What is racism?



Words seem to mean different things these days. For example the word racism the way it is being used by some in the United States of America right now is synonymous with being a member of the Republican Party. The term has even been expanded to include anybody that voted for President Donald Trump and also those who did not vote for him but have a slight inclination to support any of his policies. Is this the new definition of racism? Or are people invoking this word to keep stoking the flames of hate and animosity among the different people in the country?


According to the English Oxford Living Dictionaries, racism is defined as

“Prejudice, discrimination, or antagonism directed against someone of a different race based on the belief that one's race is superior.”[1]


As you can see, the standard dictionary definition of racism is making the assumption that humans are divided into different races. Because of that, some people may feel that their own race is superior to other races. It is strange that people have a need to feel superior to others. According to this definition, racism is based on a “belief that one’s race is superior.” Where does this belief in superiority come from? What is this belief based on? The short answer is that the belief is baseless and at best, faulty when placed under any serious scrutiny.


It is important to take a different look at how other people define racism. Let us consider the following definition of racism by Conde (2017):


Racism is the mistaken and gratuitous belief that the social construct of race is the primary factor in determining human characteristics and abilities, and that racial differences produce, again mistakenly and gratuitously, inherent superiority of a particular race.[2]


I like the fact that Conde highlights the fallacy in believing that a social contract is valid enough to use it to discriminate against other people.


There is one human race and any attempt to divide the human race into different categories, classes or groups is a social construct because there is no such thing as the black race, white race or Asian race. In as much as people like to use this classification, it does not make it true.

This is why to fight racism, it is important to start deconstructing some of these social constructs.


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[1] English Oxford Living, Dictionaries [2] Quotes & key text excerpts. (2017). In H. V. Conde, Human rights and the United States (3rd ed.). Amenia, NY: Grey House Publishing. Retrieved from http://ezproxy.libproxy.db.erau.edu/login?url=https://search.credoreference.com/content/entry/greyhuman/quotes_andamp_key_text_excerpts/0?institutionId=951

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