What is racism?

Most people intuitively know what racism is—or do they? Have you ever really thought about racism? Have you ever tried to define it?

Racism, of course, is a type of bigotry, which includes sexism, ageism, and homophobia. Bigotry is generally a bad thing, but it can be surprisingly complex. Bigotry often overlaps with nationalism, for example. Consider the following examples.

  • The people who ruled ancient empires often thought they were superior to the “barbarians,” “heathen,” or “pagans” they ruled over.
  • Adolf Hitler supposedly thought the German people were superior to other groups of people. (Even though he said as much in his famous book Mein Kampf, I have my doubts. More about that elsewhere.)
  • Americans think the U.S. is superior to other countries.
  • Many white Christians think they’re superior to non-Christian, non-white U.S. citizens.
  • Jews think they’re God’s chosen people, and they have been openly practicing genocide in Israel since its creation in 1948.

To cut to the chase, let’s broadly describe racism as harboring ill will towards or hurting or discriminating against people based on their race. This definition works quite nicely in general, but a student of philosophy might question it. For example, consider the Sioux warriors who massacred General George Armstrong Custer and the soldiers under his command on the prairies of Montana. Were they racist?

We could argue that they didn’t kill Custer’s men because they were white. Rather, they killed them because they were soldiers who were on a mission to kill Indians.

However, the Battle of the Little Bighorn was just one episode in a vast genocide that began when Christopher Columbus (who was probably a Jew, by the way) blundered into the Caribbean, discovering America for Spain. Christopher’s discovery spawned an orgy of slavery, rape, torture, and murder that continues today. As a result, there are many Native Americans, from Alaska to Argentina, who hate white people. Are they racist?

I think the key word that’s missing from most definitions of racism is truth, or honesty. If a person hates white people just because they’re white, that’s racism. However, if a person hates white people because they have comprised the dominant global power structure for 500 years and have therefore become the masters of corruption, exploitation, and war, that’s a little different. We either need to modify our definition of racism, or we need to coin a new word for the justifiable hatred of people who are different from us.

There’s still room for some fine-tuning. For example, if a group of protesters labeled me an evil white protester, I could tell them about my websites, explaining that I’m not a typical white, racist asshole. On the contrary, I fight against evil people, regardless or race, creed, or color.

In this spirit, I have no problem with African people who hate white people, the U.S., or Israel. Nor do I have a problem with Latin Americans or Asian people who hate white people, the U.S., or Israel, though I would obviously prefer that their hatred is tempered with some understanding of the complexities of race, society, and politix.

But what about people who hate Jews—not just Israeli Jews or Zionists, but all Jews? I’m glad you asked.

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