Is Anti-racism Racist?

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Is Anti-racism Racist?

Postby WazirKnightBishop » Thu Jul 30, 2009 11:07 am UTC

Is anti-racism racism in itself?

It would be helpful if further responses to this thread actually contained content. -Az
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Re: Is Anti-racism Racist?

Postby Game_boy » Thu Jul 30, 2009 12:53 pm UTC

On the subject of positive discrimination (lowering the entry requirements or having quotas for minorities entering certain jobs or courses), I think that its continuing existence in areas that have shown improvement qualifies as racism, yes. Once there is no institutional obstacle to getting into these jobs/courses (and I believe the situation has improved significantly since these policies were introduced) they should be removed otherwise there is the risk that the most qualified or most able to benefit won't get in because of their non-minority status. And that surely falls under the definition of racism.

While it probably isn't true for ethnic minorities, there may be reasons other than discrimination why the proportion of a group in a given position is less than the wider population. For example, more women than men may choose, with no external pressure, to have a family rather than take a demanding job that requires so many hours it would be impossible to do both the career and family.
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Re: Is Anti-racism Racist?

Postby Belial » Thu Jul 30, 2009 12:57 pm UTC

WazirKnightBishop wrote:Is anti-racism racism in itself?


This is actually one of the chief reasons, I think, that many anti-racism communities have redefined "racism" to mean "prejudice + power", that is, something that only operates in the direction of societal oppression, and that kindof has to do more and worse than simply acknowledging the existence of race.

Otherwise, you get into sophomoric wankery like "by fighting racism, are we being racist by definition?". Some smart people heard that question and answered "If so, our definition of racism is broken to the point of uselessness. We need a new one."
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Re: Is Anti-racism Racist?

Postby Pez Dispens3r » Thu Jul 30, 2009 1:18 pm UTC

I'd like to expand on Belial's point (at my own risk) with this definition of racism:

George M. Fredrickson, Racism: A Short History (Melbourne: Scribe Publications, 2002), 9. wrote:My theory or conception of racism, therefore, has two components: difference and power. It originates from a mindset that regards “them” as different from “us” in ways that are permanent and unbridgeable... In all manifestations of racism from the mildest to the most severe, what is being denied is the possibility that the racializers and the racialized can coexist in the same society, except perhaps on the basis of domination and subordination.


"Anti-racism" (to borrow a rhetorically poor term) recognizes difference1 but doesn't see that difference as unbridgeable. Rather, it sees the power gap as something that must be bridged. Therefore, it's not the same kettle of fish.

1That is, Affirmative Action would be somewhat impotent if it refused to acknowledge that there is any difference between an African American and an Anglo Saxon.
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Re: Is Anti-racism Racist?

Postby guenther » Thu Jul 30, 2009 1:55 pm UTC

WazirKnightBishop wrote:Is anti-racism racism in itself?

I'd say no. There's a wide area for people to stand on to oppose racism without being racist. However, I do think that racism can get turned around in reverse, e.g. Reverend Wright and the Black Caucus.

I'd say that affirmative action is policy that is discriminatory to race, but not racist. So I don't oppose it on those grounds. (I think affirmative action was necessary at one time, but there's a point where we need to take the training wheels off. Plus I think it has the downside of lower expectations -> lower results.)
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Re: Is Anti-racism Racist?

Postby sje46 » Thu Jul 30, 2009 2:03 pm UTC

Belial wrote:
WazirKnightBishop wrote:Is anti-racism racism in itself?


This is actually one of the chief reasons, I think, that many anti-racism communities have redefined "racism" to mean "prejudice + power", that is, something that only operates in the direction of societal oppression, and that kindof has to do more and worse than simply acknowledging the existence of race.

Otherwise, you get into sophomoric wankery like "by fighting racism, are we being racist by definition?". Some smart people heard that question and answered "If so, our definition of racism is broken to the point of uselessness. We need a new one."

Isn't acknowledging race racialism, not racism?
To me, anti-racism is a form of racialism. Affirmative action, because it makes no claims about people's traits being inherent because of race, is racialist, not really racist, then.
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Re: Is Anti-racism Racist?

