Posted by: morgan1965 | August 22, 2010

Who is a Racist?

In a recent post, I explored the question, “What is the meaning of racism?” I shared Ruth Benedict’s definition of racism:

It is the dogma that one ethnic group is condemned by nature to hereditary inferiority and another group is destined to hereditary superiority. It is the dogma that the hope of civilization depends upon eliminating some races and keeping others pure. It is the dogma that one race has carried progress throughout human history and can alone ensure future progress.

I want to pose a related question: Who is a racist? Using Benedict’s definition of racism, one would describe a racist as a person who believes that a particular ethnic group “is condemned by nature to hereditary inferiority.” This person also believes that “another group is destined to hereditary superiority.” This attitude leads to the notion that the “hope of civilization depends upon eliminating some races and keeping others pure.” The argument is that only one race has been the bearer of human progress.

This definition provides us with some understanding of Hitler who was a modern day racist. Hitler espoused ideas of racial superiority. He practiced discrimination against the Jews. He snubbed Jessie Owens, the African American who won several races when the Olympics were held in Germany. He refused to shake his hand and greet him with congratulations. He exterminated millions of Jewish people. By our definition, Hitler was a racist. The racist posture assumes that the racist has power. Hitler was the head of Nazi Germany so he exercised tremendous power and authority. He was able to put his warped ideology into practice.

Racism, of necessity, must be distinguished from prejudice. All people possess some form of prejudice. Prejudice [bias, bigotry, discrimination] is manifested by negative attitudes about something or somebody. For example, one can be prejudiced against fat people, skinny people, short people, or tall people. This does not equate with bigotry toward a whole race of people, such as was the case with the segregation of black people in America by the majority white population.

It seems to me that the term “racism” today often is misused because it’s proper definition is misunderstood. It is difficult for people who are powerless to be racist, although they can be prejudiced.

Just listen to the media. Folk who have absolutely no power are labeled as a racist.

Are you a racist?

Who is a racist?

Think about it!

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