Racism Does Not Exist (or, The Only True Racist Is A Misanthropist)

There was no scientific merit behind the motives of the person who left these scars on another human beings back.

There was no scientific merit behind the motives of the person who left these scars on another human beings back.

Racism does not exist.  Racism has never existed.  These may seem like bold assessments considering how the word ‘race’ is used today, but when we explore the meaning of the word ‘race’ it becomes clear that this word has been grossly misused.  To apply it the way it has been applied for hundreds of years is to give scientific credence to a lie based on hatred, greed and ignorance.  This is not a ‘post-racial’ argument.  It is a semiotic argument that recognizes the power of language.  I am not arguing that hateful bigotry and prejudices do not exist.  I am arguing that the ‘racism’ is not the appropriate word to use in describing them because it encourages barriers rather than breaking them and helps to reinforce prejudices.

The OED defines race by what is common, not by what is different.

The OED defines race by what is common, not by what is different.

When starting such a conversation it is always important to research the definition of the word being discussed.  The Oxford English Dictionary (OED) has several definitions for the word ‘race’.  It describes ‘race’ as: “A group of people, animals, or plants, connected by common descent or origin.”  The OED also describes race as: “A set or class of people who share a characteristic attitude or other feature” or: “A class of animals, plants, or things having a common quality or characteristic.”  When looking at these definitions it becomes clear that the human race is a single entity.  There are no biological divisions present in any human that differentiate that person from all other humans.  All humans, regardless of geographical location, religion, skin colour or sex, share a “common quality or characteristic”.  We are all “connected by a common descent or origin” and therefore are all members of the same race.  Therefore, to suggest that somebody whose skin may be a shade darker or a shade lighter is a member of a different race is to ignore the fact that we share a common origin with that person and in turn suggests that the person in question has an origin that is different than our own.  That is not the case.

There is only one human race and both 'whites' and 'Blacks' are members of that same race.

There is only one human race and both ‘whites’ and ‘Blacks’ are members of that same race.

Then how did the word come to be used in the way it has been used for centuries?   It is a lie that started some centuries ago, when Europeans first invaded Africa in search of slaves, though it is likely to go much further back than that.  It is not a morally easy task to put another person into slavery, so it must be rationalized.  The Black people of Africa were defined by Europeans as belonging to a separate race.  It was suggested that Africans were of foreign origin, and that they did not share common qualities or characteristics with Whites.  This, as the ignorant argued, is made clear by the difference in the colour of their skin.  So this lie was accepted as truth, allowing Europeans to dehumanize Africans.  In the ensuing centuries, slavery was handed down from generation to generation, and with it the lie that the colour of one’s skin makes one a member of a different race.  Even when slavery was abolished, the lie of race continued.  When Americans entered Vietnam, they defined the Vietnamese as members of another race. In Afghanistan and Iraq, the same occurred.  The combatants were dehumanized.  During the American expansion, the Natives were defined as members of a different race.  I give America as an example, but it is not the only nation guilty of such travesties.  It was a moral flaw inherited by the mother country, who was no more the author of it than were the Americans.

These girl was not allowed to go to certain schools based on what made her different, but it is commonalities that define race, not difference.

This girl was not allowed to go to certain schools based on what made her different, but it is commonality that defines race, not difference.

It was hard to let go of the word race and the associations that came  with it.  Sometimes people who perceive themselves as belonging to one group see another person as being somehow “other” and use the word ‘race’ to differentiate themselves from that other.  Subsequently, people begin to make generalizations about these other groups deemed as members of a different race. Sometimes these stereotypes are outwardly flattering, other times insulting, but are never true.  One group might be uplifted as being brighter, or as being better at math or science, while another group may be labelled as lazy or cheap.  A stereotype can be something as seemingly harmless or trivial as a food preference.  However, the heart of the stereotype —whether ostensibly positive, or ambiguous, or insulting—undermines our self-determination and so, even when flattering, is extremely problematic.  These generalizations are not examples of racism.  They are examples of bigotry, ignorance and prejudice.  They are not racist.  To call these stereotypes racist is to suggest that they are in fact based on the fact that there is a difference in origin, or that there are no common qualities or characteristics shared between the person being unfairly judged, and the person doing the judging.  To call bigotry an example of racism, or to call ignorance an example of racism or to refer to prejudice as an example of racism is to suggest that these things are based on a biological difference that simply does not exist and so, lends a scientific credibility to an argument that has no scientific basis.  It is important to note as well that ‘race’ is not define by what is different, but rather, by what is common.  It, as the OED says, is defined as something based on “common qualities or characteristics” or “common descent or origin”.  These commonalties are what defines somebody as being a member of the same race.  It is not the differences that define us, but what we have in common that defines race.