Postby Jessica » Thu Jul 30, 2009 2:30 pm UTC

sje46 wrote:
Belial wrote:
WazirKnightBishop wrote:Is anti-racism racism in itself?


This is actually one of the chief reasons, I think, that many anti-racism communities have redefined "racism" to mean "prejudice + power", that is, something that only operates in the direction of societal oppression, and that kindof has to do more and worse than simply acknowledging the existence of race.

Otherwise, you get into sophomoric wankery like "by fighting racism, are we being racist by definition?". Some smart people heard that question and answered "If so, our definition of racism is broken to the point of uselessness. We need a new one."

Isn't acknowledging race racialism, not racism?
To me, anti-racism is a form of racialism. Affirmative action, because it makes no claims about people's traits being inherent because of race, is racialist, not really racist, then.
Man this is like the best thing ever said about affirmative action, and needs to be explained over and over and over again. People saying that affirmative action makes productivity go down, or standards drop need to check themselves and realize that someone's race is not connected to their ability. It is simply highlighting an aspect which, in our culture has negative consequences, but has no negative impact on a person's innate or learned abilities. Which is why it's a) useful and b) still needed.
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Re: Is Anti-racism Racist?

Postby gmalivuk » Thu Jul 30, 2009 3:06 pm UTC

I think it's worth noting that this is not an affirmative action thread in itself, and so too much discussion of that should probably be had elsewhere so this thread can stay more on topic of anti-racism in general.
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Re: Is Anti-racism Racist?

Postby Vaniver » Thu Jul 30, 2009 4:20 pm UTC

Jessica wrote:People saying that affirmative action makes productivity go down, or standards drop need to check themselves and realize that someone's race is not connected to their ability.
Were that true, would not objective measures of productivity/ability/standards not have racial correlations? (I'm ignoring sexist AA for the moment, since we're talking about race)

There are two kinds of affirmative action- moving selection towards a blind/double blind process (the famous example of having musicians audition behind screens), and moving selection towards a race-conscious process (racial quotas, points / special consideration / lower standards for different races). The first one isn't really affirmative action- it's just reducing evaluation bias (one of the possible stated goals of affirmative action). The second one is trying to institute evaluation bias that's socially approved- person A answered less questions correctly on a test than person B, but person A is of a more favorable race.

The second kind either has no effect (the races already fit the desired racial quotas) or swaps applicants that performed better under the selection criteria (excluding race) for applicants that performed worse under the selection criteria (excluding race). The first kind either has no effect (bias on the part of the evaluators wasn't significant enough to distort results) or swaps applicants that performed worse under the selection criteria (excluding race) for applicants that performed better under the selection criteria (excluding race).

[edit]I consider anti-racism racist. But I use racist to mean "considers race" which is not always standard usage.
[edit2]What does the OP even mean by anti-racism?
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Re: Is Anti-racism Racist?

Postby guenther » Thu Jul 30, 2009 4:51 pm UTC

Vaniver wrote:I consider anti-racism racist. But I use racist to mean "considers race" which is not always standard usage.

What about when a director decides that he wants a black man as the lead part in the movie? Is that racist?

I think watering down racism to "considers race" means we attach a very emotionally charged word to very reasonable actions, and that makes communication all that much harder. I also think redefining racism to "racism + power" is unhelpful; having no power doesn't mean you're not racist, it just means there's limits to how much damage your racist view can do.

Why don't we just use the standard definition?
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Re: Is Anti-racism Racist?

Postby sje46 » Thu Jul 30, 2009 5:14 pm UTC

guenther wrote:
Vaniver wrote:I consider anti-racism racist. But I use racist to mean "considers race" which is not always standard usage.

What about when a director decides that he wants a black man as the lead part in the movie? Is that racist?

I think watering down racism to "considers race" means we attach a very emotionally charged word to very reasonable actions, and that makes communication all that much harder. I also think redefining racism to "racism + power" is unhelpful; having no power doesn't mean you're not racist, it just means there's limits to how much damage your racist view can do.

