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

From: Mike Lorrey (
Date: Fri Aug 10 2001 - 12:22:45 MDT

Harvey Newstrom wrote:
> > >
> > > 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
> disagree.

I don't. Saying blacks have a cultural predisposition to like jazz music
isn't any more racist than saying that Japanese people have a cultural
predisposition to like sushi. Neither are racist statements, nor do they
exclude the possibility that people not of those cultures could also
like jazz or sushi.

I doubt anyone here would say my statements about jazz or sushi lovers
are racist. It is only when such cultural generalizations are made which
illustrate members of that culture in a negative light do people try to
apply the 'racist' label to them. If it doesn't work for positive
statements but does for negative statements, it's not racism.

> > > 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.

But what about actions that indirectly causes people of one race to be
treated predominantly different than other races, for instance,
geographic based discrimination (like 'risky zip code' restrictions on
mail order deliveries to zip codes with high fraud rates)?

> > 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.)

Which is verifiable? That is all that matters. Recognising cultural
phenomena that place minorities in a positive or negative light isn't
racism. Saying that those cultural phenomena are strictly caused by
genetics is.

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