Defining Racism


According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, racism is “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.”

GOP House Speaker Paul Ryan must have been thinking about that definition when he said this week that Donald Trump’s comments about the capacity of U.S. District Judge Gonzalo Curiel to be fair in the case involving Donald Trump’s Trump University. Trump, in an interview with CNN’s Jake Tapper, said as much when he said that Curiel “is a Mexican. I’m building a wall.” (<a href=”; target=”_hplink”></a&gt;)

There was an immediate backlash from Republicans and Democrats alike. Speaker Ryan said, “Claiming a person can’t do their job because of their race is sort of like a textbook definition of a racist comment.” (<a href=”; target=”_hplink”></a&gt;)

But New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and Trump surrogate Jeffrey Lord, a Trump supporter, protested the claim that Trump is a racist. Both men…and many of the television Trump-supporting pundits, insist that Trump is not a racist. Lord went so far as to say that Ryan’s comments were racist. “Speaker Ryan has apparently switched positions and is not supporting identity politics, which is racist,” Lord said.(<a href=”; target=”_hplink”></a&gt;

All the pushback against being called a “racist” has always amazed me …and it leads me to wonder aloud, “<em>Do the masses of white people understand what racism is? Do they understand how what they think about people who are not white colors every single decision and belief they have about non-white people?”</em>

The Eugenics Movement was all about racism, about establishing the “master race.” In his book. <em>War Against the Weak: Eugenics and America’s Campaign to Create a Master Race</em>,” author Edwin Black explains how it was America’s study of race. The goal of eugenecists was to create a master race – which was thought to be blonde and blue-eyed. The idea of a Nordic master race was created right here in the United States. The eugenics movement created the belief that it was necessary to get rid of anyone who didn’t fit the Nordic stereotype. Anyone who was not this Nordic prototype was deemed to be inferior.

The “unfit” were not only people who did not have Nordic features; people who were ill or who had different physical maladies were deemed to be unfit as well – and worthy of extinction. The Nazis got their ideas about “the Master race” and about exterminating the Jewish people, who clearly did not have the desired features, from the United States. The concept of the superior Nordic race was a reality decades before Hitler came to power.

The story of the eugenics movement, and the attitude of superiority it afforded white people here and around the world is too much for this article, but it is singularly amazing that apparently intelligent people like Gov. Christie and Jeffrey Lord – can say, with straight faces, that Trump is not a racist. He is spewing the racist rhetoric spawned by the eugenics movement, and know this: he and many others think that way. Historically and in real time, many white people have thought, believed in and practiced racist rhetoric and practices. From telling prima ballerina Misty Copeland early on that she didn’t have the right features to be a classical ballerina, to keeping talented African Americans from being quarterbacks because they were thought not to be intelligent enough, to not allocating money enough to urban public schools so that little brown and black children can get a fair and decent education, the belief that blacks (and browns, and anyone who is not white) are inferior white supremacy – aka racism – has been a mainstay of American culture.

Just because one doesn’t don a white hood and set fire to crosses does not mean one is not a racist. The racism is in the souls of people all over the world, because it has been taught and reinforced by governments, churches, organizations and other institutions.

If people would just admit that they are racist, that they do believe in the innate inferiority of anyone who is not white, perhaps this nation, and ultimately, the world, could move past the racism which has destroyed the lives of so many people. Too many white people, though, will not own it. It’s rather like a person who is addicted to prescription medicines not admitting that he or she is an addict. Whether the drug of choice be Percocet or crack cocaine, addiction is addiction; an addict is an addict…

And just like an addict cannot shake the addiction until he or she admits there’s a problem, so will the slew of Americans who are racist remain stuck in that sick state of mind and being unless and until they admit it.

Mr. Trump is a racist. His attitude and his statements have been, as Speaker Paul Ryan said, “classic textbook.” But here’s the thing: many of our legislators think just like Trump; they just haven’t said it out loud.

Perhaps in the midst of Donald Trump’s sickening presence there can be a blessing. Perhaps more people will look at themselves, and realize that what he is saying, they have always felt.

A candid observation…

3 thoughts on “Defining Racism

  1. I would not start an expository article about racism with a dictionary definition, particularly when your ‘prompt’ is complaining they don’t know what the word means anymore.

    I am old enough to remember how teachers taught us about eugenics in public school. It was not explicitly about, or directed toward, a “Nordic master-race”. It was more about racial or reproductive ‘hygienics’ and ‘prophylaxis’; at least that was how my teachers phrased their explanations (without advocating for it). The WW II -era “nordic master-race” idea certainly represented a consensus among some eugenicists, however.

    I’m white. But I think white people pointing fingers at each other and calling one another “racist” is ludicrous. I don’t generally believe in labelling one another at all … long hours of inter-personal and experiential training in nonviolence and peacemaking have taught me that. I regard racism as a very serious thing, deserving of a careful and reserved analysis.

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