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The seemingly ever-growing chasm of understanding between black and white Americans is playing out nightly as #BlackLivesMatter demonstrations continue. Blacks and whites are both lashing out in fear and anger: there’s a lot of shouting but very little listening.

Part of the problem is that in many cases people aren’t speaking the same language. We can’t even agree what the word “racism” means.

Bloomberg News reporter Dave Weigel points this out in a new article about the “Endless Racism Debate” that we see playing out on the streets and in social media.

Weigel gets to something that is a core problem. As Weigel says:

liberals and conservatives simply disagree about what racism is. Democrats typically win more than 90 percent of the black vote, generally favor policies like affirmative action and criminal justice reform, and elect most of America’s black politicians. The politics that bail out Democrats in racial controversies were explained succinctly by Tessa Thompson’s character Sam, from the 2014 film Dear White People. “Racism describes a system of disadvantage based on race. Black people can’t be racist, because we don’t stand to benefit from such a system.”

I saw the same issue in defining racism when I covered the verdict in the Trayvon Martin case in 2013. One protestor at the courthouse was shouting she was sick of hearing that black people can be racist, so I interviewed her. Her basic point is that since black people don’t have power, they can’t be racist by definition.

It’s interesting to note that in Dave Weigel’s Bloomberg article that after saying that “liberals and conservatives simply disagree about what racism is” and giving the Democrat definition, he doesn’t ever mention what the conservative definition is.

I think the reason Weigel doesn’t give the “conservative” definition of racism is because the disagreement that liberals have is actually with the dictionary, not conservatives.

To be blunt: liberals and conservatives disagree because liberals are trying to redefine the word “racism” in a way that veers sharply from what the actual dictionary definition is.

My Mac’s online dictionary defines “racism” as:

the belief that all members of each race possess characteristics or abilities specific to that race, especially so as to distinguish it as inferior or superior to another race or races.

• prejudice, discrimination, or antagonism directed against someone of a different race based on the belief that one’s own race is superior: a program to combat racism.

Dictionary.com tells us:

  1. a belief or doctrine that inherent differences among the various human racial groups determine cultural or individual achievement, usually involving the idea that one’s own race is superior and has the right to dominate others or that a particular racial group is inferior to the others.
  2. a policy, system of government, etc., based upon or fostering such a doctrine; discrimination.
  3. hatred or intolerance of another race or other races.

I could keep going with other dictionaries but you get the idea: nowhere in these dictionary definitions of racism is the limiting factor that only people with power can be racists or that black people can’t be racist.

But dictionaries and the English language aren’t just a random explosion of letters. There are actually reasons that racism is defined as it is: to distinguish it from other concepts.

Let’s dip into the linguistics for a moment.

In the film clip Weigel mentions, the young woman says that black people can’t be racist, although they can be prejudiced. This distinction is false and completely ignores the difference between the concepts of racism and prejudice.

There’s a structure to words and concepts. Take a simple, concrete example like the words “animal” and “dog.” The term animal is the broader concept because while all dogs are animals, it’s not true that all animals are dogs.

In the case of “racist” and “prejudiced,” the broader term is prejudice. The origin of the word is clear by looking at it: pre-judging someone or something. It’s a wider concept than “racism” because race is only one of the possible categories that someone can be biased about. A person could be prejudiced based on gender, skin color, nationality or any number of other things.

Racism is clearly specific to race. If you’re prejudiced against someone because they are a woman, that’s not racism, it’s sexism. If that prejudice is due to race-any race-than that’s racist.

The “liberal definition” ignores all of this by arbitrarily adding qualifiers like “a system of disadvantage.” By changing the definition of the word racist, it creates a missing word in the language: what DO we call someone who is black and doesn’t like white people because of their skin color? If it’s just “prejudiced” than how do we distinguish this from someone who doesn’t like New Yorkers or unwed mothers?

