Should the word “racism” be shelved altogether?

Dan M. writes:

Trifkovic has an excellent summary of Europe’s ever-worsening totalitarian race-hate laws over at the Chronicles website. In respect of your insistence that there is a legitimate definition of “racism” that traditionalists can and should insist on, as over against the definition used by the rest of society, reading the following definitions of “racism” from the UK’s racial “Public Order” laws put me immediately in mind of you:

Soon thereafter came the Public Order Act 1986, Section 17 of which clarified racial hatred as being “hatred against a group of persons in Great Britain defined by reference to colour, race, nationality or ethnic or national origins.” Section 18 clarified racist behaviour as “the use of words or behaviour or display of written material intended or likely to stir up racial hatred.” The maximum penalty under this act was two years’ imprisonment.

In 1999 Sir William Macpherson published the seminal Macpherson Report which, in addition to labelling the police as “institutionally racist,” gave birth to eighteen words which have been used by the British authorities to clamp down on any speech critical of any minority group. The exact wording is as follows: “A racial incident is one that is perceived to be racist by the victim or any other person.” (emphasis in original)

Once the dominant culture has enshrined its definition in law, any use of the term by traditionalists will lend legitimacy to these laws and the persecution in which they result. Pleas that the laws have got it wrong and that anti-liberals are the ones who know the true definition will fall on deaf ears. I think. Well, at any rate, I don’t see us being able to wrench the term away from its rightful owners. In the meantime, every conservative talking about “racism” helps to bury our people.

LA replies:

You’re making a new and reasonable argument, which for the first time has me questioning whether my long-time position on this issue—that we should insist on a carefully defined and de-limited use of the word “racism,” not reject the word altogether—is correct.

When it’s gone this far, when a distortion this huge has not only been established in the culture, but in criminal law, when the word racism has been officially deprived of any meaning other than the meaning that those who want to destroy us feel like attributing to it at their own whim, can such a distortion be corrected by argument and a non-PC, non-totalitarian meaning of the word be put it its place? Has not the false use of racism become so entrenched that any rational use of the word is precluded?

But then let me ask you this. If I stopped using the word racism, what word would you advise me to use to describe, say, a black church that says that white people are the agents of the devil? How would you describe the sermons of Wright, Pfleger, et al., speeches that rouse up hatred of white people?

And remember, your answer has to be a word that conveys moral disapproval. If you tell me that “tribalism” is a sufficient word you will lose me, because tribalism encompasses a range of phenomena, not all of them morally bad.

And there’s a further problem I see with accepting your position. With my position, if someone is accused of racism, he can insist on a coherent definition of the word and demonstrate that his own behavior was not racist. For example, I’ve often used Gedaliah Braun’s argument: racism means something morally bad. If you’re accusing me of racism, you have to show that what I did is morally bad. If you can’t do that, then what I did is not racist.

To me, this is a highly valid and effective argument.

But if we do away with the word racism altogether and say that racism only means the PC idea of racism and has no other possible meaning, then, when we are accused of racism, what can we say? We’re reduced to saying, “This word is just PC, it’s just a club used to beat white people down. I reject it, period.” But that statement fails to address the underlying moral issue: that there are in fact behaviors directed at other groups and races that are morally wrong, and that we have been accused of doing that. By simply saying, “racism is a false word, it means nothing,” the speaker is implicitly saying that there cannot be any morally wrong behaviors directed at a group because of its race. Which implies that he will justify any bad behavior done to people of a different race, because he has rejected, in principle, the idea that behavior toward people of another race can be morally wrong.

* * *

At some point in our exchange, Dan M. wrote:

I would still like to see your explanation of why the Christian moral order as it existed prior to the coinage of the term racism is inadequate to address the “problem,” if there is one, designated by this term, and how those arguments would avoid the necessity of accepting every other specified hate of liberalism.

I replied:

I don’t remember how I previously replied to you on that point. I think I said to you that demonization of entire races as races did not exist in older centuries, so that there was need for such a word back then.

As a backup to the point I made to Dan M., I just came upon an exceptionally interesting VFR blog entry written in 2002 by Jim Kalb, the founder of VFR, where he points out that the terms racism and anti-Semitism came into existence for a reason, to describe new ideological phenomena that had not existed prior to the 19th century. He says that those ideological phenomena were themselves the outcome of a materialist, atheist worldview that, by eliminating any belief in transcendent truth by which conflict between human groups could be mediated, made conflict between biologically distinct groups the fundamental reality.

In other words, a new belief system that made racial conflict the fundamental human reality came into existence, and the word “racism” was coined to describe it.