Why don't we just use the standard definition?

Also, there is already a term that Vaniver is talking about, that I already mentioned: racialist.
I agree with you about the power thing, Geunther. The leaders of the Nation of Islam taught that white people are inherently evil, and that is definitely racist, regardless of how much power they have.
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I guess I don't understand how the definition of racism is really broken so that it needs to be redefined. I understand that it certainly is worse to be on the receiving end of racism if you are a minority, sure. But what are you supposed to call it if you are on the receiving end of racism and you are a member of the majority?
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Re: Is Anti-racism Racist?

Postby spiderham » Thu Jul 30, 2009 5:33 pm UTC

guenther wrote:
Vaniver wrote:I consider anti-racism racist. But I use racist to mean "considers race" which is not always standard usage.

What about when a director decides that he wants a black man as the lead part in the movie? Is that racist?

I think watering down racism to "considers race" means we attach a very emotionally charged word to very reasonable actions, and that makes communication all that much harder. I also think redefining racism to "racism + power" is unhelpful; having no power doesn't mean you're not racist, it just means there's limits to how much damage your racist view can do.

Why don't we just use the standard definition?


It seems that the difference between the Frederickson quote and the dictionary definition you referenced is that the latter includes the notion of superiority and a belief that race determines why some people are more wealthy and powerful than others. This reminds me of social darwinism.

The Frederickson quote on it's face doesn't seem to imply a judgement about quality i.e., that some races are superior to others; just a belief that races should not mingle. I think this definition attempts to be broad and encompass other types of racism besides the social darwinist variety.

I distinguish racism from discrimination. The latter can be good or bad. A film director can discriminate for acceptable reasons. A racist can discriminate to further his goals of keeping barriers between races.

I use this test to judge, case by case, whether discrimination is good or bad (could be applied to any kind -- racial, gender, religion)
Does it stigmatize?
If so, it's bad.
If not, does the person excluded have an alternative of equal quality?
This explains why we accept gender discrimination in some cases, like locker rooms and bathrooms, but not in others.
Even racial and religious discrimination can sometimes be acceptable: eg, student orginizations based on ethnicity or religion are usually accepted.
Last edited by spiderham on Thu Jul 30, 2009 9:54 pm UTC, edited 2 times in total.

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Re: Is Anti-racism Racist?

Postby Tweedledum » Thu Jul 30, 2009 6:03 pm UTC

I suppose racism is only known in its hurtful form. I would think the word racism means a prejudice/stereotype attached to that race. (Whether it be a detrimental or positive prejudice.) Here are some examples of racism that we don't usually question. "German Shepard's make great guard dogs." "Collies are good at herding." Yet any educated person knows that prejudice is not always accurate.

A mathematician, a physicist, and an engineer are riding a train through Scotland.
The engineer looks out the window, sees a black sheep, and exclaims, "Hey! The sheep in Scotland are black!"
The physicist looks out the window and corrects the engineer, "Well, all we know is that some of the sheep are black."
The mathematician looks out the window and corrects the physicist, "Strictly speaking, all we can say is that is that there exists a field in Scotland containing a sheep, at least one side of which is black."

When we say that racism is wrong, we are ourselves making a prejudice. "Racism is wrong." For this prejudice to be racist it must be aimed at a race(s). Or else be perpetuated by a specific race. For instance, "All [Insert Race] people believe racism is wrong." That sentence in itself would be racist. Of course Anti-racism isn't a belief heralded by any one or few peoples. I think it would just be some other form of prejudice.

That's my $.02 But I think this topic is utterly moot. We are all different breeds in the species as there is only one race. The human race.
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Re: Is Anti-racism Racist?

Postby Azrael » Thu Jul 30, 2009 7:34 pm UTC

Pazi: You may return to this subject after you've figured out how to participate in a meaningful and effective manner, or after 24 hours have passed, which ever one is longer.

Athelas: You're on time out too. Being a dick to someone because you think their views are unsupported is not acceptable.

Everyone else: Thread cleaned, don't shit it up again.

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Re: Is Anti-racism Racist?