The hate and bigotry extolled by these men had no scientific merit.  To call it racist suggest that there is merit to such bigotry.

The hate and bigotry extolled by these men had no scientific merit. To call it racist suggest that there is merit to such bigotry.

Hate is hate.  Ignorance is ignorance.  Bigotry is bigotry.  Prejudice is prejudice.  None of them are examples of racism, because none of them have any scientific basis.  None of them are based on a difference of origin, because there is no difference of origin.  They are not based on the fact that there is a lack of common qualities or characteristics, because there is no lacking of common qualities or characteristics.

    Is there a difference between the men in white hats and the men who wear the uniform in this image?

Is there a difference between the men in white hats and the men who wear the uniform in this image?

We have placed imaginary walls between each other that have no reason to be there.  They are walls of needless estrangement.  To suggest that they are based on anything other than fallacies is to suggest that there is some sort of scientific merit in them.  And these walls do not only apply to parts of humanity that we may perceive as ‘other’, but to parts of nature as well.  Everything on this planet shares a common origin, and that is a belief held by everybody, be they people of science or people of faith.  The decency we need to extend to other members of humanity, or if you like, other members of the human race, is decency that we should also extend to the natural world.

In post 9/11 America, many suggest that Muslims have been racially profiled, but this is not the case.  They have been religiously profiled.

In post 9/11 America, many suggest that Muslims have been racially profiled, but this is not the case. They have been religiously profiled.

I hope the next time you see a person extolling behaviour that can be defined as prejudiced, or ignorant or bigoted, you can stop and think, and recognize that behaviours that fall under these categories are not examples of racism, but rather examples of prejudice, ignorance and bigotry.  Do not lend scientific credibility or merit to such grievous examples of hate and ignorance because it will only help to perpetuate hate and ignorance.  There is only one human race, and the only true racist is a misanthropist.

This woman is not racist.  She is simply a hateful, ignorant bigot.  She also likely doesn't realize that the sign above her excludes her as well as the "Japs".

This woman is not racist. She is simply a hateful, ignorant bigot. She also likely doesn’t realize that the sign above her excludes her as well as the “Japs”.

Note:  I do realize that language is a fluid, growing thing and that the word ‘race’ carries a social meaning that is very different than the prescribed meaning found in dictionaries or biology textbooks.  This is perhaps a polemic argument, but one that I think can be fairly and reasonably applied by anybody with an open mind, and one that will expose flaws inherent in attitudes that are falsely perceived as racist.

racist

Rambler About Rambler

Jason John Horn is a writer and critic who recently completed his Master's in English Literature at the University of Windsor. He has composed a play, a novella and a number of short stories and satirical essays.

Comments

  1. How in the world did you get into grad school while remaining so astonishingly ignorant? I mean this seriously. This is easily the most impoverished understanding of racism I have ever seen by someone who does not identify as a white supremacist and who has gone to college. You think you are making some sort of recherché point by conflating the acknowledgement of racism existing with an acceptance of the racial metaphysics of racism – you are not. You have gone down a wormhole, apparently guided by unfettered pedantry and ignorance, and have come out on the other side with a theoretical framework for understanding racism worse than most third graders.

    This a shameful level of stupidity to display on a site dedicated to advancing your name and career.

  2. Surprisingly enough, you have not spoken directly to the content or the issue at had. The word ‘race’ has a very specific meaning, and when used properly, every member of the human race falls under the same race category, meaning that regardless of skin colour, we are all members of the same race. Those who first claimed that the people of the African continent were a different ‘race’, made this claim to justify slavery. They claimed that there were no moral issues with putting these people into slavery because they were a different ‘race’. That was a lie. A lie that has been handed down from generation to generation. A lie that many have been slowly trying to repeal. It is why people of colour have ceased using the term ‘negro’ or ‘negroid’ because these were inaccurate racial categorizations. Instead, a term like ‘African American’ is used that implies, not race, but rather heritage and nationality.

    When a prejudice, bigoted person is referred to as racist, the implication is that they are actually basing their prejudices on something: race. Race, being a scientific term, has scientific credibility. Baseless and bigoted prejudices do not. They are based on ignorance. As such, terms that adequately describe the nature of their ignorance should be used in place of scientific terms that imply there is some sort of ACTUAL basis for such bigotry.

    As for using terms like race to divide people of different colours, I think it is counterproductive. I think it puts up barriers that we should be trying to take down.