I was tempted to write the word DUH! at the end of many of the preceding sentences because…DUH! A child can grasp this. The fact that any of this needs to be pointed out to anyone with even a basic grasp of the English language shows the enduring power of academic Marxism. It’s hard to get so far from reality without living in an ivory tower.

It’s no accident that about half the surviving members of the radical 60s terrorist group The Weather Underground became university professors; they understand the power of ideas and language in defining the culture and they realize they are teaching the next generation of teachers, journalists and politicians.

America’a colleges are one way the neoliberal’s twisted definitions trickle down but for a direct link between Marxist academia and the Ferguson protests, look no further than Dr. Cornel West.

Just to get his ideological cred out of the way, Dr. Cornel West is the honorary chair of the Democratic Socialists of America. West is the a media darling who makes frequent appearances on NPR, PBS, MSNBC and even Fox News. He’s one of the few academics with an entertainment career, including appearances in the second two films in The Matrix trilogy and a number of spoken word, hip-hop and jazz albums. As shown in this clip from Bill Maher’s Real Time show, West is a critic of Barack Obama, who doesn’t believe Pres. Obama is nearly far enough to the left.

Dr. West is also an activist. As this article from The Blaze points out, Cornel West went to Ferguson in October to get arrested and he did.

You can see the academic twisting of the dictionary definition of racism by trying to slog your way through the dense thicket of verbiage in West’s essay Toward a Socialist Theory of Racism.

Any adequate conception of racism indeed must include such a macrostructural analysis, one that highlights the changing yet persistent forms of class exploitation and political repression of peoples of color. But a fully adequate analysis of racism also requires an investigation into the genealogy and ideology of racism and a detailed microinstitutional analysis.

Got that?

Of course you don’t.

West’s academic writing is often characterized by the tortured Marxist academic prose that’s designed to make erstwhile pseudo-intellectuals gaze down at the lattes and nod their heads in mock agreement. It’s not meant to be understood, it’s meant to be agreed with.

But somewhere through the migraine-inducing socialist word salad of his, you’ll see West demonstrating that Marxism has added conditions to the dictionary concept of racism.

The simple moral concept “you shouldn’t hate anyone because of their race” has been loaded down by Marx’s concepts of class struggle and imperialism, then tinkered with by post-Marxist scholars like Cornel West to include even more restrictions based by things like “microinstitutional or localized analysis of the mechanisms that sustain white supremacist discourse in the everyday life of non-Europeans.”

Stir that all together, through out the racist dictionary and voila! Black people can’t be racist!

Without saying it, Weigel’s Bloomberg piece is actually pointing out something troubling: the once mainstream Democrat party has effectively adopted the Marxist / socialist redefinition of the word “racism” as their own. That’s one of the two major political parties in America taking a hard left turn that nobody voted on.

It’s not academic, either. It’s on the streets. And in the White House and Department of Justice.

8 Responses

  1. George Kocan

    His analysis is spot on. But, irrelevant, because the Dem Party defines ‘racism’ in accord with its self-interest, not according to any technical understanding. That reflects the nature of Dem ideology–the abandonment of logic in favor of demogoguery, that is, emotional appeal. This is what Obama meant when he promised “change we can believe in.” The change encompassed the fundamental transformation of American society. What is more fundamental than the rejection of logic, facts and reason in favor of wishful thinking, envy, avarice and revenge? Frederick Nietzsche discussed this more than 100 years ago when he wrote about the “ubermensch,” the man above other men, the man not bound by any moral authority exept his own, a man who can create his own reality because he can. Such a man stands for the “transvaluation of all values,” another Neitzsche phrase. What is the ‘transvaluation of all values’ but another way of saying, “change we can believe in,” or, “a fundamental transformation” of society?

    Reply
  2. Josephine

    That they don’t have power so can’t be advantaged by engaging in racisim, isn’t true anymore. The President is black, the Attorney General is black. The NSA advisor is black. The head of Homeland Security is black. The new nominee for AG is black. Al Sharpton? nuf said.

