Racism, a supercharged word, with a variety of ideas about what it entails, albeit interconnected to some degree, nevertheless, it can be misunderstood unless we’re unequivocally clear about its definition. I’m sure some of you are wondering what the hell I’m talking about. You’re probably murmuring under your breath (or yelling at me) and saying I’ve lost my mind. I haven’t, but I’m sure some of my friends will contest that. Let me explain. First off, most of us believe racism is morally wrong, an incompetent philosophy wrought with fallacies. But, I digress. A general principle that works in most situations is that if something is morally wrong, then it’s morally dubious to discuss it when the content is primed to obfuscate its wrongness. Think Nazism, work camps, protective custody, etc., all fall under an umbrella cloaked in racist and genocidal philosophy. Or, perhaps a more systemic issue facing the United States is that the general framework of the private and public sector are geared towards Caucasians being the dominant people group, and is oppressively structured to marginalize other groups like People of Color. Likewise, it could be as elementary as someone telling a lie, employing euphemisms and the likes. Not that these terms are inaccurate to say the least, but rather morally arcane and vague, especially when it comes to covering up a truth for a lie, because it masks the necessity in being morally aware and critical. In other words, these dismissive terms used to cover up an issue surrounding morality are false and erroneous, whether it is intentional or not.
I’m going to digress again (slightly) and talk about Jim Crow. Many would already know the meaning of this, but it is likely that many also do not. This was a collection of state and local laws that made segregation legal, which inevitably resulted in not only suppressing votes from People of Color and enforcing racial segregation, but it also speaks to the brutal and sometimes deadly actions law enforcement (and citizens alike) levied against Persons of Color. However, the term itself can be not only misleading, but its application as a summary of the events that transpired during that period fail in conveying the message adequately. The use of this phrase invokes an ideological and moral distancing from what most certainly did in fact occur, whether it was intended or not (that’s another rant). People of Color were the target of laws designed to preserve and continue to cultivate their racial (and sometimes human) inferiority in the eyes of a white person, which permeated into the community as well.
Just like Jim Crow, the term racism can be subjective, based on the assumptions of whomever. Yet, racism isn’t clear while Jim Crow is a euphemism of sorts, if we can even call it that, because it doesn’t represent anything nice and often times invokes trauma for those who experienced it. The issue with the term racism is that people have different definitions regarding it, because it means different things to different people. It can mean a person (or a group/society) is repulsed and contemptuous about one’s racial class, this being one of the leading interpretations of it in the general public. But what about someone who isn’t vocal, nor do they act on it, but introvertly are? If their actions aren’t racist, are they? I would argue, yes. During the period of American slavery, People of Color were considered sub-human, on par with livestock, pets and such, not “fully” human. A good portion of slave-owners didn’t hate their slaves any more than they did their cattle, etc., but they certainly viewed them as inferior to those who were not. In addition, there are some who simply don’t care about another person’s race, a sense of indifference for them as a people group, unaffected by their presence in society.
We’re going to circle back again to systemic racism to where entire socio-political and economic systems are formed and organized in a way so that certain groups are empowered and others are marginalized, often times at the expense of those who are disparaged. This is the problem the United States faces, coupled with the fact that there are in indeed racists acting on their intentions like the KKK and other white supremist groups, including lone wolfs and groups situated in communities across the country, not just localized in the old “Confederate” south. However, these institutions, whether it is an elite university or bank approving an application to buy property, acquire loans, etc., aren’t inherently racist in the sense that the people working in these establishments are racially motivated to appropriate funds, etc., to white people as opposed to People of Color, but rather the system itself is designed to percolate racial marginalization. The elephant in the room is what does one person’s view of racism entail as opposed to another’s?
So, in essence, racism as a term is dubious, unless it is explicitly defined in detail as to what someone means by it. Instead of just employing the term outright, expecting someone to immediately “get it” or have the “aha” moment, we need to be clear about what we mean. Granted, racism is morally wrong no matter how you slice the proverbial pie of definitions surrounding it, but in these times, it’s best to be clear about what we’re actually fighting. Is it racist people or is it the institutions that have been built over the last few centuries that need to come down once and for all? I suggest both, but I’m no soldier and neither am I equipped with the fervor to storm the Bastille, yet. I’m sure many of you are indeed ready. But, instead of accusing people or institutions of racism, it is best to be clear as accurately as one can about those racial prejudices aside from obscuring the moral implications of what is actually being said. Because racism appears to be a sort of psychologically driven disease of some kind, with no real vaccine in sight, we have noticed in recent weeks the non-virulent portion of the population are the younger generations and generally less-experienced. Therein lies the clue.
Rise up young Americans.