Racism is improperly defined in the United States

Posted on Oct 5 2016 - 8:01am by Ethan Davis

Racism. I can not seem to get away from it. From Facebook to Twitter to protests to riots, a national conversation has run rampant about a topic people love to discuss but — I think — understand fairly little.

Racism is defined by Merriam-Webster as “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,” and I want to note that this process is bad because it is self-defeating, i.e., you cannot accurately assess a person’s value based on race.

With that being said, I have a serious problem with how racism is being handled in this country. There seems to be a dichotomy that condemns racism in specific cases and celebrates it in others, and I cannot help but be dissatisfied with this attitude.

The basic theme seems to be to recognize and plainly identify an action or concept as racist and then attempt to rectify the issue by being racist in the opposite direction. For instance, the very idea of an organization meant to uplift “primarily white” students would be appalling. However, are there not organizations on this campus that do just that with other ethnic groups?

The logical root of these “acceptable” concepts is reverse racism. If you are going to claim that race is an indeterminate factor of a person’s identity, stake your flag in that hill and stand by it. Do not simply gerrymander racial lines in favor of the minority and claim the majority somehow owes recompense.

Racism is a form of collectivism or stereotyping, and—to quote novelist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie—“The problem with stereotypes is not that they are untrue but that they are incomplete.”

The reason that large groups have ideas associated with them by default is that they hold truth in some limited form. Christians are bigots; Muslims are terrorists; white people are oppressors; black people are violent.

But to act on these large ideas is to flatten the scope and vibrancy of another human into a single story that does great injustice to our capability and complexity. We are not simply one thing, and it is moronic to claim that we are.

That is why I cannot understand the reaction to racism in this country. Rioting in response to a supposed racial shooting reinforces the stereotype that African-Americans are violent. Allowing “safe spaces” to be constructed on the basis of race only proves that race is an important factor in determining one’s life.

If the goal is to stop racism, and it should be, we cannot at once destroy the “systems” that uphold it and build new ones with more acceptable rhetoric. The minority is not morally exempt from collectivism simply because it is the minority. Programs like affirmative action are just as racist as exclusionary policies.

Racism is a problem for individuals. A racist person is just that: a racist person. He or she does not speak for the whole of any particular group, and we need to start acting that way.

Ethan Davis is a junior philosophy and English double major from Laurel.