Language still fails…. What is racism?

Addressing the failing of our understanding of our own majority language in America, English, is a difficult task. We speak it so we understand it, right? Language, all language, fails to encompass experience… that’s the one thing it was designed to do. Take the following:

Racism – The belief in the superiority of one race over another, which often results in discrimination and prejudice towards people based on their race or ethnicity.

Alright, anyone who says “There’s only one race… the human race” is trying to convince themselves they’re not racist. If, on the other hand, you’re trying to convince yourself you’re not racist then you’re probably not. No one is born racist. It’s an ideology that spreads to those who are disenfranchised or feel they’ve been marginalized. It’s a favorite of those who feel like they should have power or authority based on a chance set of criteria culminating in their birth (i.e. privilege) but they don’t have that authority. It is doctrine and has to be passed to others. No one wakes up racist one day without a cause. But let’s figure this out.

Race – A race is a grouping of humans based on shared physical or social qualities into categories generally viewed as distinct by society

“Viewed as distinct by society” is the problem in that definition. Race is not the color of your skin, it’s a social convention and should be given as much weight as it has which is precisely none. As a society, we give stock to certain ideas and then those ideas resonate and amplify until we’re separated. We are a people because we are in this neighborhood, this city, this state, this country. We need to choose to be different and be o.k. with that or choose to be the same and by doing that, we eliminate race.

Ethnicity – An ethnic group, or an ethnicity, is a category of people who identify with each other based on similarities such as common ancestry, language, history, society, culture or nation.

Ethnicity can’t be eliminated as easily as race nor should it be. Ethnicity is a point of pride. I’m proud to be Scottish, Italian, English, and French. Those cultures sing to me through time and I enjoy learning about them and experiencing Italian food, Scottish traditions, English fortitude and French attitude. It’s not a color thing it’s a self association thing. People in the same patch of Earth, or having ancestors who did, identifying with one another and sharing a culture is beautiful and deserves to be preserved for posterity.

Bigotry – See prejudice – Prejudice is an affective feeling towards a person or group member based solely on that person’s group membership.

It is natural for a human being, being tribal in nature, to be bigoted towards those who are not like one’s self. The problem lies with the depths to which you let this natural proclivity control you. If you hate “the gays” because you’re not gay, then there is something wrong with YOU not them. It’s OK not to be gay. Why do you care if someone else is. It’s OK not to be black or Hispanic or an alien… why is it any of your business? If you’re not going to a drag-show review of Roots performed to tejana music, then you’re set and shouldn’t care. If you do care, if it really bothers you, you can always say to yourself, “Why do I care?” and through analyzing that, figure out what your issues are. They are YOUR issues. Bigotry is instinctual and we, as reasoning human beings with free will, can deny instinct for the betterment of our society… with one exception.

When we think of Bigotry, we think racism. When we say race, we usually mean ethnicity or at the very least, skin tone. If we can separate and correct our thinking about our language, maybe we can be better to one another. Maybe we can start to understand each other better and maybe, just maybe, we can stone to death the racists so we won’t have to have this conversation again.

Confession – If bigotry is hatred of a member of a group because of the membership in the group, I’m a biogot. I HATE racists regardless if they’re in a particular club of racists, a solo racist, a son or daughter of the confederacy, a clansman… regardless of the club affiliation, they’re in the “group” of racists. I have tried to get over this bigoted view point by analyzing why I dislike them so much and I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s OK to hate racists. It’s the one exception to the “stop hating people who aren’t like you rule”. Acceptance and tolerance should only be extended to those who are generally accepting and / or tolerant. Being overly tolerant of another’s views, correct or not, can be damaging.

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