    If you want to use the term ‘race’, you are welcome to. It is a free country. If you want to help perpetuate the lie that slavery traders starter, that it YOUR choice. I will not. That is my choice. It is a choice made with an understanding of both the prescribed meaning of the word, as well as the social meaning, as well as the intent of the word, the history behind it and the implications and influence such a word can have when used. I have spoke to these in the article, you have not spoken to them in your response. You have relied on personal insults and absolutely no analysis or acknowledgement of the content present in the post, which, does not exemplify MY stupidity, but rather exemplifies your lack of critical analysis and blind adherence to a lie that you seem unwilling to discuss in rational and objective terms. My question to you is: Why are you so invested in perpetuating this lie?

    You also speak to my motivations being to advance my name and career. I will tell you this: DO NOT PRETEND TO KNOW WHAT MY MOTIVATIONS ARE! Why would you assume that these are my motivations? I can assure you they are not. My motivations is to break barriers and encourage unity, not to perpetuate lies that reinforce barriers.

  3. Your intentions are apparently oh so very hallowed and lofty, but your central argument is ridiculous and utopian and provides support for a troubling “post-racial” doctrine.

    The foundations of your argument are basically these two claims:

    1) “Race” is a scientific term and should not be used to justify something which has no scientific basis. To use it in this manner is to perpetuate the hateful mechanism called “racism.”
    2) If we stop using the word “race,” we will come closer to advancing the goals of egalitarianism and removing this mechanism.

    First of all, I imagine many anti-racist activists would be enormously offended at your suggestion that they are perpetuating “the lie that slave-traders started” because of their use of the word “race.” Understandably so, because this reeks of pedantry, hubris, and arm-chair activism.

    Secondly, simply coming up with different terms than “racism” and “race” does absolutely jack for the systems of prejudice and inequality that function materially and legally, as well as on a more internalized ideological level. Really, it does nothing at all. The idea that the linchpin of color-based prejudice in this country is the fact that “race” is a term from the field of science and therefore has merit (as if all employment of scientific terms lends serious credence and credit, no matter how poorly used) is an absurd statement. You are fiddling on the strings of the world’s most useless argument here.

    But it’s more than useless. I would suggest it’s actually harmful, because you are lending support to the “post-racial” idea which has gained so much traction in the past several years. You claim that racism has never existed, and yet your tags at the bottom of the post say, “Racism is dead,” and “racism is over,” as if it did, in fact, exist at one point. For an individual apparently so concerned with picking unimportant nits and magnifying them to non-existent importance, this is a disconcerting contradiction. Pick your unimportant nits if you will, but if you really dislike color-based prejudice, you should not give credibility to the post-racial delusion of “nothing to see here” that such prejudice is over.

    You should listen to more people of color. (I can imagine your response here, in all caps, “I DO LISTEN TO PEOPLE OF COLOR HOW DARE YOU – “). On a not-super-academic level, I would recommend Junot Diaz and Jay Smooth. For more serious structural and legal analysis, as well as grappling with the new invisibility of racism in the period of “post-racial” hegemony, I would suggest Michelle Alexander.

  4. You clearly don’t recognize the power of language. Words have meanings. To use certain words it to give credence and credibility to them, whether intended or not.

    If people are offended that I think using the word race helps to perpetuate the lie that slave traders started, then they should re-examine the language they are using and ask themselves why they are using the same language as the slave traders. If you are using the same terms that slave traders used and you are promoting an agenda that is contrary to agenda of the slave traders, then one needs to take a step back and ask themselves WHY they are using the same language as the people whose mentality they are arguing. Pro-Choice people don’t refer to them as “pro-abortionists”, as the Pro=lifers refer to them.

    As to the claims of ‘post-racial’ dialogue: I’m not indulging in the ‘post-racial’ rhetoric. I am not denying the prejudice and hate and bigotry don’t exist. I’m simply suggesting we use the appropriate words.

    In regard to my tags, they are there not because they reflect my views, but because I hope that the people who search for such word phrases might come across my post and that it will encourage them to think about the issues.

    As to the “list to more people of colour”, I don’t even know where to begin with that. First, it implies (and I am not using caps) that I do not listen to people of colour. This is not true. I’m not sure what else to say to that. The people of colour I have spoken too about this in person are very excited about this approach, though they realize, as I do, that it serves primarily as a polemic argument meant to encourage people to think about how the terms we use subconsciously impact our perceptions.