As an example of a materialist theory that makes biologically determined group conflict the fundamental reality, we only need to reference the thesis of Kevin MacDonald that Jews are genetically driven to seek to destroy European peoples and their societies. Jews and gentiles are mortal enemies, and there is nothing that can mediate this conflict.

Other examples of racism that come to mind are the anti-white demonology of the Nation of Islam (whites are devils created by an evil scientist) and of black liberation theology (white people’s greed and meanness are the source of all evil in the world). Black racism takes a biologically defined group, says that this group is the unique source of evil in the world, and makes the conflict between that group and other groups the fundamental reality.

After hearing Wright, Moss, and Pfleger speak at Trinity, can anyone doubt that they do indeed see the conflict between evil whites and victimized nonwhites as the fundamental reality?

Notice also how Mr. Kalb’s definition of racism is grounded in a philosophical principle rather than in a feeling. His definition doesn’t mention “hatred.” Its distinguishing mark is a world view that treats racial conflict as the ultimate and determining reality. If racial conflict is the ultimate and determining reality, then there can be nothing morally wrong in whatever one racial group does to another. Race subsumes any notion of morality. So Mr. Kalb’s definition does get at the problem of racial hatred, but indirectly, by seeing it as a consequence of the materialist denial of the transcendent which leaves humans nothing to believe in except material human selves (both individual and collective) and their desires and hatreds.

I don’t know if it was Jim Kalb’s intention, but to my mind he has revived racism as a philosophically grounded, legitimate concept.

Which doesn’t mean that his definition is exhaustive.

And which also doesn’t mean that approximately 99 percent of liberal society’s use of the word “racism” is false.

In any case, while I initially was leaning toward accepting Dan M.’s argument that the word racism should be shelved, now I’m moving back toward my original position.

After that long introduction, here is Jim Kalb’s 2002 blog entry:

More on “racism” etcetera

Some thoughts suggested by current discussions of racism and antisemitism:

The natural outlook is that there are a variety of peoples—East Asians, Fukienese peasants, Westerners, Jews, Irishmen—that are distinct enough to possess qualities that might be good or bad. Since qualities differ, it is natural to feel more or less attracted or tied to one group or another and on occasion to feel that there are groups one would rather not have much to do with. Moderation is necessary though. As they say, we’re all human, we’re all different, we all have to get along, and there’s good and bad in all of us.

Words like “racist” and “antisemite,” at least as currently used, implicitly deny that commonsensical understanding of things by suggesting that it’s pathological to pick out a group and attribute some bad quality to it. Such words therefore push the discussion toward the destructive demand that the significance of group differences be comprehensively eradicated by force. So in most instances the words are objectionable. It’s worth noting that both are recent inventions. I believe “antisemite” is from the 1880s or thereabouts and “racism” from the 20s or 30s. (Neither is in the OED.)

Still, the words weren’t invented to enforce ideological conformity and the power of a new ruling class, but to describe novel trends in thought that treated the conflict of races as the fundamental reality of politics. Those trends were rooted in a denial of transcendent moral order, which resulted in a tendency to treat conflict as the basic social reality, and also in a tendency to explain all human things by reference to the physical side of life. Such trends and tendencies are quite natural if the idea of a natural harmony is rejected and the only rationally compelling reference points are taken to be human desires and fears, and the things studied by modern natural science. So the words do have a legitimate use in describing a particular kind of thought.

That kind of thought still exists among atheists who accept the reality and importance of the biological side of human life, including the reality and importance of biological differences. The problem is that modern political and moral thought in general, including the thought of the mainstream churches, is atheistic: it takes human desire and the modern natural sciences as the sole authoritative guideposts. To the extent modern thought admits the reality and significance of group differences it is therefore tempted to accept racism and antisemitism in the exact sense—the view that conflicting biological groups are the ultimate human reality….

- end of initial entry -

Mencius Moldbug writes:

You ask:

“But then let me ask you this. If I stopped using the word racism, what word would you advise me to use to describe, say, a black church that says that white people are the agents of the devil? How would you describe the sermons of Wright, Pfleger, et al., speeches that rouse up hatred of white people?”

They’re Communists, anarchists, nihilists, revolutionaries, etc. In other words, they are promoters of left-wing violence. Note that if they promoted violence against, say, landowners, their rhetoric and behavior would be very much the same.

The problem is that none of the words we use for believers in left-wing violence has the straightforward negative connotations of “racist.” Either the word has acquired hip positive overtones, as with “revolutionary” or “anarchist,” or its use in a deprecatory sense makes the user sound ridiculous, as with “communist.”

