Redefining terms for fun and an agenda Posted by: McQ
on Sunday, May 21, 2006
Racism. The word has become one of the most feared words in our language. When it was first used, it was an apt description of those who felt their race to be superior to others. In fact, it was defined precisely that way:
n: The belief that race accounts for differences in human character or ability and that a particular race is superior to others.
n: the prejudice that members of one race are intrinsically superior to members of other races.
Short form: the belief in the inherent superiority of your race.
That makes sense. After all, tribalism describes a strong identity with your tribe, and one would assume that includes a belief in it's superiority. Nationalism is a 'devotion to the interests or culture of one's nation." Again it isn't beyond the pale to believe nationalism may also be rooted in a belief that your country is superior to others.
So racism would describe a strong indentity with your race and the inherent belief that it's superior. And that would describe any person of any race who holds such a belief. It is a neutral description of a racially motivated phenomenon (just as tribalism encompasses all tribes and nationalism all nations).
The systematic subordination of members of targeted racial groups who have relatively little social power in the United States (Blacks, Latino/as, Native Americans, and Asians), by the members of the agent racial group who have relatively more social power (Whites). The subordination is supported by the actions of individuals, cultural norms and values, and the institutional structures and practices of society.
I've heard this argument before. It is utter nonsense. Racism isn't dependent on "power", social or otherwise. Racism is based strictly on an unsupported belief that person's race is inherently superior to all others. And the believer acts based on that belief.
However, to pretend that it is limited to one race because of power is simply ludicrous. It is an attempt to shift the meaning from one that identifies a pernicious belief to which all may be susceptible - and one which should be rejected by everyone - to making it a race specific perjorative which loses all meaning to other races. All whites are racists according to the school board, as long as any of the actions, norms, values, structures and practices noted remain in place and act to "subordinate" other races.
Maybe it's just a pet peeve of mine, but the destruction of our language more than irritates me, it outrages me. Yes, I know that meanings shift over time. And I recognize that such changes keep language dynamic. But I've also always understood that in order to communicate effectively words must mean the same thing to everyone. Oh there can be shades of meaning, but you can't arbitrarily change the meaning wholesale and expect to be able to effectively express yourself.
That's what schools should be teaching.
They certainly shouldn't be engaged in the wholesale redifinition of words. And make no mistake, what we have above is a unilateral and wholesale change which is obviously agenda driven.
So how to effectively describe what the Seattle Public Schools has done? Well, it's bollocks.
Racism is the hatred of persons of a different race, simply because they are of that race. The hatred may be rationalized, and the rationalization may even have some factual basis (e.g., persistent differences in the distribution of IQ as measured by standardized tests), but the hatred precedes the rationalization. The hatred may arise because it helps the hater compensate (psychologically) for his own felt inadequacies, or because it "excuses" the hater’s behavior toward members of the hated race.
Racial hatred — along with its rationalizations and expressions of racial superiority — also may be learned, as one seeks solidarity with and approval by one’s kinsmen, peers, and acknowledged superiors.
But racism, at bottom, rests on hatred and the psychological needs served by that hatred.
That covers white-hating blacks, black-hating whites, etc. And it puts the horse of hatred before the cart of (compensatory) claims of superiority.
Tribalism and nationalism may have origins similar to those of racism. But that need not be the case, for tribalism and nationalism can be motivated by and serve positive ends. I believe, as do many (but not all) Americans, that the United States is superior to other nations in its promise of liberty, as given in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. The basis for my nationalism (and that of many Americans) is the belief that it is necessary for Americans to defend mutually that promise of liberty against its enemies, foreign and domestic.
Guess we will have to ask our Chinese friend can he translate Racism in 30 languages.
Actually what the Seattle schools are doing is a pretty good example of racism. They are placing the blame for all racial problems on only one race, and by definition, absolving all other races from the practice. That can only lead to one thing, resentment and hostility to white people based purely upon their being white.
I shouldn’t be feeding the comment spam, but I think I would feel more comfortable with a translation service if its advertisement (presumably an example of their language skills) wasn’t full of spelling and grammatical errors.
Idiom Outside the bounds of morality, good behavior or judgment; unacceptable. … The pale referred to in the idiom is usually taken to mean the English Pale, the part of Ireland under English rule, and therefore, as perceived by its rulers, within the bounds of civilization.
It isn’t beyond the pale to suggest that the term “Beyond the Pale” is derogatory to the Irish and a little racist.
Nice post, McQ. In my view, "Race" is a descriptive signifier used to differentiate people of widely different geneology, as manifested in an individual’s physiognomy. Period.
Another word that modern PC-discourse has tried to define into meaninglessness is "Discrimination." It’s a great word, and I discriminate every day (today I discriminated against Wheaties, and chose Great Grains for breakfast instead).
