RE: Definition of Racism (without rent-a-riot)

From: Harvey Newstrom (
Date: Thu Aug 09 2001 - 14:08:21 MDT

Jerry Mitchell wrote,

> It was 1994 to be exact,

Actually, I have determined that this was at the end of 1993. Most of the
articles criticizing this remark were published in 1994. Since most of the
reference did not give a specific source person and date, most of the modern
references seem to quote the date on the articles they are reading not of
the original quote. I also note a lot of variation in this quote, another
indication that people are not getting back to the original sources.
However, I have found enough sources to demonstrate that this seems to be

> now can we get back an address the issue? Is Jesse Jackson a racist?

This is almost a trick question. Jackson's original quote said that he was
ashamed to have this distinction between blacks and whites in his mind.
Therefore, he seems to be giving an example of where even he has racial
prejudice and/or discrimination in his mind. However, he gives this as an
example of what we need to stop doing. So is he a racist? No. He seems to
be admitting that racism is a common and natural feeling that we all need to
fight to overcome. He admits some racist thoughts, but is fighting to end

There are different definitions for different words depending on who you
ask. I don't know that racism requires genetic root causes. Most people
haven't decided if they believe behavior is more caused by genetics or
culture. It probably is a mixture of both. If you insist that racism be
limited to genetic causes, then I think hardly anything would ever be
considered racist.

Is he discriminating based on race? In this example, yes he is. Is it a
fair or accurate discrimination? No, it is not. Statistically speaking,
blacks may commit more crimes than whites. Does that mean he should assume
the white guy is not going to assault him? Does that mean he should assume
the black guy is going to assault him? Neither assumption is valid. Even
if one is statistically more likely to occur, it is not a scientific basis
for predicition. The methodology that observing a person's race will help
predict their criminal behavior is wrong.

More to the point, the race of the person is not indicative of future
behavior. It is not statistically predictive. It may be true that blacks
commit more crimes than whites. However, most black people are law-abiding
citizens, as are most white people. Poverty would be a more scientific
indicator. A white street bum would probably be more dangerous than a rich
black businessman or a black preacher. When we adjust for these better
factors, we would find that rich black business men are probably no more
likely to commit crime than rich white business men. Likewise, a black
preacher is probably no more likely to commit a crime than a white preacher.
Therefore, the race is not a good indicator at all. The relative wealth of
the person or religious value is a better indicator.

Therefore, I don't really care if we call these attitudes racist, prejudice
or discrimination. To link unrelated traits to race is racist. To make
decisions based on race rather than people's individual merits is racist. I
don't see much value in arguing whether something is racist, racially
prejudiced or racially discriminatory. Let's just say that it is just plain
scientifically invalid, and leave it at that.

Is there any good reason to split hairs with these terms, except to be able
to practice prejudice and discrimination while claiming not to be racist?

Harvey Newstrom <> <>

This archive was generated by hypermail 2b30 : Fri Oct 12 2001 - 14:40:05 MDT