This is not an accident. It is the result of decades in which liberals have shaped the English language itself. “Racist” refers to promoters of right-wing violence, and is used as a hate label to associate everyone who cannot force himself to believe in the doctrine of universal human equality (essentially the Quaker doctrine of the Inner Light) with hooligans and thugs, such as the SA or Klan. When you say “racist” as a reactionary, you are using it much the way Jonah Goldberg uses “fascist.” The trouble is that to use the word in its liberal meaning is essentially to accuse one’s enemy of not being liberal enough, of not living up to liberal principles or being hypocritical in the application of those principles.

Liberals are not “fascists” or “racists” or “anti-Semites.” They are not a party of the right. They are a party of the left. If Goldberg had called his book “Liberal Communism,” no one would have bought it. Yet Communism was every bit as awful as fascism, and for every link between liberals and fascism there are a hundred between liberals and Communists.

The solution I prefer is to go to the opposite extreme and just call them what they call themselves—“progressives.” I don’t think emotionally associated labels add much to a discussion. Nor do the likes of a Pfleger demand much spin.

LA replies:

None of Mencius’ suggested substitutes comes close to describing the actual behavior that is being described: the whipping up of hatred and resentment against an entire race. Which supports my position that racism is a legitimate word that came into existence to describe an actual phenomenon, notwithstanding the fact that 95 percent of its actual usage is false and propagandistic.

Paul Nachman writes:

Your “racism” definition is perfectly fine as a definition—I think it’s something close to “dislike of a distinct group, based upon nothing objective and coupled with malice”—but I think my equation of “racism” with “tribalism” actually how the word is used, pejoratively, in general today.

Jared Taylor, for example, would likely make the analogy that the fact that you prefer your own children to your neighbor’s children doesn’t mean you hate your neighbor’s children. Similarly, preferring your own race (what I’d call “tribalism”) doesn’t imply you hate other races. Still, such an admission of preference will promptly get you called a “racist.”

It’s also worth pointing out that—like with IQ—there’s a distribution, not just a single reaction: I’ll prefer black friends to random whites, but on average, I’ll prefer whites over blacks.

LA replies:

… preferring your own race (what I’d call “tribalism”)

I would definitely not use the word tribalism merely for preferring one’s own race. White Americans for all of American history history preferred their fellow whites. That wasn’t tribalism. It was simply normal. Tribalism has to mean something more specific than the normal and universal preference for people like oneself.

All of this is dealt with in the chapter, “On the Meaning of Racism,” in The Path to National Suicide, which I recommend.

Tim W. writes:

Is it possible that the concept of “racism” arose in part because of the West’s ability to raise the living standards of non-whites that we encountered and subdued? Recall that it was a common practice in the ancient world to regard other peoples as barbarians. The Romans even felt that way about other whites, such as the Germans. Over the centuries, as European civilization spread out across the globe starting with the age of exploration, whites made greater contact with other races. They often found those races’ living standards to be far below those of Europe. African blacks and the natives of the New World, for example.

It was simply taken as a given by whites that these people were different. The idea that someone should be morally chastised for thinking them different never crossed anyone’s mind. It was obvious they were different by not only their physical appearance, but by many other things, including their dress, their customs, their religions, and, above all, their civilizational accomplishments.

But over time, many of those differences were mitigated. Missionaries converted the natives. The non-whites adopted European dress and customs. Laws imposed by Europeans prohibited polygamy or other customs regarded as backward. White men (such as slave owners) produced bi-racial offspring with non-white women. And, above all, the standard of living of these non-white groups soared well above what they would have been if they had been left to their own devices. As a result, many whites began to see these groups as not really different at all. If we just stop regarding them as different, and integrate them into our neighborhoods, schools, and social circles, any remaining gaps in performance and behavior will go away. Once that mode of thought developed, largely during the Progressive Era (when it was thought we could eliminate any social problem if we put our minds to it), it may have provided the spark that allowed the idea of “racism” to arise. As time has passed and integration has failed to close the gaps, the modern day “progressives” have redefined the word ever more broadly, including the claim that white society is institutionally racist and that whites are inherently racist.

Scott K. writes:

Appropriating the ideological and propagandistic terminology of blacks and white left-liberals is both futile and self-defeating. To use the word “racism” to define the anti-white hatred of Jeremiah Wright, James Cole, Farrakhan, Sharpton, Randall Robinson, ad infinitum, ad nauseam, simply reifies this odious neologism, the most pernicious word in the English language, and legitimizes the black and leftist indictment of American history and society. Accuse them of “racism” in a debate, for example, and Wright, Cole, Robinson, et al. will laugh in your face and argue that blacks can’t be “racists” because they have no power and that their hatred of whites is justified because of the legacy of slavery and “Jim Crow” and the current evils of “institutional racism,” “structural racism,” “systemic racism,” “unconscious racism,” “silent racism,” “invisible racism,” ad nauseam. Your foolish tactic will simply reify the fantasies of blacks and leftists while doing nothing to defeat or diminish their hatred of whites and America and Western Civilization.

