"The propagandist's purpose is to make one set of people forget that certain other sets of people are human." -Aldous Huxley
Okay, "Could you be a racist?" is an admittedly challenging question that many will reject out of hand without any introspection whatsoever. That's too bad. Because introspection is definitely what is called for here. But let's just start with some definitions. From American Heritage fourth ed: "Racism - 1. The belief that race accounts for differences in human character or ability and that a particular race is superior to others. 2. Discrimination or prejudice based on race." Randomhouse Webster's (2nd) adds more layers including: "the idea that one's own race is superior and has the right to rule others."
One very notable piece missing from these definitions is any reference to racism as absolute, a black-and-white issue (no pun intended). Racism exists on a gradient and is not an either/or condition. You can be "a little bit" racist. Furthermore, you can be racist to some degree and not even know that you are. This is true because racism is definitely not absolute, and because it develops over time in an individual by virtue of largely passive acceptance of seemingly benign pieces of information. Most people develop some racist tendencies. And most do so by virtue of things their parents taught them without realizing they were doing so. And in the spirit of full disclosure, I am what is known today as an old white male.
There was a news story some time back featuring an interview of some woman who had stated something about the issue of the hour, Critical Race Theory. She was indignantly claiming that just because she had come out against teaching CRT to her kid, she was not a racist. She was in tears at the time. I am certain that this drove home two different points in separate members of the audience. Some people supported her in her statement, feeling she had a perfectly valid argument. They knew they, themselves, "weren't racists," and held the same opposition to teaching CRT. Because opposition to teaching history was one thing, and opposition to teaching CRT was something else altogether. Then in the minds of a second group, there immediately formed the notion that she was, indeed, racist and just didn't know it. CRT was the teaching of a historical reality that should not be ignored and swept under the rug. She couldn't see that, so she must be somewhat racist to oppose the teaching of this element of history. Why else would she oppose this factual history lesson?
This issue over CRT came to a head more than a year ago, when D. J. Trump issued an executive order specifically in rejection of CRT, an EO that banned any "training" that labeled the nation as racist. So the radical right immediately had a brand-new issue to tout. And they have picked it up and run with it.
Critical Race Theory: Britannica.com defines CRT as "an intellectual movement and loosely organized framework of legal analysis based on the premise that race [and by extension, racism] is not a natural, biologically grounded feature of physically distinct subgroups of human beings but a socially constructed (culturally invented) category that is used to oppress and exploit people of colour." That may not be the very best definition, but for our purposes it will do. Because, while it does exclude people of color from "being racist," it certainly does point out that racism is, if not exclusively, at least largely, targeting POC, not their white counterparts. Whites do have the distinct advantage of "white privilege" in their favor. This is so true that whites almost never have to think about the issue of racism in their daily interactions.
Acts of racism at base reduce to degradations of others, others being defined as being noticeably different and isolatable. It has been argued that this is a very natural development, that it is a remnant of instinctual behavior patterns that permitted the survival of the species in earlier times. This argument ignores the obvious fact that racism is directed not at other species, but is entirely intra-species. Never mind. There is the perplexing but simple fact of racism's existence. And it is more broadly developed than might at first be suspected. The military, for example, explicitly employs the concept of racism to dehumanize the enemy in times of war. There can be no sympathy for the enemy, only enmity. In this case it is perhaps the ultimate degradation of humans, leading directly to their deaths. Racism exploits fear, and it is a fear of "the other." And if there is insufficient fear there to exploit, deliberate racists create and fan the flames of fear to materialize sufficient hatred. For the military, it is merely a means to an end. It is a form of useful motivational propaganda.
Since it is apparently so difficult to answer the question, are you racist, I will change the perspective and use myself as the target witness in this investigation. The question in this introspective analysis moves from you to me. Am I racist? Note that it is not, "Am I a racist." It is do I have any racist tendencies? At least that lets you off the hook until you realize I am talking not just about myself.
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