Racism is Too Easy

It’s easy to call things racist. The Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 let everyone but the Chinese immigrate to the US. RACIST! The recent law in Arizona encourages racial profiling. RACIST! There aren’t enough Asian Americans on TV. RACIST!

And while it’s true, racism exists, its not always a useful word. “Racism” doesn’t tell us about people’s motivations (especially now, people don’t say they’re racist. They say they’re protecting their country, or livelihood, or looking at the facts. Simply calling someone racist doesn’t fix their prejudices). And it doesn’t tell us how to solve the problem. In fact, naming something or someone as racist often keeps the problem from being solved, because people then spend all their efforts trying to prove that they’re not racist.

When I was in high school, I spent a lot of time trying to convince my peers that oppression and inequality (racial and otherwise) existed and affected our lives. I haven’t changed my mind about that. But I’m realizing now what a small step that is. I used to think that getting people to recognize racism was the answer, but its so much more complicated than that. If it were simple, someone would have solved it already.

Is it possible to talk about people’s motivations and how to solve problems without the word “racism”? If it closes off avenues of conversation, rather than opening them, is it possible? It seems a bit like trying to solve algebra without identifying the variables, but if a step like that were possible, would we have more allies?

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2 thoughts on “Racism is Too Easy

  1. I strongly believe shouting racism has become akin to invoking Hitler in an internet debate. Justified or not, it quickly stifles discourse and injects emotion into an argument too quickly.

    But I disagree with you on the reasoning. I try to avoid pulling out the race card (sidenote: I actually made a “race card” at one point, but it seemed too risky and narrowly applicable to be useful) because it puts people on the defensive and also because “racism” is just a smaller part of a larger problem. In the end equality sounds grand and nice and can be used as the rallying point without having to accuse people of petty hate.

  2. Pingback: That’s Racist « Movements and Moments

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