Apart from “racism,” what words can be used to describe the anti-white hatred of Wright, Cole, Sharpton, Robinson, et al, and blacks generally. What about “anti-white hatred,” “anti-white bigotry,” “irrational anti-white hatred,” “genocidal anti-white hatred,” “virulent anti-white hatred,” “pathological anti-white hatred,” and so forth. Such words accurately describe an objective reality rather than reify an evil that doesn’t objectively exist -at least not in the sense that “racism” is used 99 percent of the time by blacks and white left-liberals.

LA replies:

I am not “appropriating the ideological and propagandistic terminology of blacks and white left-liberals.” Nor am I engaged in a “tactic,” whether foolish or otherwise, a word that implies I am trying to gain an advantage over people. I am defining and using a word that is needed in order to describe certain things accurately.

James P. writes:

In the post about shelving racism, there is reference to your (Auster’s) contention that there is a legitimate definition of racism. What is that definition?

You say, “I’ve often used Gedaliah Braun’s argument: racism means something morally bad. If you’re accusing me of racism, you have to show that what I did is morally bad. If you can’t do that, then what I did is not racist.”

The problem is that liberals will insist, apparently in all seriousness, that the exact same behavior that is morally bad in whites is not morally bad when blacks do it. They will, with a straight face, contend that it is morally correct for Wright to scream hateful things about whitey but not morally correct for a white preacher to scream hateful things about blacks. Usually they posit “good reasons” for blacks to be racist but deny that “good reasons” could exist for whites to commit precisely the same behavior. You may say that’s ridiculous, and it is, but it doesn’t change the fact that a double standard will be applied and the meaning of “racism” will be whatever people who hate Western culture say it is at any given time. Therefore laws against “hate speech” must be strenuously resisted even though we acknowledge that hate and racism actually exist. When there are racist acts—from vandalism to assault to murder—punish that act if it is actually criminal and reject any extra punishment for “racist” motives.

LA replies:

All the present laws criminalizing “racism” are totalitarian and must be repealed. But the subject here is not anti-hate speech laws, but what is the right word. The question of criminalizing “racism” is separate from the question of what racism properly means.

Scott K. writes:

Another brief comment: originating with Marxism, a fundamental characteristic of left-wing ideologies is the conception of culture as “ideology.” This, essentially, is what is meant by “racism.” For black and leftist intellectuals, “racism” is the dominant “ideology” of white America. (Doctrinaire feminists would argue that “sexism” is just as systemic and all-powerful.) Thus the phantom evils of “institutional racism,” “structural racism,” “unconscious racism,” “invisible racism,” ad nauseam; the contention that blacks can’t be “racists” because they are “victims” who have no power; and all the ludicrous, bizarre, stupid, deranged, and meaningless accusations of “racism” -e.g., the vilification of Bill and Hillary Clinton as “racists.” This is what I mean, fundamentally, when I argue that “racism” doesn’t objectively exist; that “racism” as system and “ideology” is a chimera that exists only in the demented imaginations of blacks and white left-liberals.

LA replies:

Scott’s points are correct, until he comes to the end and says that ALL the things called racist don’t objectively exist. Wright’s and Pgleger’s sermons are objectively racist: the deliberate singling out of people, on the basis of their race, to demonize them as a group.

And the fact is that lots of conservatives have been calling Wright “racist” and that that designation has not been canceled out by lefists saying, “Oh, Wright can’t be racist because only the power holders can be racist, etc.” Lots of Americans have looked at Wright and thought, “If there is such a thing as racism, this is it.” Which will further lead them to the thought, e.g., that if Wright’s statements are racist, then saying, “Islam is gaining power in the West,” or, “I think racial preferences are wrong,” is not racist. They will see that there is an objective and large difference between what Wright says and those other statements. There is no escape from the civilizational task of making distinctions between things, including the task of distinguishing between what is “racist,” and what is not.

Robert C. writes:

I’d not known that anyone else founded VFR. Maybe you could give us recent addicts a little history. Who was Jim Kalb? Has he passed away? etc.

LA replies

I’m surprised at your question, given that you’ve been a reader for two or three years, and I have mentioned Jim Kalb from time to time. Jim Kalb started VFR in April 2002. He invited me on board about a month later.

Around a year after that, he decided to start a new blog, Turnabout, and handed VFR over to me. He is alive and well.

