Redefinition of Words: Racism
I find it all too increasingly common, that in the development of discourse, people all too often redefine words to better suit their own comfort or political agenda, or those same individuals elect to cling to rather narrow definitions of those same words, ignoring and even dismissing the broader definition as a whole. They seem to feel that this will make them right, and justify their viewpoints, however skewed that viewpoint may be. Of those words, perhaps the one that I see being twisted, redefined, or truncated the most is that most heated of terms, racism.
It is not just one political affiliation who I see abusing this word, but rather people from both sides of the spectrum. On all ends, it is redefined, or truncated, to placate their own consciences or to further their agenda. By some, a truncation is use to justify their own racism, with them swearing that it must include a power imbalance or a view of another as inferior. By others, this same abridging of the word’s definition is used to justify an agenda to remove rights, privileges, and powers, whether perceived or real, from an entire class of people merely because of their race.
Let me pause one moment to be clear in my stance: there is no such thing as race. It is a social construct based on superficial traits. Any use of it is by definition racism, for the word, at its broadest, means “the belief that all members of each race possess characteristics or abilities specific to that race, especially so as to distinguish it as inferior or superior to another race or races.” Note that the broadest definition does not include power. One’s skin color does not determine one’s capabilities. Period. Skin color is determined by one factor alone, a pigment called Melanin, which all people have, and that pigment is the SAME color in all people. In other words, there is no such thing as skin color. We are all shades of the same color. And as this pigment effects absolutely nothing other than the shade of our skin, it is most foolhardy to base any further judgement of people based on the amount of it in their skins.
Given that, any redefinition of this word, any abridgement of its broader definition, used to palliate the throes of one’s own conscience, to justify to others one’s own actions to the contrary, or to pursue an agenda that requires treating people differently because of their skin color, whether it be black, white, yellow, red, blue, green, purple, or polka dot, is absolutely one hundred percent wrong. There is no arguing about it.
The next step in the argument for the narrowing of the definition of this word, which is actually a complete Redefinition of it, is the anti-color-blindness argument. Wherein it is argued that colorblindness is itself a form of racism by allowing and perhaps even (comp licitly or not) propagating systemic racism. The problem with this argument and redefinition, is that it makes the rather erroneous assumption that humans are not capable of ignoring a factor while at the same time recognizing that other do not, and that the same consciousness given that factor by others leads to certain inherent problems. Let me be clear on this, that assumption is wrong. Humans are quite capable of disregarding one thing while recognizing that the failure to disregard it causes problems. In fact, this becomes the best justification TO disregard it.
The anti-colorblindness argument further argues that racism cannot be countered so long as we are colorblind. But this fails to miss the point – so long as we continue to FOCUS on skin color, so long as we force the awareness of it, racism will never go away. Morgan Freeman once responded to Mike Wallace in an interview, when asked how to end racism, “Stop talking about it. I am going to stop calling you a white man, and I’m going to ask you to stop calling me a black man.” He couldn’t have been more correct, and this is an argument I’ve been making for some time. The solution to systemic racism isn’t to place MORE focus on the color of individuals’ skins, but rather to teach EVERYONE to ignore it. To teach EVERYONE that there is no such thing as race, that is all in our heads, and that we must let the concept go. The moment we do that, the systemic racism will start to work its way out of the system. The moment we teach the racist cop to stop noticing skin color, he (or she) will stop pulling people over simply because they have darker skin, and will use the same level of force regardless of skin shade. The moment we teach the racist merchant or realtor to ignore skin color, they will no longer refuse service to people because of their apparent tone. The moment we teach the racist teacher to stop seeing color, they will divide their focus equally upon their students regardless of how much melanin they see.
But what of the existing economic disparity? One may cry. That, too, will start to work itself out. For it will allow us to then see that it has become a CLASS problem rather than just a race problem. And, let us not deceive ourselves, we have a HUGE class problem in our country. It is unfortunately tied to race as well due to our country’s history and the inherent racism built into our system. But this is something where we need to tackle each problem in time. And the addressing of the class problem is, perhaps, for another essay.
Let us truly address racism in our country. And to do that, we need to stop redefining the word. We need to stop narrowing its definition. We need to accept it at its broadest, and recognize that to truly address it, we need to stop seeing people by the color of their skin, and we need to stop describing them by that same shade. And we need to teach everyone to do that. It really is just that simple.