Americans Disagree About What Racism Is, And It’s A Big Problem

Americans Disagree About What Racism Is, And It’s A Big Problem, by David Marcus.

There are two basic definitions of racism in the United States, one roughly associated with progressives and one roughly associated with conservatives.

  • The former describes racism as the failure to acknowledge and seek to redress systemic discrimination against select disadvantaged minority groups. It is very broad and captures everything from unconscious bias to white supremacy.
  • The latter views racism as making assumptions about, or taking action towards, an individual or group on the sole basis of their race. It is narrow and generally requires belief, intent, and animosity.

These definitions don’t simply differ; to a great extent they actually contradict each other. …

There is a double standard here that progressives don’t actually deny. It is, in fact, baked into their definition of racism. Under their rubric, the definition of racist has a double standard precisely because society has double standards that they argue overwhelmingly disadvantage the less privileged. It is internally logical and consistent in a way a lot of conservatives don’t quite understand.

On the other hand, those on the left are often shocked when polls show that majorities of white people believe that they are discriminated against in the United States. They will point to economic data, political power, and cultural representation and say, “You people are crazy.” But under the narrower definition of racism, it makes perfect sense. These white people are reacting to the fact that they can be attacked on the basis of their race in ways others can’t. In addition, whites — and increasingly Asians — look at programs like affirmative action as inherently racist.

That first definition relies on the blank slate theory, which assumes that all large groups of people (such as races) have identical statistical properties. Thus, statistical differences in racial outcomes must be due to discrimination. On average blacks have lower incomes and spend more time in prison — hence the charge of “systemic racism”.

That second definition is the traditional definition. Just treat people fairly as individuals, but don’t deny that statistical differences between groups exist. For example, women are generally shorter than men, and blacks have more melanin on average than whites, and blacks on average don’t do as well as whites on IQ tests. In this view, differences in group outcome are not necessarily due to discrimination.

The first definition is based on a politically-correct assumption, which as it happens is wildly incorrect. The second definition is based on traditional morality, and has no difficulty accommodating reality.