If you go to the Archives page (see link on sidebar of main page), which has all VFR entries on one Web page, and scroll down to the bottom, you can start reading VFR from its first week and see Jim Kalb’s posts.

Erich writes:

With regard to your latest entry on racism, I wrote in my essay “Racism”:

Some aspects of the racism embodied in the West—particularly during its Colonial epoch—were correct and justified, insofar as they partook of a mythotype by which to frame the mountains of real data discovered by Western explorers of the globe beginning in the late 15th century (and exponentially expanding in following centuries) about obvious factual inferiorities of non-Western cultures—inferiorities on a variety of levels, ranging from the technological, to the scientific, to the artistic, to the social, to the ethical, to the political, and finally to the philosophical.

Note: I realize, as your entry recognizes, that “racism” was a later ideological construct, and my quote is therefore being anachronistic. This brings up the question you raised in your entry: should we ditch the term altogether? If we do not ditch the term, as you suggest, how can we avoid the anachronism of judging—both favorably and unfavorably—the behaviors and thoughts of past eras that involved the contact between West and non-West, and of framing that judgment by use of that term? More piquantly, if we retain “racism” as a useful term, how can we avoid the implications of the concept of a “good racism” that would be included within the more generic term?

Thucydides writes:

Liberals’ abuse of the term racism is rooted in their commitment to a radical version of human universalism. Universalism is based on the fact that there are certain common human needs shared by every member of the species: nourishment, shelter, and physical security. In addition, there is the need for community. However, the latter can be met in many ways. Human flourishing and valuable forms or ways of life can take many shapes, and they will often not be compatible.

Because liberalism’s eschatological hopes are invested in the vision of an eventual convergence on a homogenous universal civilization based on a rational morality in which all human difference will evanesce, liberalism cannot stand the notion that there are permanent or quasi-permanent differences between human beings; that our inherited identities are constitutive, not merely epiphenomenal, and they are more like fates than mere lifestyle choices. That our identities are in part genetically determined (rather than purely socially constructed), for example where the identity in question involves race or sex, and that these identities may involve intractable differences, is anathema to their faith. Hence they bemoan anything that tends to identify a person, group, or social practice as belonging to “the Other,” an illegitimate category in their eyes.

Liberal universalism is an extravagant form of the human universalism that emerged from the religious tradition: under the latter, each man (or woman’s) soul was important to God. On the positive side, this tended to break down excessive tribalism, and it led eventually to the abolition of slavery, and to better treatment for women. But pushed too far, it denies the primordial human tendency to form communities of inclusion and exclusion whose bounds will at times be maintained by violence. This is a reality with which we must live. The challenge of the future is to find wherever possible a modus vivendi for the myriad communities of the world, and in the rare cases where the external practices of a community make that impossible, as with Islam, to see to their isolation or separation.

To the normal mind, invidious racism would consist in reaching negative conclusions about some individual merely by reason of his race. The normal mind can view evidence of group difference dispassionately and rationally, knowing that putative group differences say nothing about any particular member of that group.

For the liberal, opposition to racism, or even uttering pseudo-apologies, is a gratifying way to display an ostentatious benevolence and engage in moral preening by opposing the presumed faults of others, but at a deeper level, the liberal uses racism as he uses sexism and classism—as an epithet to deny difference and prevent any discussion that might impinge on the universalist faith. This requires the idea to be stretched to absurd lengths, for example, prohibiting the mention of even positive group differences, or characterizing as racist anything that “offends” anyone (read anything that unsettles the assumption of absolute universal equality).

I have been told by German friends that the Nazis wrecked the German language; that is to say, they used so many terms in a tendentious manner to further their propaganda, that the words could not be used thereafter without bringing up unwanted inferences or assumptions. Something like this has happened to the word racism in our present situation. I don’t know what the alternative is, if any. I am only pointing out the fact. All we can do is be at pains to point out when the term is being misused.

Julien B. writes:

Forgive the longish email, but I think this is really important. I’ve condensed it as much as I can, and would appreciate any thoughts you might have about it. Something that hasn’t been addressed directly in the discussion of the term “racism” is the leftist argument from “power.”

I think it’s crucial to show what is wrong with this argument, because it’s how the left evades the criticism that they are simply anti-white or that they are applying an unfair double standard to racial issues. And I haven’t seen rightists make the argument I’m thinking of here.

Let’s just call the old notion of racism (which includes racially based harm or oppression of whites by nonwhites) “racism.”

And let’s call what the left now says is morally unacceptable “u-racism.”

