Friday, March 20, 2009

Redefining Racism Part 2

Kevin Lockett (see comments on most recent post) is an advocate for the new definition of racism (prejudice plus privilege plus power) as it acknowledges "the history of racism and the power structure in this country" and it acknowledges that racism is not just an individual problem but also a collective problem. Read his own comments please, but as a shortcut I have tried to accurately depict his viewpoint.

I have a few issues with his argument. First, there is the the problem of circularity, ie using the word racism in the definition of racism. Secondly, his definition mistakenly focuses on this country only, though racism is a phenomenon that can and does exist in most if not all countries.

It seems to me that the most charitable explanation for the redefinition (including the power element) is to accomodate or account for the differing expressions of racism. I do understand this argument. A great example is anti-semitism. This could range from a mildly harmful attitude to death in a gas chamber. But the range of actions that might flow from a mindset (anti-semitism or racism) is not sufficient, imho, to justify changing a definition and confusing an already difficult issue.

Why not change the definition of love or compassion? Certainly people and nations have varying degrees of power or ability to respond lovingly or compassionately to a problem. Take the problem of AIDS in largely black sub Saharan Africa. Should we change the definition of compassion such that it acknowledges the history of concern that Americans have demonstrated for the plight of Africans suffering from AIDS? Aren't we, US citizens, more loving than those loveless Ecuadorians?

So my point is that if we are to change the definition of bad attitudes, like racism, to reflect the varying ability of people or nations to act on said bad attitudes, then we should do the same with good attitudes.

Maybe then, Kevin Lockett will rejoice in the news that he lives in the most loving and compassionate nation that has ever existed.


Mixter said...

Heh. Let's redefine "marriage" while we're at it. ;-)

Just trying to get you going...


Denis Navratil said...

Funny that you should write that Mixter. I have been thinking about the tendency on the left to tamper with language for political purposes. Marriage, racism, life, privacy etc... are just a few words that have been revised to bolster arguments. Perhaps a topic for a future thread.

Kevin Lockett said...

I think you misunderstood what I was saying. We have to look at race and racism in it's historical context. I could go into detail here, but I don't want to put a ridiculously long comment here.