Postby spiderham » Thu Jul 30, 2009 8:24 pm UTC

Vaniver wrote:There are two kinds of affirmative action- moving selection towards a blind/double blind process ....
The second one is trying to institute evaluation bias that's socially approved ....


I don't find this description very useful for understanding the diversity rationale for affirmative action.

I think understanding why policy makers want affirmative action programs in certain contexts is important in evaluating whether they are reasonable.

Take the recent Connecticut fire fighters case for example. Why would you want to make sure the leadership team of fire fighters has an ethnic composition that represents the people they lead? Because fire fighting is a dangerous profession and requires teamwork and camaraderie. If it appears to members of the team that status and authority is associated with a group different from their own, it could inspire resentment and division, and make the team less effective. One legal analyst implied the Supreme Court's decision (upholding the promotion based on the test score) was not important because most local governments do not use test scores as the sole criteria for promotions. The message of the decision could have been interpreted as an instruction to craft a more intelligent decision making process for determining whom to promote than taking a test.

Another example is affirmative action programs in universities. Looking at the facts, one can see that elite universities compete fiercely for minority students because having an ethnically diverse campus is a big selling point for the top students they try to attract. When people complain about these programs, they forget about the interests of these students and focus exclusively on those of the white students who were bumped out (and who were on the margin of the admissions pool anyway). So there are 3 interests at stake here: those of the ethnic group, those of the other students who will get in, and those of the students who would have been admitted. Why should the interests of the latter group win out over those of the other two?

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Re: Is Anti-racism Racist?

Postby drunken » Thu Jul 30, 2009 10:27 pm UTC

How'd I miss this one?

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Re: Is Anti-racism Racist?

Postby Peripatetic » Fri Jul 31, 2009 3:30 pm UTC

Has the definition of "anti-racism" actually been settled upon? I see two discussions, one which sees anti-racism as opposition to racism in all its forms and another which sees it as what the talking heads call "reverse racism." The former is obviously not racism (~A != A) while the latter obviously is.

To me, racist vs. anti-racist isn't an interesting question, or at least its being asked too soon and so remains ill-defined--not to mention the emotional baggage of a term like "racism." The better question is "what is the goal of such policies, and do these policies bring about these goals?" If, based on the comments here, affirmative action policies are like "training wheels" for minorities that need to be removed at some point, what does that imply about the expected outcomes? That we[1] can one day allow minorities to play with the big boys? That we can finally trust them with real responsibility? That we can finally grant them full citizenship and humanity? This view of affirmative action is about as condescendingly and passive-aggressively racist as one can get: minorities can't make it on their own, so we have to pull them up. Affirmative action is the modern white man's burden. Surely, this is the wrong interpretation.

One problem with this conception is that it is forgotten that affirmative action only applies to admissions. These minority students still have to put in the work to graduate from college. Affirmative action isn't a free pass to success; it's an ugly, blunt, heavy object used to prop open a door that was sealed shut for centuries by an ugly, brunt, heavy legacy of slavery and racism. More than giving minorities new opportunities, affirmative action and all other anti-racist policies were implemented in this country to restore legitimacy to institutions, to grab them by the scruff of their neck and shove their noses in centuries of racism while yelling, "You did this!" Once racial minorities were recognized as having a legitimate claim to participate in the work of America, a university could no longer claim to train the best minds when it actively excludes a significant subset of the population, nor could a hospital brag about having the best doctors, nor could democratic governments claim to be of, by, or for the people. Really, America's institutions need affirmative action more than minorities. Indeed, they demand it. When California outlawed affirmative action by Proposition 209 in 1996, the UCs were adamantly opposed. The federal government sets aside money to purchase goods and services from minority-owned contractors.



[1] I'm using "we" here in the most awkwardly self-conscious manner possible, as if I could speak for the nation as a white, upper-middle class male who's currently living off his parents' money while he looks for a job after dropping out of grad school. So yeah.

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Re: Is Anti-racism Racist?