So the left is saying that racism per se is morally unimportant, but u-racism is a terrible sin. The argument is roughly this:

1) Racism is not morally wrong, but u-racism is morally wrong. (2) X is a case of u-racism only if a racist has power over his target. (3) Whites always have more power than nonwhites. Therefore, (4) Only whites can be u-racists. Therefore, (5) Only whites can have racial attitudes, behaviors, customs, etc., that are morally wrong.

Premise 3 is a gross oversimplification, of course, but a deeper point is that premise 2 actually implies the falsity of statements 1 and 5. The argument is self-defeating.

Here’s the proof. Consider the question of why it matters morally that the racist have power over his target (as 1 says). There must be answer to that if the argument is to have any force. There are 3 possibilities:

Answer 1: It’s wrong because it’s generally and intrinsically wrong for one person to have or exercise power over another.

Objection: Even leftists have to admit this is false. It’s not wrong, by their own standards, for a wealthy country to use its economic power to buy AIDS vaccines for people in poor countries.

Answer 2: It’s wrong because the racist is using his superior power to do something that is morally wrong.

Objection: In a sense this is tautologically true, but it doesn’t tell us what makes some particular wrong actions cases of racism. What is being discussed is racism supposedly, and not just morally wrong actions in general.

Answer 3: It’s wrong because the racist is using his superior power to do something that is racist in the old sense. That is, a case of u-racism = a case of racism in which the racist has more power than his target.

This works, because it gives us a definition of something that is both morally wrong and somehow related to race. But it’s true only on the assumption that racism, in the sense that allows whites to be victims of racism and not just perpetrators, is intrinsically wrong. Therefore, if premise 2 is true, it must also be true that racism is wrong (and just u-racism) which contradicts premise 1 and conclusion 5.

So we can allow that a certain kind of racism involving power (e.g., “u-racism”) is wrong, but it follows from that that the more general kind, which can be committed by nonwhites against whites, is also wrong. The left can’t coherently make use this argument to evade the that they are anti-white, or that there is an unfair racial double standard in the way that they approach racial issues. I think this is a pretty killer argument. What do you think?

Alan Levine writes:

While I agree that it is dangerous to allow the left to use its multiple dishonest redefinitions of “racism,” and am temperamentally unsympathetic to ceding the term, it is arguable that the term has been so perverted for so long that it is no longer useful even when used properly.

A possible answer is to take the time and trouble to substitute “racial hatred,” or “racial bigotry,” whichever is appropriate.

They take longer but cannot be twisted in quite the ways the bare word “racism” has been. The sort of blather that insists that a creep like Wright cannot be “racist” because “racism” depends on “power” can be countered in this way.

Bob Finsh writes:

Your thread mentioning Jim Kalb’s earlier writing about racism reminded me that Kalb had done a good piece on “Anti-racism” some time ago and that I had saved a couple of sections of it. The link I kept no longer functions, but I managed to find the piece at an archive at the Turnabout web site: Anti-racism | Turnabout

In current practice, anti-racism is aimed at whites. In their case, racism includes not only hatred and abuse, but any distrust of others, any special concern or preference for whites, any recognition of whites as a people. Anti-racism also imposes on whites an obligation to sacrifice their interests to those of nonwhites. If a white does something at odds with black interests or desires, for example if he fails sufficiently to favor “affirmative action,” he is racist or at best insensitive.[10] In contrast, public statements by blacks can be revoltingly bigoted without consequence.[11]

Permitting to some what is forbidden others seems to relativize racism and thus deny that it is ultimate pathological evil. It also suggests that anti-racism draws support from anti-white bigotry. The suggestion is correct.

I think if we are going to discuss rejecting the word, then we should also discuss what would come of anti-racism if we did? Maybe it would be a better strategy to consistently point out when confronted with bogus accusations of racism, as Kalb writes, that “anti-racism requires anti-majority racism.”

So, I don’t think we need to try to stop liberals from using the term racism; rather, we should disabuse them of it by consistently making the argument anti-racism is merely another form of racism … albeit one that has been deemed politically correct.

Bruce B. writes:

In the 2002 entry Kalb writes: “Still, the words weren’t invented to enforce ideological conformity and the power of a new ruling class, but to describe novel trends in thought that treated the conflict of races as the fundamental reality of politics.”

… but he only really documents roughly when the words appeared. So I’m assuming that he’s engaging in speculation (albeit very believable speculation). Seems to me like most serious conflicts were between peoples that were very biologically close so I don’t see how racism was invented to mitigate conflicts. The people who were the most likely targets of “racism” weren’t much of a threat to the people who invented the term.

