Friday, May 24, 2002

LOSING MEANING
Jill Nelson writes about the sentencing of chruch arsoninst and murderer Bobby Frank Cherry, and says that there are many like him, in fact:

Today’s racists are those who willfully ignore the existence of both discrimination against African Americans and their own white privilege. They are those who insist that all they have is due to hard work, while all that other, less fortunate members of society lack is a result of their own ineptitude. Like Cherry, today’s racists take lives and livelihoods, crush spirits, and then blame the victim

Passages like this rob the words "racism" and "racist" of any meaning whatsoever. My dictionary defines racism as "a belief that race is the primary dterminant of human traits and capacities and that racial differences produce an inhererent superiority of a partcilar race." To be honest, Nelson's thoughts about "white privilege" sound a lot closer to this definition than those who say that they accomplish what they have through hard work.

I'm not saying racism doesn't exist and that whites don't genrerally have an easier time from society than blacks. But I have to object to defining racism as "anybody who disagrees with me" and comparing them with a church arsonist and murderer. Doing so makes the word "racism" meaningless, and harms the credibility of anyone who is truly the victim of racism.

UPDATE: I'm imagining how Neslon would react if Ari Fleishchler or Dick Cheney or especially John Ashcroft said something like "But terrorism is not dead. Today's terrorists are those who willfully ignore the existence of terrorist groups. They are those who think that measures to curb terrorism like the Patriot Act are unnecessary." Nelson would be up in arms about the "chilling effect" such words have, and that labeling one's political opponenets like that is ridiculous.

But I guess it's OK when she does it.
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