Postby Vaniver » Fri Jul 31, 2009 3:59 pm UTC

sje46 wrote:Also, there is already a term that Vaniver is talking about, that I already mentioned: racialist.
You will note that standard usage between the two has flipped- racialist used to be the negative term, and racist the descriptive term.

spiderham wrote:I don't find this description very useful for understanding the diversity rationale for affirmative action.
It does shunt any discussion of which racial balance is socially optimal to the side- I'm focusing on methodology, not target. If we say "we need diversity for reason X, and condition Y must be met to have diversity, and that's more important to us than objective evaluations," then evaluation bias which leads to condition Y is socially approved.

spiderham wrote:Why would you want to make sure the leadership team of fire fighters has an ethnic composition that represents the people they lead? Because fire fighting is a dangerous profession and requires teamwork and camaraderie. If it appears to members of the team that status and authority is associated with a group different from their own, it could inspire resentment and division, and make the team less effective.
Consider all implications and assumptions of this argument.

First, it assumes that teamwork and camaraderie requires racial representation. Second, it assumes that the makeup of the officer corps as a whole matters to firefighters, not the race of their particular officer. If your officer seems to be busting your ass harder than everyone else's, and he's white and you're black, that will probably cause more problems than noticing that all of the officers are white.

Pretend for a moment that the fire department has 88 whites, 22 blacks, and that each of 10 officers commands 10 firefighters, to make things simple. If all of the officers are white, and we randomly assign firefighters to officers, there will be an average of eight whites and two blacks on each team, with a total of 22 people whose race isn't that of their officer. If we have representation such that there are 8 white officers and 2 black officers, and randomly assign firefighters to officers, there will be an average of 16 blacks under whites and 16 whites under blacks- now we have 32 people whose race isn't that of their officer. If we have the same representation in officers, but segregate firefighters, we can make that number 0- at the cost of splitting up the teams by race.

Third, it assumes that the division caused by underrepresentation will be lower than the division caused by favoritism in hiring- how do you think the race relations are in this fire department after an ugly fight about hiring became a national issue? How do you think they would have been if the city has just picked blacks to fill the slots, despite underperformance on the test? When your job is a dangerous profession that requires teamwork, you do not want the impression that a leader is underqualified. I mean, imagine that the person who scored best on the test gets put underneath an affirmative action officer. What problems will happen there?
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Re: Is Anti-racism Racist?

Postby guenther » Fri Jul 31, 2009 5:13 pm UTC

Peripatetic wrote:To me, racist vs. anti-racist isn't an interesting question, or at least its being asked too soon and so remains ill-defined--not to mention the emotional baggage of a term like "racism." The better question is "what is the goal of such policies, and do these policies bring about these goals?" If, based on the comments here, affirmative action policies are like "training wheels" for minorities that need to be removed at some point, what does that imply about the expected outcomes? That we[1] can one day allow minorities to play with the big boys? That we can finally trust them with real responsibility? That we can finally grant them full citizenship and humanity? This view of affirmative action is about as condescendingly and passive-aggressively racist as one can get: minorities can't make it on their own, so we have to pull them up. Affirmative action is the modern white man's burden. Surely, this is the wrong interpretation.

I'm not sure who said affirmative actions was training wheels for minorities. However, I think it's training wheels for the majority. Whites couldn't be trusted to look past their own racism to make fair decisions, so a fairness metric was added. At some point, we need to take the training wheels off and trust them with the real responsibility of making good choices. By your rationale, I'm apparently being condescending and passive-aggressively racist against white people. Or we could recognize the emotional baggage of a term like "racism" and not fling it around like ammo.
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Re: Is Anti-racism Racist?

Postby Peripatetic » Fri Jul 31, 2009 5:35 pm UTC

guenther wrote:I'm not sure who said affirmative actions was training wheels for minorities. However, I think it's training wheels for the majority. Whites couldn't be trusted to look past their own racism to make fair decisions, so a fairness metric was added. At some point, we need to take the training wheels off and trust them with the real responsibility of making good choices. By your rationale, I'm apparently being condescending and passive-aggressively racist against white people. Or we could recognize the emotional baggage of a term like "racism" and not fling it around like ammo.

I didn't realize you meant it like that and I assumed the worst. Sorry about that.