Thucydides writes: “Liberals’ abuse of the term racism is rooted in their commitment to a radical version of human universalism.” … but I don’t see why his explanation couldn’t be expanded to include the invention of the term not just its abuse. After all, human universalism was an enlightenment phenomena. Enlightenment liberals had a benevolent view of human nature, right? I’m not sure that it wasn’t more ideological and less pragmatic than Kalb’s explanation seems to suggest.

It may be that the two explanations are the same and I’m not seeing it.

Mark E. writes:

This discussion, while responsive to the reader’s question, is missing the crucially menacing point raised by the cited Public Order law:

“A racial incident is one that is perceived to be racist by the victim or any other person.” [emphasis mine]

The VFR discussion is about whether there is a legitimate objective definition of the word “racist” (i.e., whether there is some distinct, specific “thing” that requires that distinct, specific word).

But the law places the definition wholly within the complainant’s subjective whim. There is not, as in ordinary harassment crimes, any qualification as to the reasonableness of the complainant’s perceptions nor of the alleged offender’s intentions. (see, e.g., NY PL

So, a crime is whatever liberals, leftists and all the other over-sensitive subjectivist narcissists “feel” to be a crime.

Further, note that this gloss in a non-statutory “report” by some Sir So-and-So is apparently given the force of statute in policing and prosecuting these alleged offenses.

LA replies:

Yes, and it was precisely that point that, at the beginning of this thread, lead me to entertain changing my position and saying that the word racism should not be used at all. Then I inclined back to my original position, as I explained, but I’m still not definitely decided on this.

* * *

In his book Racism, Guilt, and Self-Deceit, Gedaliah Braun, a long time resident in Africa, used an argument I have adopted as my own, as a way of replying to the racism charge: If something is “racist” it is morally wrong; therefore if a given behavior or statement is not morally wrong, it cannot be racist. I asked him “What is your own take on the question, “Should the word racism be shelved”? Is it a useful and necessary word, or not?” Here is his reply, in which he also goes into the question of Obama.

Gedaliah Braun writes (June 5):

Whether you use the term “racism” or not (and that’s not necessarily unimportant), what certainly is important is that we distinguish various kinds of genuine prejudice from things which are frequently condemned as “prejudice” and “bigotry” but which are not. “Racism” is the term that carries that condemnation, and as we both know, once that label “sticks,” you, as an individual or as a group, are pretty much finished. It is unlikely that “racism” will be uncoupled from its pejorative use, and as I say it is important that there be a term and a concept to express condemnation of genuine racial hatred and prejudice (etc), and therefore it is important that we distinguish the genuine variety, deserving of condemnation and opprobrium, from views and ideas which do not deserve it. Such as saying that some races are superior to others in certain (important) respects, such as insisting that there is nothing wrong with whites not wanting to go to black schools, live in black neighborhoods, such as pointing out the facts of black criminality, etc.

So yes, it is a useful and necessary word and no semantic sleight-of-hand is likely to change that fact.

For example, while no doubt there was genuine racism in the old south (during and after slavery), I for one do not assume that it was unremittingly racist, i.e., I do not assume that the attitude of whites towards blacks then was racist, any more than I assume the attitude of most whites towards blacks under South Africa apartheid was racist. They did take it for granted that blacks were an inferior race, but all that has changed since that time is that we’ve become brain-washed into thinking that that not only is not true but is terribly racist (i.e., bad) to think so.

The dishonest prejudice in Obama’s favour seems to be so strong, really, that just about nothing will penetrate it.

The election of this black man as president will, among many other things, make all valid criticism of blacks much more difficult, and there will be even fewer people who will stand up and defend someone with the temerity to make them. Also (as I may have said to you before), there will be a substantial increase in black-on-white crime as a result of black feelings of empowerment. These effects will reach all over the world, to any society where blacks are mixed with other population groups. These will probably be some of the more minor effects of his presidency.

Did you read Obama’s pro-Israel speech this week to the America Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC)? Ted Belman has the whole speech on the Israpundit website, with some very relevant comments at the end. To me, this is a Brooklyn Bridge speech—if you know what I mean. Whoever wrote this speech for him must be quite a smart guy.

If I thought for a moment that Obama believed a word of his Aipac speech, that would be a different matter. But this Big Lie is so transparent that only a Brooklyn Bridger could believe it. As just one of the most glaring facts: virtually every foreign policy advisor in the Obama camp expresses views diametrically opposed to the views expressed in this Aipac speech. Not to mention Obama’s own views as previously expressed by himself and his various henchmen.

LA replies:

“The election of this black man as president will, among many other things, make all valid criticism of blacks much more difficult, and there will be even fewer people who will stand up and defend someone with the temerity to make them.”

