Racism Is Not About Feeling

Racism Is Not About Feeling August 29, 2017

Happy Racism
The Happy Feeling of Racism

Plaudits to David Brooks for “How Trump Kills the GOP“, articulating from some position within the political right that white supremacy in the GOP predates the maniac in the White House, that the maniac’s amplification of “white identity politics” is bound to doom the GOP, and that “Each individual Republican is now compelled to embrace this garbage or not”. Using the word “garbage” was an especially nice touch.

But I’m not convinced that racism “is about feeling others are inferior”, as Brooks suggests in this NYT piece. And I’m not convinced that this is an incidental concern about Brooks’ argument.

The systemic racism in the USA is surely sustained by this conflation of racism and “feeling”, because the conflation denies any external judgment and recognizes racism only when it appears in a person’s own experience of self.

A person who does not experience himself/herself as racist is, thus, off the hook for whatever he/she might do. And most of us, I’m confident, experience ourselves, fundamentally, as not hateful, hurtful, nasty, rotten, or however we imagine racism must feel. Based on the exclusive, private access we each have to our selves—and to the complex of desires, fears, intentions, pleasures, rationales, and emotions that urge us through life—we each know, deep in the hearts that no one else can see, that we aren’t racist.

And, yet, here we are, where racism just does not stop.

Surely, racism is not “about feeling others are inferior”, but is coextensive with what people do to others who have not only been constructed as a class by some or other genetic/cultural shibboleth, but who also—in this country, at least—as this constructed class have been oppressed through a centuries-long horror perpetrated in the interest of greed.

A person—the author of this post, not excluded—who does things that perpetuate this construction of others as a class and that contribute to the ongoing oppression of others as this class, must be guilty of racism, whether or not the person “feels” genetically/culturally superior, or anything else.

I certainly hope that the racist maniac in the White House gets removed from the White House and installed in a dank prison cell, somewhere. And I do hope the GOP implodes and explodes and ruptures and unravels and whatever other metaphors might be employed to suggest a cataclysmic dissolution. But these happy occasions will be incidental without widespread concession that racism is not about feeling.


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