Re-inventing Race Part 1

Social Theorists hijack word meanings. The most obvious example is their repurposing of the words “Racist” and “Racism”. Dictionaries tend to define this as something like, “prejudice, discrimination or antagonism by an individual, community or institution against a person or people on the basis of their membership of a particular racial or ethnic group, typically one that is a minority or marginalised.” This is the Oxford dictionary definition, on Lexico, but very similar definitions are to be found on Merriam-Webster[1],[2], and Wikepedia[3].

This is not how Critical Race Theorists, and some Unconscious Bias trainers, wish to define racism. They point out that most people sincerely believe, from the depth of their humanist-liberal-conditioned souls, that all humans are, fundamentally, of equal value, yet racial inequality is rife in our societies. Traditional definitions of racism imply that to be racist you must actively participate in intentionally discriminatory acts, motivated by a conscious acceptance of an explicitly racist doctrine. 

This simply doesn’t apply to most people, who therefore assume racial inequality has nothing to do with them. They carry on as normal, tutting at the injustice of the world and doing nothing about it. 

In fact, many nations have been successful in making racial discrimination illegal, and denouncing racism as evil, probably because doctrinaire racism is relatively modern, developed as a way of excusing exploitation in the ages of slavery and then of emancipation[4]. Progressive educators can appeal to our underlying humanism to condemn these superficial beliefs. Yet inequality and prejudice persist, with the added complication that now people feel extremely offended if you suggest they are complicit. 

[1] “a belief that race is a fundamental determinant of human traits and capacities and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race”

[2] “a belief or doctrine that inherent differences among the various human racial groups determine cultural and individual achievement, usually involving the idea that one’s own race is superior and has the right to dominate others or that a particular racial group is inferior to others.”

[3] “Racism is the belief that groups of humans possess different behavioural traits corresponding to physical appearance and can be divided on the superiority of one race over another. It may also mean prejudice, discrimination, or antagonism directed against other people because they are of a different ethnicity. Modern variants of racism are often based on social perceptions of biological differences of peoples.”

[4] See just about every commentator on race, for example, Robin DiAngelo, 2019, White Fragility, London: Penguin, p16, or Robert P Baird, “The Invention of Whiteness” in The Guardian 20/04/21.

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