Ron Paul is accused of “racism” for material that was published decades ago in a newsletter that he used to publish. Rather than argue here whether or not the charge is justified, let us instead consider the concept of “racism” itself.
If those who endorse the conventional wisdom are certain of nothing else, they are certain of the truth of the following propositions: “Racism” is prevalent and it is the most egregious of transgressions, the most awful of vices. So horrible is “racism” that it is perhaps the sole offense that our popular culture treats as virtually unpardonable. Public figures are forgiven for all manner of evil, from marital infidelity to the violation of promises to chronic dishonesty. But if convicted in the court of public opinion of “racism,” he or she can expect to be driven from “respectable society.”
Our sense of certitude notwithstanding, popular thought regarding “racism” is in a dilapidated condition. To put it more bluntly, talk on this topic is confused to the point of being incoherent.
For one, “racism” is almost always ascribed to whites. This is very strange when it is considered that blacks victimize whites at a rate several times that at which whites victimize blacks. Roughly 90% of all interracial crime is black-on-white. And since Hispanics are identified as “white” when they are the perpetrators of “hate crimes”—though not when they are victims—interracial crime involves white perpetrators less than 10% of the time.
But if “racism” is so easy to spot, and if it is something so terrible that no decent person could fail to be offended by it, then why are the most indignant of “anti-racists” among us invariably silent when it comes to the astronomical rate of black-on-white crime?
This is one paradox that deserves pondering.
There is another problem, though, upon which we would be well served to reflect.
In spite of—or perhaps because of—our incessant talk of all things racial, we are eons away from reaching a consensus as to the nature of “racism.”
If you are white and you acknowledge that the average IQ among blacks is a standard deviation lower than that found among whites, you are “racist.” (If, though, you are white and acknowledge that the average IQ among Asians is slightly higher than the average IQ among whites, somehow, you are not “racist!”).
If you are white and you believe that this IQ difference found between blacks and whites is due to anything other than “cultural bias” in the IQ testing, you are “racist.”
If you are white and you support “the War on Drugs,” you are “racist.”
If you are white and you observe that according to the government’s own statistical surveys, blacks victimize whites in far greater numbers than whites victimize blacks, you are “racist.”
If you are white and you support the death penalty specifically and strict enforcement of the laws generally, you are “racist.”
If you are white and you enjoy NASCAR driving, or golfing, or hockey, you are “racist.”
If you are white and you believe that O.J. Simpson was guilty of murdering his wife and her lover, you are “racist.”
If you are white and you prefer the suburbs to the cities, you are “racist.”
If you are white and you prefer private schools to public schools for your children, you are “racist.”
If you are white and you use words like “black hole, or expressions like “pure as the driven snow,” you are “racist.”
If you are white and you are a Christian, you are “racist.”
If you are white and you are materially well to do, you are “racist.”
If you are white and you are conservative, you are “racist.”
If you are white and you are a Republican, you are “racist.”
If you are white and you are a member of the Tea Party, you are “racist.”
If you are white and you are not a leftist, you are “racist.”
If you are white and you are a leftist, you are still “racist.”
If you are white and a police officer or soldier, you are “racist.”
If you are white and Southern, you are “racist.”
If you are white and didn’t’ vote for Barack Obama in 2008, you are “racist.”
If you are white, voted for Obama, but are now critical of him, you are “racist.”
If you are white, you are “racist.”
Whether it is to Adolph Hitler, Bull Connor, or David Duke; neo-Nazis, Ku Klux Klansmen, Confederate soldiers, or Republicans; Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, or Ron Paul; Trent Lott or the Los Angeles Police; genocidal murderers or white babies—some indignant “anti-racist” or other has applied the term “racism.”
How, any remotely reasonable person must ask, can a word that is applied this indiscriminately to persons and organizations that share nothing in common but the color of their skin possibly have any meaning? At the very least, such a person can only conclude that if the term ever meant anything, it has long since lost what meaning it had.
There is one final consideration to which we should attend when exploring the concept of “racism.”
During the medieval era, it was not uncommon to regard God as “the Unmoved Mover” and “the Uncaused Cause.” Today, it would seem, we think of “racism” along similar lines. “Racism” may not be eternal, like God, but, the “anti-racists” imply, it no more owes its being to antecedent causes than does God Himself. The (always white) “racist” is treated as the embodiment of raw, undifferentiated irrationality. And he is thought to be as immoral as he is irrational.
Two things of which to take note here.
The first is that no disposition or activity, whether something to which we decide to give the name “racism” or anything else, partakes of this character: there are reasons, whether justified or not, for everything.
Secondly, whether the reasons for “racism” or any anything else are good or bad is something that can be settled only once those reasons are identified and discussed.
“Racism” is indeed a matter over which we should dialogue. Yet if it is greater understanding, not moral exhibitionism, in which we are interested, then our discussion must begin with a tough minded examination of the concept of “racism” itself.
Jack Kerwick, Ph.D.