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Re: Is Anti-racism Racist?

Postby spiderham » Fri Jul 31, 2009 5:40 pm UTC

Vaniver:
I think for the "teamwork-camaraderie" rationale to work, a promotional system has to be in place that all the firefighters believe is fair. I imagine the air in Hartford was poisoned further by the way they handled it. They should have accepted the test results and set their minds to coming up with different criteria for future promotions. The stated reason for throwing out the scores -- that they were afraid of getting sued -- certainly worked out paradoxically. I believe most departments use other criteria besides test scores -- like experience and proven skill and leadership qualities on the job. Now if all the white fire fighters are going to be adamantly opposed to having race ever be considered in the mix of criteria, then I guess you're stuck and it's going to be a touchy work environment if it happens that minorities are not in the leadership. But I don't think that's the case. I think most would accept it as a factor as long as they respected the people promoted.

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Re: Is Anti-racism Racist?

Postby Vaniver » Sat Aug 01, 2009 1:49 am UTC

Spiderham- I agree that people are more motivated when they think their organization treats them fairly. I think that belief doesn't recommend any sort of attention to race- but perhaps that's just because I believe in fairness in opportunity, not fairness in outcome!
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Re: Is Anti-racism Racist?

Postby spiderham » Sat Aug 01, 2009 1:17 pm UTC

And if you are a member of a group and notice that your peers are not represented in the leadership, you might suspect the opportunities are not presented fairly.

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Re: Is Anti-racism Racist?

Postby Captain_Thunder » Sat Aug 01, 2009 8:12 pm UTC

Belial wrote:
WazirKnightBishop wrote:Is anti-racism racism in itself?


This is actually one of the chief reasons, I think, that many anti-racism communities have redefined "racism" to mean "prejudice + power", that is, something that only operates in the direction of societal oppression, and that kindof has to do more and worse than simply acknowledging the existence of race.

Otherwise, you get into sophomoric wankery like "by fighting racism, are we being racist by definition?". Some smart people heard that question and answered "If so, our definition of racism is broken to the point of uselessness. We need a new one."


On the contrary, I don't think those people were particularly smart. If the standard definition of racism doesn't let you carry out your social justice with a clean consciousness, then it's your actions that you need to examine, not the definition of racism.

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Re: Is Anti-racism Racist?

Postby Pez Dispens3r » Sun Aug 02, 2009 4:54 am UTC

Captain_Thunder wrote:If the standard definition of racism doesn't let you carry out your social justice with a clean consciousness, then it's your actions that you need to examine, not the definition of racism.

To paraphrase Marc Bloch, words, like coins, lose their clear outlines in the process of constant circulation. Vaniver has already noted how the words "racism" and "racialism" seem to have switched meanings over time. Therefore we do not always find the dictionary definition (that is, the pedestrian use of the word) to be the most useful when we're trying to discuss certain concepts. To illustrate, this is the definition given by the good people at Merriam Webster:
Merriam Webster Online Dictionary wrote:1 : a belief that race is the primary determinant of human traits and capacities and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race
2 : racial prejudice or discrimination

This is all fine and good; however, part of the definition is given as "racial discrimination", but it would be absurd to suggest that racial discrimination = racism. For example, native Americans are more likely to have type-O blood (known as the "universal donor" because people with A, B, and AB blood can accept a type-O donation) than pretty much any other race. It would be racial discrimination to try particularly hard to get native Americans to donate blood, but it wouldn't be racism.

This is why we have academic definitions, such as the one I provided below Belial's post. Racial discrimination alone is not racism. Saying, "you are Asian," isn't racism. Saying, "you are Asian, therefore you are greedy and prone to melancholy (per Carolus Linnaeus' taxonomy of race)," is. Saying, "African Americans are underrepresented in college, therefore support is necessary to correct for societal discrimination," isn't racism. Saying, "African Americans aren't fit for college education," is. These are subtleties a dictionary doesn't account for, because dictionaries define their words according to how the words are commonly used. Meanwhile, academics define their words to fit the concept the word is meant to represent.
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