    They have institutional power and exhibit racism towards whites and more specifically, republican whites. So, not buying the old definition that blacks have no power so cannot DO racism. I guess that’s progress, right? They have as much power as white people to engage in racism.

    It’s all wrong and is no longer an acceptable excuse for blacks to hate on whites just for the sin of being white.

    Reply
  3. George Kocan

    Yes, Josephine is paying attention! The civil rights racketeers will not stop until every anti-minority racist is cleansed from society. Obviously, that requires great amount of political power. The task will take a huge amount of man-power and money to track down every person who had a bad thought about crime, the Dem party, about Obama, about Al Sharpton or Oprah Winrey. But, the are williong to make the sacrifice.

    Reply
  4. SirRuncibleSpoon

    This set of observations was very helpful. The section on Cornel West was particularly illuminating for me. I knew a little of him from his appearances on O’Reilly but had never seen anything approaching a bio on him.

    I have a deep sense of foreboding as I consider where we all go from here. Our black citizens are in conceptual shackles and are being goaded into deeply self-destructive and aggressive postures.

    America seems stuck in some kind of Proto-Zombie State: maintaining an ability to ambulate and vocalize (if only with growing incoherence) while spiritually dead, intellectually disabled and emotionally on screech. Individuals in the Hive that still retain vestiges of spiritual, intellectual and emotional balance make prey of themselves when they use complete sentences in plain speaking.

    Our days are numbered. The demented excesses and moral derangements of the French Revolution await us in the days ahead. Casting call for Madame DeFarge! Whoopie Goldberg? Hillary Clinton? Cornel West or Rev Al would make a great Robespierre, decapitated by his increasingly demented and bloodthirsty minions.

    Reply
  5. Bittman

    If you look back at the Communist Agenda published in the Federal Register in the 1960’s at the request of a Florida Representative, one of the Communist goals was to take over one or both of our political parties. When you look at some of the things the Democrats have done lately (insisting on passing Obamacare when the average of all of the polls in the fall of 2009 indicated that 87% of Americans were satisfied with their healthcare plans; voting NOT to mention God in their convention platform, using the IRS to sensor and abuse Conservatives, etc), it seems quite possible the Communists have successfully taken over the Democrats. When you look at the Congressional Progressive Caucus, it reaffirms that possibility.

    Reply
  6. George Kocan

    In the 1950’s, the Dem Party still had a strong anti-Communist influence. For example, the Dem Kennedy’s and the Republican Joe McCarthy were friendly with each other. But, McCarthy’s desire to investigate the Army and State Department for commies put him into the cross-hairs. Their successful assassinationn of his character, which persists to this very day, demonstrates the influence of the Communist Party. The influence obviously grew during the Vietnam War, so much that the Kennedy’s went along with the tide. The influence is especially strong in Chicago, as the election of Obama testifies, along with his collaborationn with such as Bill Aires, Frank Marshall Davis et al. The Communist Party USA (on the web) actually endorsed Obama for President.

    Reply
  7. Jesse

    As a white , I have lived the black experience. When I was 19 in 1970 I applied for jobs minorities. I am hispanic. There were 19 jobs offered on a grant. I wasn’t Black so I didn’t get the job. I was told I wasn’t minority enough, meaning I wasn’t black. No blacks took the jobs because they didn’t want to work. So I was deprived of a job. Same time period , I had my high school class ring stolen from me by who ? A black more black experience. I got kicked out of a black band because they decided they wanted it to be all black. But they used part of my equipment. The brothers would try to walk in front of my car and expect me to slow down and not hit them . One time a black gang block the road so they could jump me. Wrong I kept on driving slowly. So yeah I’ve had the black experience all in the negative way. They are rude and let their kids run all over walmart and get into trouble and almost knock you down. Yeah, I’m tired of the black experience.

    Reply

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