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

From: Harvey Newstrom (
Date: Fri Aug 10 2001 - 08:35:08 MDT

Jerry Mitchell wrote,
> > - Racism is a belief system that non-physical attributes
> > derive from race.
> This is getting close to my definition. "The belief that a race is
> inherently superior or inferior based on genetics"

I don't like using "genetics" because it is too difficult to prove whether
something is 100% genetic, 100% environment, or somewhere in-between. I
also think that the belief that environments makes "all" people of one race
behave one way while "all" people of another race behave a different way
would also be racist even if it is not genetically based. I agree that
genetics is the probably the only reasonable explanation for any
characteristic to be spread to "all" members of one race, but I don't think
it is a required part of the definition. Under this definition there could
have been no racism before DNA was discovered. Or a person who is not
educated about genetics can't be racist. I think the scientific theory of
genetics is not required to practice racism. This would almost require that
only scientists could be racists.

> > - Prejudice is pre-judging an individual before evaluating
> > their individual merits.
> I agree to this as applied to people, but I think we can leave out "before
> evaluating their individual merits" as extra verbiage not required.


> > - Racial Prejudice is prejudice based on an individual's
> > membership in a
> > racial group.
> Agreed

> > - Discrimination is making choices between different options.
> > - Racial Discrimination is making choices between different
> > options based on
> > race.
> >
> also agreed

> > I don't see how someone can racially pre-judge someone
> > without having the
> > belief system of racism. I don't see how someone can
> > racially discriminate
> > against someone without having the belief system of racism.
> > These terms are
> > inextricably intertwined thusly:
> >
> > Step 1: Racism - holding certain beliefs about races
> > Step 2: Racial Prejudice - applying those beliefs to
> > individuals based on
> > step 1
> Step 2 doesn't require step 1. Like we discussed before, Jesse may not
> believe that blacks cause more crime based on race (I don't either), but
> still believe that blacks cause more crime because of
> environmental factors,
> and still make decisions based on race because of this.

This is where your reference to "genetics" and my definition diverge. You
seem to be saying that if behavior isn't genetic, it is not racism. Under
your definition saying "All blacks are lazy" is racist if one thinks they
have a genetic predisposition to be lazy. But the same statement is not
racist if one thinks they have a cultural predisposition to be lazy. I

> > Step 3: Racial Discrimination - taking actions against those
> > individuals
> Taking actions "against" sounds a bit negative, when it could also be
> applied in a positive light. i.e. Giving a race special
> privileges over some
> "Norm". I would just say taking action on some race because of
> their race. I
> know, nitpicking again... but just trying to be clear.

Agreed. Taking any actions to treat one race differently than another is
racial discrimination.

> This goes back to black cops and Jesse again. I think they are grouping
> blacks together into a group based on environmental causes (same living
> conditions, culture, neighborhoods?), not genetic heritage, even
> though the
> 2 are very similar. The reason to nitpick this though is because without a
> clear understanding of this, a white person can not in fact point to the
> same issues that Jesse and black cops point to without being
> labeled racist.

Perhaps. But I was recently reminded that we can't redefine a word just
because we don't want to apply it the way it was intended. I think that
there is an implied assumption that racism is defined as "bad". (I believe
that it bad, but not by definition.) I think the tendency to show
statistical support for prejudice and discrimination as a justification that
it isn't racism is misguided. It is racism. It is a belief in "justified"
racism rather than "unjustified" racism, but the belief system, prejudiced
assumptions and resulting discrimination are the same. Otherwise we end up
using different labels depending which side we are on, much as pro-Life and
pro-Choice factions do. Those who believe in justified prejudice and
discrimination will argue that it's not racist because it's true, while
those that disbelieve will call it racism.

(This is a similar definition problem with defining "religion" as a false
belief. We then have religious people saying that their belief in God is
not a religion because it's true.)

> I do thank you for the rational discussion on this though, I have to admit
> that this has been one of the more reasonable discussions I think
> I've ever
> witnesses.

I thank you too. Sometimes this list can have rational discussions on
controversial issues.

Harvey Newstrom <> <>

This archive was generated by hypermail 2b30 : Fri Oct 12 2001 - 14:40:06 MDT