    This idea, though I arrived at it independently, is NOT an idea unique to me, and in fact is one that is adopted by many people of colour. To suggest that my agreeing with the concept is an issue because of my skin colour when people of colour (though they are few in number) agree with the sentiments makes me wonder what your issue is. If a Black person was saying this, would you be so opposed to it? Or is there an issue here because I am a white person?

    I ask you: knowing what you know about the source of the word and the meaning of the word, do you feel comfortable using it? Do you want to use the same term a slave trader used to tell a lie that promoted slavery? Do you feel comfortable thinking of Black people as another race? Of Asian people as another race? Of white and Hispanic people of another race? Do you want to perpetuate barriers? Or tear them down? Because I want them torn down.

    One of the biggest problems we have, whether we are women, or a ‘minority’ or a member of the working class is that we are brought up by a system that oppresses us and that system teaches us a language that reinforces our own oppression without us even realizing it. We need to think about the language we used and the system in which we are born and re-think what we say so that we don’t lend authority to the system we are fighting.

    And in the future, don’t bring up the color of my skin. When speaking to other humans about matter pertaining to ‘racism’, I NEVER bring up the colour of their skin or question their integrity based on the colour of their skin, or suggest they need to talk to more people with a certain skin tone. Perhaps people have done that to you in the past but I haven’t. I would appreciate the same degree of respect in the from you. I should hope I don’t need to explain to you why doing this in such a context is problematic.

    As I said, the ideas I am presenting are not ‘white’ ideas. They are ideas. People with varying skin colours agree with them.

  5. “As I said, the ideas I am presenting are not ‘white’ ideas. They are ideas.”
    Yes, they are ideas. Not very good ones, in my opinion. Here, and in other places, you seem to equate racial essentialism with the mere recognition of one’s own context and privileges; one cannot even recognize that one is white or Latino or Native American, and the influences this has on one’s subjectivity without falling into the slave-trader’s trap, apparently.

    “I ask you: knowing what you know about the source of the word and the meaning of the word, do you feel comfortable using it?”
    Yes? Again, it is a widely accepted term, and using it does not buy into essentialist racial metaphysics any more than using the word “moot” in the newer American sense of “no significance” means one is secretly reinforcing the older usage of “open to argument.”

    I have more I’d like to say, but this is clearly an impasse, so I will leave it at that.

  6. I didn’t make the ‘history’ up. It is what it is. I am aware of it, a lot of people are not.

    I am not saying that people can’t identify with their ETHNIC or CULTURAL or RELIGIOUS context and how that relates to the people around them and how the people around them might have prejudices and bigoted ideas about: ETHNICITY, CULTURE and RELIGION. These are the ACTUAL terms we SHOULD be using rather than RACE because these terms are accurate in describing what the prejudicial attitudes are based on. I’m not saying that people can’t recognize that others might judge them based on the colour of their skin, I’m saying that if you use the word race to describe somebody with different coloured skin, then you imply that they are “other” when they are not. They are members of the same race: the human race. To suggest that the prejudice is based on ‘race’ is a fallacy. It is based on PERCEIVED race.

    Part of the problem with fighting against Western ideologies is that people who are brought up in the west inadvertently validate Western institutions which they challenge because they are brought up in the West and don’t realize how engrained they are in their own oppression. We don’t live in a society where Stockholm Syndrome is an anomaly, we live in a world where Stockholm Syndrome is the norm. People identify with the power of the oppressor and in many instances, rather than hope to transcend and end that oppression, they simply wish to become the oppressor.

    As I said, this not ‘my’ idea, this is an idea which people with African ancestry (not all, but many) have been moving toward for decades. It started with rescinding the use of the term ‘negro’ which was a race category, in favour of the term ‘Black’, or ‘African American’, the latter of which engaged in concepts of heritage and nationality rather than race. There is a reason for that. Many people ‘of colour’ did not want to use the terminology and rhetoric that the oppressor used.

    The misuse of the term ‘race’ has become so engrained in society, that few even realize the problematic nature of it. People, for example, say that Muslims are ‘racially’ profiled. Islam is NOT a race, it is a religion. It doesn’t matter what colour your skin is, if a man, be he white or Asian, or Black or Hispanic or Middle Easter, is wearing clothes common amongst Muslim men, and is with a woman wearing a head scarf or a Burqa, when he and his wife enter an airport, it is very likely that they will be profiled, and NOT for their race, but rather for their religion. Yes people call this ‘racial’ profiling.

    ‘Race’ has a meaning. It was misused by slave traders. They lied. I guess it boils down this: Are you willing to recognize that lie? And if you do, what are you going to do about it?

