Defining racism

Mark at Western Survival sums up the “racism” issue very well. The key thing, as I wrote in The Path to National Suicide, is to define the word racism clearly and responsibly, so that the left can’t use it as a bludgeon over us; and that’s exactly what Mark does. Here’s the key passage:

I have begun, among my white friends, to acknowledge that I am a racist. I say, “If by racist, you mean that I think there are actual differences, genetic differences, between racial groups that have real consequences, then yes I am a racist. If you mean that I feel more of an affinity for people of my ethnic group, that I feel more comfortable and at home with them, then yes I am a racist. If you mean I put the interests of my people, my ethnic group, ahead of the interests of others just as I put my family’s interests over others, then yes I am a racist. But if by “racist” you mean someone who believes in genocide or slavery or hatred or oppression of other ethnic groups, then no, I am not a racist.”

While I endorse Mark’s basic reasoning, personally I would never describe myself as a “racist,” since, as I see it, the word will always have the connotation of the morally bad, of oppression and hatred. I think “racialism” is a better word than “racism,” as it carries the good and acceptable meanings that Mark attributes to “racism,” but without the, uh, racist baggage. The question is, do we disarm the racism charge by giving racism a positive meaning and thus outflank the liberals, as Mark seeks to do, or do we invalidate the racism charge by giving it a completely negative meaning and showing that we are not racist? I continue to think that the latter way is better, but, given people’s desires to stick it to the liberals and be free of them at last, by appropriating the word racism for ourselves (just as Puritan was initially a derogatory term, and the Puritans then adopted it for themselves), I recognize that I may be on the losing side of this debate. But if that happens, I think a key distinction will be lost.

- end of initial entry -

Howard Sutherland writes:

You are absolutely right about the nomenclature. “Racist” can’t be salvaged. When I discuss this (carefully) with people, I say that whites need to become as “racially aware” as non-white groups already are.

Steve writes (and I’ve interpolated some comments of my own):

I disagree.

[LA: When posting a comment that you disagree with what has been said previously, please indicate what it is that you are disagreeing with.]

There are two distinct definitions for the word “racism.”

First, there is the dictionary definition where “racism” is discrimination based on skin color. This is also the definition found in international law.

[LA: I think this is too narrow. The most common dictionary definition is something like, “the belief that members of one race are intrinsically superior to members of other races.” Another common definition is “Discriminatory or abusive behavior towards members of another race.” The first definition somewhat weakens the force of Steve’s argument below, since the left can argue that it’s only whites who say that they are superior to other groups. In other words, “racism” is not merely race-based discrimination; if it were, Steve could more plausibly argue that minority preferences are racist. Since racism is also defined as racial supremacism, the left can argue that minority preferences aimed at equalizing the races are not racist but indeed anti-racist.]

Second, there is the establishment definition where racism is whenever a white person is insufficiently ashamed of his or her skin color.

[LA: First, obviously no one has ever defined racism this way, and it doesn’t match the examples of the “establishment” definition given below. Also, I underscore that what Steve calls the establishment definition, which is really the leftist definition, is not found in any dictionary.]

If you think the establishment definition is a joke, consider these statements:


“Civil rights laws were not passed to protect the rights of white men and do not apply to them.” -Chairman Mary Frances Berry, U.S. Commission on Civil Rights


“Only whites can be racist” -Cornell University ()


“[Racism is] The systematic subordination of members of targeted racial groups who have relatively little social power in the United States (Blacks, Latino/as, Native Americans, and Asians), by the members of the agent racial group who have relatively more social power (Whites).” -Seattle school district

The two definitions are mutually exclusive. For example, if I object to affirmative action, I am an “anti-racist” under the dictionary definition because I am objecting to discrimination against a group, i.e. whites. But under the establishment definition I am a “racist” for making the objection because it proves that I am insufficiently ashamed of my white skin color.

Another example: If I object to there being no white student union on campus, I am objecting to the discriminiation against a specific group and therefore an “anti-racist” under the dictionary definition. However, under the establishment definition, objecting to unequal treatment of whites clearly proves that I am insufficiently ashamed of my white skin color and therefore a “racist.”

Another example: If I object to white countries—and only white countries—being morally illegitimate and therefore obliged to accept immigration, I am again objecting to anti-white discrimination which is “anti-racist” under the dictionary definition. Yet under the establishment definition, objecting to the unequal treatment of white countries is again proof that one is insufficiently ashamed of one’s white skin color and therefore, ipso facto, “racist.”

In other words, whenever you or Mark defend the rights of the white majority you will necessarily be “racists” under the establishment definition. There is no way to avoid it.

The issue is why do you (and we) meekly accept the establishment definition.

[LA: What is Steve’s evidence that I am accepting the establishment definition?]

By accepting it as we so clearly are, we allow them to preemptively label us and to silence us by stealing our vocabulary.

LA replies:

I understand Steve’s argument, that it’s the left’s anti-white agenda that is really racist. But it’s not clear to what me what is his overall drift here. What is it that he wants us to do?

Posted by Lawrence Auster at June 04, 2006 09:31 PM | Send

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