OK; I’ll admit it: That was a cheap trick to get you to read this — but there’s a good reason. It’s because there really is no such thing as “racism”, and saying there is makes things worse.
No; I’m not some idiot Polyanna revisionist nutjob.
I may be nuts; that’s up to you to decide — but at least I’m not an idiot. The following will sound like it’s just a simple trick of words, but stick with me to the end: I promise it’s worth it.
So here’s my premise: To acknowledge the existence of racism is to grant the validity of the term, and “racism” is NOT a valid term. The word itself says that one race of people is in some way harming another, whether through the expression of an innate sense of superiority, discrimination, or overt aggression. The flaw here is that there’s only one race; it’s called “human”.
Sounds like a trick, right? That’s because it is a trick — but I’m not playing it. It’s a trick played on all of us by the people that invented the term, people who lived in a very different world from ours, one called “the past”. In this magical and far-off country, the fastest movement was by sailing ship or galloping horse, and diseases were spread by miasmic vapors. There were only four elements: earth, air, fire, and water. Oh yes, and it was well-known that there were in fact multiple races of people, each from different regions.
Since then, of course, we’ve discovered genetics. We now know that we all belong to that race known as humankind. In the face of this momentous discovery, our whole view of the world ought to have changed; we should have immediately embraced one another as brothers and sisters, reveling in our similarities and differences as from person to person. Instead, we went straight into eugenics and the Holocaust; it turns out that humans, in addition to being stubborn about their long-cherished ignorance, aren’t all that nice.
And we’ve held on to terms like “racism”, when it’s quite evident that there IS only the one race. The problem here, in case I haven’t been clear, arises from that very human characteristic, our tendency to cling blindly to the errors of the past. We hear words like “racism” and we naturally think “race”, as in “there’s more than one”; the automatic corollary is that “mine must be better”.
One of the many advancements of modern life is the invention of the art of advertising. Our society is so highly developed that we employ people whose job it is to make us want to buy things that we don’t need, things that are bad for us or poorly made or that we’re actually incapable of using. And these people are very clever indeed, so much so that half the yard sales in the country have unused exercycles and Nordic-Traks. We own diver’s watches that function under 250 meters of water but we never swim. Even as we ‘speak’, I’m wearing a tee shirt that advertises a television show — and I paid good money for the privilege.
Thing is, advertising works. All we have to do is see a picture of something or hear its name and we end up wanting to buy it. It’s hard-wired into us, so much so that, decades ago, movie houses would insert single frames into every film that showed pictures of food and beverages. The ads would flash by too fast for people to consciously see, but the image in their mind would subliminally compel them to desire the products, and they would buy.
(It’s this very phenomenon that’s been driving Donald Trump’s thus-far successful campaign. Every chance he gets he says something shocking; the media dutifully reports it, and he gets free advertising.)
And that’s why I’m telling you we shouldn’t use the word “racism”: The more we hear it, the more we subliminally become conditioned to believe that, against all evidence, there’s more than one race of humanity. And that only empowers the phenomenon we’re trying to fight.
So call it “ethnic bias”. Call it “color consciousness” or “skin-tone discrimination”. Refer to it as “bigotry”, “apartheid”, “segregation”, “intolerance”, or “just plain stupid” — but, whatever you do, don’t use the R word any more than you would the N word.
If you do, I contend that you’re (subliminally) a part of the problem.