The words “race,” “racist,” and “racism” get tossed around in our society with the force and urgency of children playing a classic game of “hot potato.” It’s one of those words that, when we use it, we assume that listeners know what it entails. We tend to use it when people speak inappropriately or disrespectfully about other races of people. It’s a call to understanding that racism is a bad thing, something that we’ve been trying to eradicate. We’ve come a long way in that endeavor, but the journey is still in its infancy.
We achieved a modest level of success in the Civil Rights movement. Our right to vote and our right to participate on more equal social footing in American society are things our predecessors fought hard for, and we should honor those men, women, and children who sacrificed for those freedoms. One of the most fundamental, effective ways to honor them is to continue seeking and subduing racism wherever we find it. The problem today is that we’ve forgotten what true, historical racism looks like.
Racism can’t be properly identified by a dictionary alone. Why? Because most definitions change over time to fit the age in which the words are used. It’s one of those words that are best understood within the context of history.
A “race,” loosely defined, is a group of people of a common lineage or descent. The suffix “-ism,” when attached to a word, expresses that the root word is being practiced. If you define “racism” by its two parts, it would mean that you’re grouping of people by lineage and descent. It’s simply a matter of categorization, but it doesn’t quite cover the true definition. That’s where historical context comes in. History shows us that power and the notion of superiority played major roles in the execution of racism. Races of human beings were grouped together, marginalized, and abused by people who believed they were given the right by God to do so, and whose notion of superiority and prejudice drove them to subdue, colonize, and enslave hundreds of millions of people over centuries. Even after freedom was “given,” laws were created and enforced to maintain the superiority complex of one group of people while allowing the other group to believe that what little they were given was more than they had hoped for. To continue this “free subjugation,” overseers continually doled out just enough perks to keep subdued people happy and in a perpetual state of dependency.
This is racism, true and historical racism. It goes beyond hurtful words and prejudice. I can hate your guts, but won’t affect where you live, work, and play. Your feelings don’t define racism. What makes racism “racism” is the ability to act upon those hurtful words and prejudices by punishing others and stonewalling everything society needs to maintain equality for all.
For the sake of clarity, I’ll quickly treat the suffix “-ist,” as in “racist.” The suffix denotes someone who adheres to a custom or doctrine. A rac-IST adheres to the doctrine and practice of rac-ISM. If you adhere to and defend it, you’re a practitioner of it. You’re a racist. Boom.
This watered-down version of racism is still as potent as ever. It uses notions of love and political correctness to minimize dissent. Today’s racism tells people of color to look past the hate and embrace love. Today’s racism ignores the uniqueness of all races of people by telling you that there’s only one race, the human race, and that it “doesn’t see color.” Today’s racism convinces you that “reverse racism” is alive and well, even though it’s impossible for white people to do everything it did to us to themselves AND STILL MAINTAIN CONTROL OVER US. Today’s racism seeks to keep control by continually making you feel guilty for offending someone. It deftly turns everything we’ve known about it over on its head. No one wants you to address it because no one wants to see it, as though it’ll just get tired of being cold-shouldered to the point where it takes it’s ball and goes home. That ain’t how it works.
We have to define this thing before we can deal the blows needed to knock it out. Today’s racism hides behind deceptively good intentions; it’s the modern day Trojan horse. Allowing it to slip into our language, with no historical attachment or context, will have horrible consequences for us all.
I love you. #BlessedBeTheGrind