a very simple definition. But surprisingly even this has a problem. Suppose that a sociopath hates: blacks, women, Mexicans, gays, Jews, whites, and so forth. Yes he does had blacks. But he also hates every single other race in existence. He does not hate races really, what he hates is humanity. So he hates everybody equally. He certainly does hate black people but that does not make him a racist.

This is why I asked my question above. What is racism? I hear it all the time but when one thinks about it carefully it is not easy to describe. So here is my definition, which I was also able to find in a dictionary. Before saying my definition I would like to define what I mean by "superiority" because I am going to be using this word in a different way from the way it is supposed to be used. As I have said above, races are different. Because they are different is it reasonable to expect that one race would have an advantage over another race in a specific area. For example, white people are superior to playing chess to black people. This statement is a statement of averages. That is to say, on the average the skill of a white person would exceed the skill of a black person. However, black people are superior to running track and field to white people. Again this is a statement of averages. That is to say, on the average the skill of a black person would exceed the skill of a white person. This is the common way the word "superior" is used. But I am going to be using "superiority" in a different way. From now on "superiority" shall mean "having a more valuable life". Thus, I can say the statement, "a human being is superior to a single-celled organism" because I am saying that "a human has a more valuable life than a single-celled organism". This is a fine statement to make.

Now I will state my definition of racism. Racism is, "the belief that one race is superior to another" (where "superior" has been explained above). This satisfies my two conditions to be an acceptable definition. First, it is a fallacy. We cannot say that a white person is superior to a black person or vice-versa because we have no idea what kind of people they are. They need to be judged individually so that we can determine which one is superior. Maybe the white person is Adolf Hitler and the black person is Martin Luther King. Thus, we cannot know who is superior without looking at people individually. Second, it is an evil idea. Clearly, I do not have to explain why that is an evil idea.

Thus, I will say what I consider racism and what not to be racism. If a person does not want Barack to be president because he is black, I consider that to be racism. Because this person thinks a black president is less valuable ("inferior" with the terms we have been using) than a white president only because he is black. A person who does not hire black people to his job even though they qualify I would consider to be a racist. This person clearly prefers white people to black people and so he sees black people are being inferior to white people. And there are many other examples that one can generate using this definition.

What I do not consider racism are "racist" jokes and "racist" expressions. I have no problem saying "racist" jokes, I think they are funny. Nor do I have a problem with "racist" expressions. I see no problem with the word "nigger". Likewise I see no problem with the word "fag" (even though this is referring to sexual orientation and not race but my definition can be generalized in a natural manner). There is nothing wrong in and of itself with the word "nigger", it is the racist person that you need to be concerned about.

Now I expect to be called a "racist" for my views with much of what I have said above. But I am not afraid. Because I am a freethinker. My mind is free. I have no problem with thinking outside norms and socially established "virtues". Read what I wrote regarding a free mind. For many people "racism" and "sexism" is the 21st century equivalent of a "heretic". A freethinker must be prepared to be called a "heretic" at any time period he lives in, in our century "racist" and "sexist" are the equivalent terms. Many people fear it, many get in trouble, and it is used as a way to silence opposition, just as the word "heresy" was used to silence opposition five hundred years ago.

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