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Opheila wrote:
I don't understand how one can be racist against somebody from one's own race. One can be insensitive, condescending, arrogant if one feels one belongs to a different social class and does not identify with poorer subgroups within one's ethnic group, I'll buy anything, but...racist?


Generally speaking, if we accept that racism is merely the attribution of race as the determinative factor in describing "human traits and capacities," then I think it's reasonable to think that people can be racist even towards a race to which they belong. But, to be clear, I didn't mean to infer that McWhorter is racist.

I meant only to raise my belief that people sometimes make racist statements that get a pass because those people belong to the race to which the comments are directed. In the case of McWhorter, and let me caution again, I haven't even seen his book, so this is certainly not meant to be conclusive. What made me suspect McWhorter was the brief mention I saw of his discussion on education, and the idea that black people embrace anti-intellectualism. And then I saw a chapter in the table of contents entitled "The Cult of Anti-intellectualism."

So, going back to the above definition of racism, this is an argument where McWhorter might be saying that anti-intellectualism is attributable to race. Again, this is just a guess at what McWhorter's discussion might be. But, if he attributes this "cult of anti-intellectualism" primarily to race, then that's a racist statement, whether or not he is a member of the race to which that statement is directed. As I said, I haven't even seen it yet; but, at first glance, McWhorter's book appears to be the sort of which I am wary.



Mon Dec 17, 2007 4:01 pm
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Post Definition of "racism".
My posting wasn't about McWorther, but about what I perceive to be a growing misuse of the word "racism".

I don't know whether the definition from M-Webster's Dictionary helps to make my point, but just in case:

racism:

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

2 : racial prejudice or discrimination


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Mon Dec 17, 2007 4:33 pm
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Nope, no discrepancy, as far as I can tell. In fact, the definition of racism you posted is pretty close to the one I was using above. A statement that attributes a "primary determinant of human traits" to race, is a racist statement. As I said, I wasn't speaking of people being racist, I was speaking of people making racist statements.

BTW, it may help if you note that I'm not judging whether racist statements are "good" or "bad" or even necessarily accurate or inaccurate. All I'm saying is if a statement asserts the "belief that race is the primary determinant of human traits and capacities," then that statement is racist, regardless of the race of the speaker or the target of the comment.

So, going back to what I was saying with McWorther, which is the context in which I raised this whole thing. If he, and I'm not saying that he does, but if he attributes this "cult of anti-intellectualism," referenced in his table of contents, primarily to race then I'd argue that's a racist statement.

But, generally speaking, I would definitely assert that anyone, regardless of race, can be racist toward his or her own race. And I don't think that skews the proper definition of racism.



Mon Dec 17, 2007 5:07 pm
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For the sake of argument, if I say:

1- When I went to classical music concerts in San Diego or Operas in Los Angeles, I noticed about 95 % (if not more) of the spectators were white.

It seemed to me that, at the end of the day or the week, different ehnic groups organized their leisure time in different ways.


2- When I was kindly invited for Christmas dinner by my African-American neighbours, I realized that all the books their little girl got for C where about black kids, and black heroes and heroines.

Are these racist statements?

I would say these are sentences in which I explain what I noticed about some of the elements of the lives of people from two racial groups.


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Mon Dec 17, 2007 5:36 pm
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First, if that question is directed to me, I didn't mean to posture myself as the expert on all statements racist. So let me preface this by saying I THINK:

No I wouldn't say either statement is racist, as neither statement fulfills the definition of racism. Neither statement draws any kind of conclusion about race as the primary determinant of, well, anything. You seem to have offered up two observations. And the one, quasi-conclusion drawn was about ethnicity, which I don't use synonymously with race.

Speaking of ethnicity, you had raised an interesting point in the original Little Rock thread about community, to which I had replied with a conversation referencing Arendt's discussion on "like attracts like." I'd be interested to hear your thoughts, if you find time. Especially considering it's possible the way communities develop in various countries, or even in various parts of the same country, might differ.



Mon Dec 17, 2007 8:02 pm
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I'm dragging another quote over from the "Little Rock" thread. Don't think we're picking on you, Ophelia.

Ophelia wrote:
Of course, I remember scenes from books or films from the days of slavery when one black man would call another "nigger" , but that was within a particular context when both those men were discriminated against by the slave owners.


When they were filming "Gone With the Wind", David O. Selznick insisted on including the book's original dynamic between house slaves and field slaves. House slaves would refer to field slaves as "nigger", and Selznick didn't want to sanitize that relationship for the sake of movie audiences. This was, of course, the heyday of the Censorship Board, so Selznick ultimately lost out on that aspect of the film. Incidentally, his insistence on including that dynamic was entirely consistent with the racial politics he attempted to forward with the film. The film was not intended to be anti-black, but rather, the relationships among blacks in the film were meant to serve, in part, as commentary on the situation effecting Jews when the film was made -- that is, the late 30s, when European Jews were first starting to run afoul of Nazi imperatives.

Like how I brought that full circle back to Arendt's topic?



Tue Dec 18, 2007 2:33 am
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How interesting, I had no idea! One tends to think those classics were dreamt of in the sanitized version form the start...


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Tue Dec 18, 2007 5:57 am
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Hardly. It was a full time job dancing around the standards of decency. Most of it was handled by implication and double entendre. Hollywood essentially adopted a Censorship Board to avoid having the government impose a stricter one on them. But then, that doesn't have a hell of a lot to do with the topic of this thread -- I only mentioned "Gone With the Wind" because it leapt into my tired head when I read your comments about racism within racial groups. Even so, my example wasn't really racism, per se, but cultural discrimination. It only looks like racism because it centers on a word we associate with racism.



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Racism in the context of US history, it seems to me, needs to be seen within the context of white supremacy and black self-loathing. African Americans who embrace the norms of white supremacy and engage in black self-loathing are perpetuating some of the worst of this nation's racist legacies.

African Americans who equate all of white America with white supremacy are also perpetuating racist legacies: everything white is not supremacist, nor should everything from europe be reduced to colonialism. Romantic notions of African nobility are as ahistorical as its Western counterparts.



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Mad wrote:
House slaves would refer to field slaves as "nigger"


I want to specifically note that when I say people are capable of being racist toward their own race, I'm not speaking about the use of racially-tinged, pejorative terms within the race. I am only speaking about those who apply race as the determinative factor of human traits and abilities.

I don't mean that you had implied otherwise Mad, but I want to be certain that it's understood.



Tue Dec 18, 2007 6:36 pm
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