Well, that’s troubling. My position has been that Obama’s black racist (whoops, there I go using that word again) connections would liberate whites to say true and critical things about blacks. Certainly that has been the case recently, as seen in the many recent scathing articles about him and Wright and Trinity Church by conservatives. Therefore it’s a reasonable expectation that the same situation will continue to obtain if he is elected. But if I thought his election would strengthen the power of PC and make it harder to speak critical truths about blacks, that would materially weaken the right-wing argument favoring his election.

Scott K. writes:

In my first comment, I wasn’t referring to you personally, but to all “conservatives” who use the word “racism” to describe the anti-white hatreds of Jeremiah Wright, James Cole, et al.

Secondly, if “racism” were narrowly defined as the irrational and/or genocidal hatred of an entire race, then I’d concede that “racism” does exist objectively, but would still argue that the word is unnecessary and superfluous.

But that’s not how the word is used 99% of the time by blacks and white left-liberals. And under this definitions, ironically, blacks are 100 times more “racist” than whites but are rarely if ever called “racists” since, theoretically and definitionally, they are victims of “racism” with no power over their white “oppressors” and, consequently, their hatred of whites is a result of and response to “white racism,” “hatred,” “prejudice,” “discrimination.”

Lastly, using “racist” and “racism” to define the hatreds and delusions of Farrakhan, Wright, Moss, Cole, Robinson, et al., is to define as “racism” the myth that “racism” is still the regnant “ideology” of “white America”; put differently, one is using “racist” and “racism” to define an ideology whose basic tenet and illusion is that America is still defined by a dominant and all-powerful “racist ideology.” Ergo, “black racialism” would be a more accurate and less confusing term.

LA replies

In your first comment, you wrote:

Appropriating the ideological and propagandistic terminology of blacks and white left-liberals is both futile and self-defeating.

I replied:

I am not “appropriating the ideological and propagandistic terminology of blacks and white left-liberals.” Nor am I engaged in a “tactic,” whether foolish or otherwise, a word that implies I am trying to gain an advantage over people. I am defining and using a word that is needed in order to describe certain things accurately.

And now you reply:

In my first comment, I wasn’t referring to you personally, but to all “conservatives” who use the word “racism” to describe the anti-white hatreds of Jeremiah Wright, James Cole, et al.

This is a complete non-sequitur. Obviously I am among the people using the word “racism,” and moreover I am the one defending that use in this discussion, so obviously your comment was directed at me (among others), and I was replying and defending myself from your criticism. But now, instead of replying to or at least acknowledging my comment that I was not “appropriating the ideological and propagandistic terminology of blacks and white left-liberals” but looking for the best word, you pretend that you weren’t even talking about me.

Further, your statement that you were not referring to me personally is disproved by another statement in first comment:

Your foolish tactic will simply reify the fantasies of blacks and leftists while doing nothing to defeat or diminish their hatred of whites and America and Western Civilization.

So you were addressing me personally. And now you claim that you weren’t.

Also, I’m offended that you characterize my effort to find and use the most accurate word to describe something as a “tactic,” let alone as a “foolish” one. Can you understand the difference between trying to get at the truth of something, and trying to get an advantage over enemies? In fact, many people on the paleo right seem to be able to conceive of issues only as a matter of getting an advantage over enemies, or selling out to them, or something in between.

By the same token, I’ve noticed several commenters who, if they see me taking a position that is less “right” than theirs, immediately start questioning my motives and getting personal. Thus Dan M., whose comment began this thread, in further exchanges with me me (which haven’t been posted) repeatedly accused me of trying to “get a way” with something. Because I took a position he didn’t agree with, it wasn’t because I saw things differently than he did, it was because I was acting in bad faith and trying to “get away” with something. So finally I ended the exchange with him and didn’t post his further comments.

You’ve been commenting at VFR for quite some time, and as I remember I’ve always treated you respectfully.

As for the rest of your comments they are reasonable. If you had made them without mischaracterizing your exchange with me, it would have been better.

David B. writes:

Gedaliah Braun says:

“The election of this black man as president will, among other things, make all valid criticism of blacks MUCH more difficult, and there will be even fewer people who will stand up and defend someone with the temerity to make them.”

I agree. I also predict that black crime would go up, especially racial attacks on whites. It was during the 1961-64 period when crime in the large cities really started rising, but not too noticeably. It really shot up in the late 60’s, and has not really receded. You will recall that the major black riots of the 1960’s took place AFTER the signing of the Civil Rights and Voting Rights bills, not before.

LA replies:

There points may well be true. Do you therefore support the election of McCain?

Posted by Lawrence Auster at June 04, 2008 02:15 AM | Send

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