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  1. #1
    ODN Community Regular

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    Jun 2008
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    The Dictionary Versus The Social Justice Definition Of Racism

    It feels good to be back after close to a decade off!

    Anyway, in this post, I am going to argue that the dictionary definition of racism (DD) is better than what I will term the "social justice definition" (SJD) of racism.

    The dictionary definition of racism is as follows:

    a belief or doctrine that inherent differences among the various human racial groups determine cultural or individual achievement, usually involving the idea that one's own race is superior and has the right to dominate others or that a particular racial group is inferior to the others.

    The social justice definition of racism, as I will term it, is a bit different. It says that "racism" is "prejudice plus power." Going by this definition, "two elements are required in order for racism to exist: racial prejudice, and social power to codify and enforce this prejudice into an entire society."

    I believe that the DD is better because it is far easier to tell who is racist and who is not. To illustrate my point, let's use this hypothetical example: a Chinese-American on a Korean flight that's flying over the Pacific calls a white, Jewish man a slur against Jews. He then proceeds to praise Hitler, stating that he wished the Fuhrer would have "killed 6 million more." Is the Chinese American racist? According to the DD, it's pretty easy to conclude he is. Going by the SJD, however, it's not so clear. Would a Chinese-American have the requisite power on a Korean flight? Maybe, considering he's Asian. Would a Jew have more power than him? Again, maybe, considering he is white, but he's also a member of a historically persecuted minority, and he's on an Asian flight.

    The point is, using the SJD, we have to ask a lot more questions in order to figure out who is racist and who isn't.

    Or how about this real-life story? Recently, Instagram comedian Jessica Moore -- aka Jess Hilarious -- got four men whom she mistakenly labelled "Muslim" (they were actually Sikhs) kicked off of a flight. According to Newsweek:

    Moore posted a since-deleted tweet which allegedly led to four Sikh men being removed from the flight before it departed the airport. The comedian then published an Instagram story to say her comments were justified and "[her] news is real."

    Were Moore's actions racist? Again, going by the DD, it seems to be clear they were. But going by the SJD, we're not so sure. Where do African Americans sit on the power hierarchy in relation to Sikhs?

    The DD also has the advantage of being applied equally across the board. It allows all people to be racist and all people to be victims of racism. The SJD, on the other hand, only allows those with power to be racist. In a nation with many angry whites complaining that they are being persecuted, this just make them feel more persecuted and adds fuel to their anger and sense of alienation.

    The DD has two advantages, and from what I can see, the SJD has no advantages. The DD should therefore be used by all people over the SJD.



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