    You seem like a bright and passionate person, but I noticed that you haven’t spoken to the actual history. Is my account wrong? Am I misrepresenting the history of the word? Or its original intent? Or its dictionary and scientific definitions? There is a social meaning to the word that has evolved over time, but what is the source of that social meaning? Is that source a source you want to be associated with? Or align yourself with? You will notice I am not prescribing answers here. I am asking you questions. Does the fact that it is a ‘widely accept term’ mean it is alright to use? The N-word was a widely accepted term. It has fallen out of use, or at the very least is now recognized for its pejorative nature. It is also common place to insult men by emasculating them and feminizing them. Does that make it right? When man calls another man a ‘pussy’, even though he equates the word with ‘passive’ or perhaps ‘cowardly’, does that mean that the word does not also simultaneously demerit women? Or the homophobic F-word? Your defense that it is ‘widely’ used is flawed. That is what we call the ‘appeal to the majority’. Democracy is three wolves and a sheep deciding what is for dinner. There are many instances where the ‘majority’ were wrong. Nazi Germany? The Antebellum South? If you find yourself defending your stance by saying ‘the majority does this’ or ‘it is widely accepted’, chances are you should likely find ANOTHER argument. It was widely accepted that the sun moved around the Earth and that the Earth was flat; that doesn’t make it so.

    And don’t kid yourself. Nothing has ‘no significance’. You seem to think this is a conversation about metaphysics and it is not. It is about significance. It is about signs. Signifier and signified. It is a conversation about semiotics. Whether somebody is aware of the meaning of a word or not does not change the impact that word has socially and subconsciously. That is akin to arguing that is somebody, who is holding an loaded gun but thinks they are hold a water pistol and fires it at somebody, that person being shot at will be hit by water. Every word is a loaded weapon. When you use it, you invoke its power, whether you realize the power of the word or not.

    Consider my questions and your answers.

    I believe we have the same goals. We just may have a different idea of how to get there.

  7. Hi Rambler,
    I loved reading your article,
    IMO The word racism is an invented word to express either jealousy, hatred or ignorance for people that look different . I guess in this day and age we got so used to the word and use it for almost anything that we forget what our feelings really mean.
    I loved your examples with the pictures because a racist will look at them from a racist POV but in the end it is what it is, just hatred or bigotry. I have been called a racist before because I like girls with blue eyes and I was a racist because I fought a war in Afghanistan, some people like to label everything racism!

    @ Earwig, where can I find your article about racism?
    Why do you say coloured people? Why not refer to people from all walks of life and nationalities?

  8. Ainea Kimaro says:

    Racism does not exist, can not be more correct. In a big conference sponsored by TED 2007 in Arusha Tanzania, one presenter from the US started his talk with slides. The first was a black monkey, second was light skin gorilla, third was a white person on computer screen; and the humor of it showing going back to permittivity however much we struggle. Fine. Thereafter, many applauded him for such a moving presentation he had made; and by showing how far the white man has “traveled” from Africa. I briefly introduced myself and showed my enthusiasm for his work, but pointed out that, in another reflection, he was very unfair to people of black skin: he could use same color for all the three or four slides because we are short of neither white monkeys nor white gorillas. So, all his efforts, PhD holder, concentrated associating black people with permittivity and and people of light skin with modernity! A game, this world. Otherwise, racism is rooted in economic deprivation; lust for land and the like resources, but before you kill a dog, give it a bad name. All people are the same, by feelings, expectations,etc. God bless humanity and all of us.

  9. Ainea Kimaro says:

    MR JASON JOHN:
    I very much appreciate the way you handle facts and intelligence, without fear! People who did not get sufficient education and are still struggling with life in my village feel more comfortable with people they know and especially from same village. They think this world would be heaven for them with President from their village. But, with a bit of education, traveling around the world,and one being able to meet her/his requirements with ease, the sense of compunction for others then takes over and the crude fear for life subsides. It was worse before industrialization because the means of production were not as efficient as they are today, but still, unfortunately not everyone benefits proportionally to this day. Inequality largely fosters hate between us, and so easily from what we easily see – the density of melanin on the skin. I sincerely find you, JASON JOHN as a very confident person, who does not rise by pulling down the other, but by depending on own capacities. Yet, there exist out there highly educated and well traveled guys loving to establish position in life on the basis of color, and perhaps reason for tolerance of different views. All the best Brother.

  10. Thank you for taking the time to read my post, and most especially for taking the time to reply with a thoughtful post. It is appreciated.

Speak Your Mind

*

css.php