We all know the drill: X calls Y a ‘racist,’ then, Y calls X ‘racist’ for calling Y a ‘racist.’ Then, others enter the fray and repeat the accusations. And this is a major part of what passes as “politics” these days.
It seems too easy to forget that racism is not just a term, it is a real experience that happens to human persons. The simple folk sense of what racism truly is is not a part of the political discussion. Real folk understand the difference between ‘racism’ and ‘Racism.’
In one sense, we are all racists and should be undisturbed by that basic reality. In another sense, we are all Racists but differ in relations and degrees of Racism and ought to try to eradicate the spirit of Racism from the human condition.
The first sense of racism is the sense of perception. We perceive in pixels and with those pixelated images comes attention and judgment. Another word for that process of perception is discrimination. While the term has been politicized, it is nothing more than the neutral condition of sensory perception. We cannot perceive things all at once, we divide the world into categories and treat them accordingly.
In this neutral sense, ‘racism’ is the fact that one person looks, sounds, smells, or feels in a way that stands out to my senses. In this discriminatory sense of racism we cannot say, in advance, whether it is a problem. To know whether or not it is a problem to be a discriminatory racist—someone who perceives things; human, in other words—we need to know whether the intention of the act of discrimination has the added feature of supremacy.Supremacy is not a simple property to the human act of perception, but it does seem to be all too ordinary in the human condition. It is the hallmark of the Racism. Racism that we ought to oppose and try to eradicate in ourselves and each other—especially those who seem to see racial supremacy as unproblematic to begin with.
I am not worried about racial discrimination unless it seems to be supremacist. Racial supremacy of any kind is intolerable. Racial discrimination of many kinds is not only tolerable, but, indeed, quite necessary.
Attempting to sanely discern the difference between the two is what it would take to elevate political discourse on race from hand-wringing to an authentic consideration of what it means to be a racist in a folk sense of the term—a sensibility that doesn’t suffer from the need for these tortured categories.
Until then, most of what passes for political discourse on race, is nothing more than name-calling and grandstanding substituting for serious consideration of the cancer of supremacist discrimination—Racism, in other words—that plagues human persons.