Wednesday, September 29, 2010

"That's Racist!"

If you've hung out with me in the last, I don't know, 5 years, you've probably heard me say "that's racist against ______" about some off-color (pun definitely intended... "That's racist!") remark. For example, someone makes a joke about how women should be barefoot and in the kitchen; "That's racist against women!" Or perhaps a remark is said about the sexual preference of priests; "That's racist against Catholics!" Or a couple of times someone may have even stated that they think 1080i is far superior viewing quality to traditional television sets; "That's racist against non-HDTVs!"

Now, I don't think women, Catholics, or even TVs are a different biological race. But my point remains the same. And what is that increasingly confusing point?

That the term "racist" isn't even relevant anymore.

Hold up, wait a minute, is this fool crazy? Did he just say racism isn't relevant anymore?

That is exactly what I am saying my observant friend. Racism, as defined by Merriam-Webster's online dictionary, is
1: a belief that race is the primary determinant of human traits and capacities and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race; OR
2: racial prejudice or discrimination

Now I believe that prejudices can still exist based on things such as, language, economic background, and even someone's name. That's called human nature. Everyone always has to think they're better than someone else. But racism as the first definition listed above, that's become obsolete. There isn't a collective mindset that one group of people is better than another based on physiological traits or characteristics.

There isn't even a need to keep track of the differences in physiological traits or characteristics. In fact, it seems like the only people who are at all concerned with race, are those who claim to be victims of racists. Why does any instance of prejudice or dislike for a person of different skin color or background in general have to be a case of racism? Some people simply hate other people. Take, for example, the case of LeBron James.

LeBron James was a hero to the city of Cleveland, Ohio. He was the star player on a successful basketball team. He had brought recognition to the city of Cleveland, and they loved him. But in the summer of 2010 his contract was up and he was a free agent. This meant he could choose to play for any other team in the NBA that could afford him. Many in Cleveland hoped he would remain with them, although they didn't expect it. Other cities, like Chicago and New York, thought he might sign with their teams. In the end, he chose to play for the Miami Heat with friends he became close with during the 2008 Olympic Games, Chris Bosh and Dwayne Wade.

Now, no one can fault James for the decision he made. A free agent may go where he pleases when his contract has expired. However, that isn't exactly how it happened. In a big debacle "cleverly" named The Decision on ESPN, LeBron James took a primetime hour to announce where he would play ball in the future. Most people could see he had already made up his mind. And instead of thanking the city of Cleveland for all the love they had shown him during his years there, he basically made a show about all the good things he had done for the city; everything he had brought there. He basically chose to play in Miami and spit in Cleveland's face as he left.

Oh, plus he's black. At least, that's the only reason ESPN columnist Vincent Thomas could find for why people in America suddenly hated LeBron James. Nevermind that he acted like a complete a**hole on national television; America simply doesn't like him because he's a black man. But wait! there's more. Black people like James even more, says Thomas. He claims black people rally in support of a fellow black man, and then goes on to compare the trials and tribulations of LeBron James' off-season free agency with the actual racism legendary sports figures like Jackie Robinson and Jesse Owens.

Thomas uses the Q Scores Company data for his commentary, the "Q" most likely standing for questionable. The Q Scores Co. uses polling data across America to rank everything from brand recognition to TV show likability. Advertising companies pay top dollar for this polling data. But it's not as if LeBron James went from first to worst after The Decision aired on ESPN. And sports figures are already anathema to love/hate polling data. Tim Tebow, a talented athlete and amazing human being by most standards (eww, I can't believe I just typed that appositive phrase), is deeply hated outside of the University of Florida. Does that mean everyone who dislikes Tebow hates Christians or charity work?

The other problem with throwing out the "racist" label whenever someone is offended or put off by a group is that it diminishes the discussion that could be had otherwise. Many people have tried to label the conservative Tea-Party movement as racist. They know that when the word "racist" is thrown around, it ends any possible discussion, just as calling someone a "fascist" or "nazi" closes the avenues of conversation. Instead of arguing about the demands of the Tea-Party on a rational level, such as what can be done about the massive debt America is in danger of collapsing under, detractors call the movement racist because it was started seemingly in opposition to Barack Obama and his policies, who also happens to be the first black president the United States has elected.

Keep the lines of communication open. When speaking with someone who does spout prejudiced speech, point out out the error of their ways. If all else fails, you can write them off as an incorrigible idiot. But there is no reason to cry out "Racist!" and ask for their head on a plate just because they offended. The biggest problem with living in a free society means we have to put up with the people who say things that offend us. But that's a small price to pay for all of the luxuries and rights we do enjoy.

The shackles of disparity have been removed ("That's racist!"). Americans from all walks of life are finally on level playing field. They can be whatever they want to be. The only thing standing in a person's way is a feeling that the system is gamed against them. If you go in thinking you're going to lose, then how can you win?


Anonymous said...

I agree that it's idiotic when people say, "that's racist" in order to end an argument. Generally, though, I don't feel that it ends there. Usually a lengthy discussion of what racism is follows.

Aaron, don't be that guy to use a dictionary definition in a persuasive essay. It really reeks of a desperate attempt to simplify a complex discussion, much like you complain about. I'm not sure why this is acceptable, but I always discouraged my students from doing it because it's reflective of ignorance. Racism is complex. You can't look for the answer to come from a book that simplifies things to their vague essence.

Also, your argument is flawed when you said that racism doesn't exist anymore; yet, you state that it used to. By this logic, you are claiming that there was one day in American (or world?) history when racism came to an end. Could you let me know when that day was?

I thought your choice to use LaBron as an example for this is idiotic as well. How can you use someone that is so high profile and such an exception to the typical American norm to define the problem of racism. Plus, it sounds like that ESPN announcer was probably disparaged for his views. I can't believe that he would have been celebrated for saying something like that.

So, by disagreeing with your rant and finding it small minded and "idiotic", where do I stand on the racism issue. Well, I'm definitely careful to use the term. I've been on the receiving end of that term as a teacher, and it can seriously damage someone's perceived character. But, I've also been a part of several situations where through my own grasp of the CONCEPT of racism (not a simplified definition), I can confidently say that people have said or done racist things. Notice, I didn't say the people were racist, but they do or say things that are. Those things are usually aggressive actions or words. Most often words. I saw an example of something on a yahoo message board today that I would call racist....

Political correctness and Obama have destroyed America. Stand up for America and quality in November, and say, "NO" to anyone who sides with BO (Blame Others) Barack Obama. Switzerland is beating America in productivity.....Switzerland is #1 in productivity....America is way down the list. Finland is beating America in education. Finland is #1 in Education....America is way down the list. The reason this is happening is due to political correctness......American education is watered down to cater to the minorities dragging down our statistics in world standing.

America was founded as the land of equal opportunity for all.....not the land of political correctness to allow minoritities to drag us ALL down to the lowest common denominator in our society. I am sick and tired of political correctness. It is time to be a proud Americans as we used to be before we were dragged down with ALL of this political correctness nonsense.

Beverly said...

I may not agree with everything you say, but as your grandmother it thrills me to pieces to see your thoughts on 'paper' and know that you think for yourself and are interested enough in candidates and issues to take a stand.