But, just try to use "discriminate" and "person" (or "race") in the same sentence without winding up in a "Sensitivity Training" class.
Tom, I’m not at all sure that hatred is a requirement for racism. It is, of course, often a manifestation, but so is the "noble savage" meme. I know people that constantly make excuses for other races not having the ability to compete on a "level playing field." For example, many of these are saying that the Iraqis can’t handle electing a representative government. That black Americans need special help, that orientals are inherently bad drivers, and I’m sure you can name more. This is "hatred" about like my youngest when she says, "I hate crunchy peanut butter, I want creamy!" Hatred is a black and consuming emotion, not dislike or dismissiveness. The way we have overused that word is another weakening of the language IMHO. I have just enough Cherokee blood that when I was growing up I qualified for a no limit year-round hunting license. My Great-Gram (a full blood) was very dismissive of white people. Racist? Yes. Hatred? Not so it showed, after all she married a Scotsman.
Well, at least you got your stretching exercise out of the way for the day, Pogue. ;)
And yet you knew not to take that seriously. But to get into the mind of McQ, let’s dig a little deeper, shall we.
Maybe it’s just a pet peeve of mine, but the destruction of our language more than irritates me, it outrages me.
Culturally speaking, there can be no, “destruction of our language”. To that, you realize,
Yes, I know that meanings shift over time. And I recognize that such changes keep language dynamic.
Words and phrases are in constant motion. There’s the previously stated “Beyond the Pale”, which has evolved from a clearly racist definition meaning the uncivilized culture beyond the Dublin area to merely meaning outside the bounds of morality, good behavior, judgment, or unacceptable. Ever heard of the term, “gypped”? We use that in common, everyday conversational English,
To deprive (another) of something by fraud; cheat or swindle.
It takes little research to understand that “gypped” or “gyp” originated with “gypsy”, or the Roma. And it’s clearly derogatory and racist to deem an entire race and/or culture as being thieves. But today, that word has evolved. And anyone but an etymologist would not equate the term “gypped” with “gypsy”. Would they?
But I’ve also always understood that in order to communicate effectively words must mean the same thing to everyone.
Oh there can be shades of meaning, but you can’t arbitrarily change the meaning wholesale and expect to be able to effectively express yourself.
Yes you can. It’s done everyday. There are thousands of examples where the definition of words and phrases have changed and evolved over time, even a short time (Bad, Phat, ghetto, and on and on). One merely has to examine the term “liberal”. There’s history’s John Locke’s “liberal” and there’s today’s Rush Limbaugh’s “liberal”. Clearly two different animals, yet no one has difficulty discerning what Limbaugh is defining.
All that aside, I think you are correct in your efforts to ridicule the Seattle Public School’s definition and I believe it needs to be changed. I hope the people of Seattle also share this need. Clearly, there is a small sub-sect on the Left that perceives racism as an exclusively “White” thought, activity, or reasoning. The majority of persons, however, perceive the term “racist” without restriction.
That being stated, I bring these examples of etymological evolutions to light to illustrate concerns regarding a government approved “National Language”.
There is already an unofficial national language. There is no need for an official language, lest we change our coinage… E Pluribus Unum to… Birds of a Feather. There is conversational popular culture language, and there is legalese. One can’t imagine a Bill Frist, The floor recognizes the gentleman from Tennessee… “Yo Yo Yo Dawgs, this phat amendment is money. I’m totally down with my peeps.”
Okay, I’m rambling. But I believe that culture and market forces determine the national language. Not congress.
Tribalism and nationalism may have origins similar to those of racism. But that need not be the case, for tribalism and nationalism can be motivated by and serve positive ends.
Contrary to your claim on your blog (thanks for the link), I’m not suggesting that tribalism and nationalism are a form of racism but instead linking them to racism as something which fosters an attitude or belief of inherent superiority. I guess, for instance, culturalism would be another.
The intent was to suggest that they are all neutral words which would fairly describe anyone who might subscribe to the tenets of each. That was the tie to the word racism, not that they were the same or a form of racism.
That point was made to show how Seattle had arbitrarily shifted the meaning to something else. It is no longer neutral and encompassing. It is aimed at a specific group and implies only that group can be racist because of ’power’. Obviously that is a complete change in the meaning of the word. So, if, for instance, I was communicating with the Seattle School Board about racism, we’d be talking about two completely different meanings, which, I’d suggest, at least one of us would be unaware.
So besides being a garbage definition, we wouldn’t be communicating effectively.
Be rather sweet if they got the treatment their historic predecessor got....
"When I use a word," Humpty Dumpty said, in a rather scornful tone, "it means just what I choose it to mean - neither more nor less." "The question is," said Alice, "whether you can make words mean so many different things." "The question is," said Humpty Dumpty, "which is to be master - that’s all."