I think we can define racism simply as a type of discrimination based on race. Discrimination is not in and of itself a bad thing. For example, I am very discriminating on who are my friends and who I trust to care for my kids. It is a stupid thing to discriminate based on inessentials, like race. It is an evil thing to promote discrimination of inessentials as law. That's why most racism discussions center on laws and regulations that are designed to negatively impact certain races.
But here's an important differentiation - its not just "negative impact" that defines racism, its legislation that is "designed" to "negatively impact" other races. There must be intent. Without intent, you merely have a law. Perhaps a bad law for other reasons, but not a racist law. So the poll tax and Jim Crow laws can be considered racist because history shows us that the intention for creating the laws were to keep blacks downtrodden.
If you want to show that the Tea Party is racist, you need to likewise show that their intent is to discriminate based on race.He disagreed that a label of racism implies intent, so I elaborated:
By my definition of racism as a type of discrimination, I'm not sure I could agree that it is something un/sub conscious. The act of discrimination is conscious in nature. I differentiate that from prejudice, which is a conscious or subconscious bias toward some person, group, or class of things without knowing all the facts. You seem to favor prejudice by race as the definition of racism. I favor discrimination by race as the definition of racism.
The reason I favor the latter definition is that the former seems to overly broad and not all that useful. Certainly people have prejudices and they should be careful to eliminate them the best they can. But with your definition, almost anyone can be called a racist without recourse. I could say (and I don't believe this) "Curtis is racist but he doesn't even realize it". I think it cheapens the concept racist to include honest but real prejudices with insidious racial discrimination. Basically, it tries to lump simple biases that may not be consciously chosen with wicked mob lynchings, classifying all under an "evil" tag of racism. That does an injustice to those who may not even want their bias and an injustice to those who deserve the label of "evil" but have it watered down.After writing this, I imagined some examples that seem appropriate here. If racism is merely a bias toward or against another race, than any preference/bias/likes/dislikes of anything related to skin color/nationality/origin could be considered racism; a preference for Cuban music is racist, liking German food is racist, choosing sushi over spaghetti is racist, marrying a white woman is racist, or thinking that the Russian language is harsh is racist. The whole idea that racism is slippery and insidious would make it applicable to everyone with any preferences.
Curtis asked in turn:
"The act of discrimination is conscious in nature."
How? I think that's an untenable position. We now have data that toddlers choose light skinned dolls over dark skinned dolls regardless of the race of the child. Are you saying that is a conscious decision even though toddlers have no conceptualization of race?I'm not familiar with this research, but if true could be caused by any number of things. But I seriously doubt this is a conscious decision and hence not discrimination. According to OED, the definition of discriminate is "1. To make or constitute a difference in or between; to distinguish, differentiate. 2. To distinguish with the mind or intellect; to perceive, observe, or note the difference in or between." It is in this sense that I use the word discrimination. Making, constituting, perceiving, observing, and noting are all conscious processes. So no, I would not consider these children racist (discriminating based on race). But according to his own conception of racism, they would be, which leads me a little bit confused by his question.
Curtis also asks:
"But with your definition, almost anyone can be called a racist without recourse."
If they're racist, then they should be called racist, no? And what recourse would there be? I don't get that part. It seems you have an idea of trying someone in court to determine if they're racist or not. I might be reading too much into it though.Without recourse refers to the appeal to innocence. If someone is labeled racist, how would it be possible to disprove that claim? When the definition of racism is any prejudice toward a race, the answer is - you can't. There is no evidence that would prove someone is not prejudice, because, as he describes it, the concept is slippery and insidious. Even Curtis admits as much in the last paragraph of his post "So is there "evidence" or "proof" that the Tea Party is racist? No." If there is no proof they are racist, then there can also be no proof they are not racist, because you can't disprove a negative. Once the label of racism is thrown at a person or a group, it is impossible to overcome that label.
That, I contend, is a improper way to define the term. As I noted above, pretty much anyone can be described as racist according to his definition. Any preferences toward one race over another, whether intentional or not, then you would be racist. But if everyone is "racist", then I'm left with a big "So what?" If everyone has these preferences, then everyone simply exists.
The only idea I can fathom that would motivate this definition of racism is the possibility that biases and prejudices left unchecked could lead to discrimination. This certainly has some plausibility, especially given the anti-conceptual nature of much of our culture. However, I certainly don't buy that certain biases and prejudices necessarily lead to discrimination. There is a possibility, no more. Individuals can consciously identify racial discrimination and reject it, even if certain biases led them to prefer one race or tradition over another. They can prefer the culture of whites (or blacks), yet consciously choose not to discriminate against another race because they know its wrong. They could judge each person they meet individually, as a man or woman, not a black man or a white woman or an Asian man or a Middle eastern woman or whatever their background may be. Where would this situation fit in with his definition? I don't know, but I would like to find out.
Based on all the evidence I've seen, the Tea Party is not racist. There may be a few racists that support the group, but nearly every instance where racists have shown up to Tea Party events, the organizers have marginalized their voice or kicked them out. The Tea Party did rise after Obama came into power, but only after he proceeded to push government spending beyond what even Bush was doing. Most Tea Partiers were mad at Bush and the Republicans for their spending. That's why the Tea Party refuses to identify with the Republicans. Obama promised something different. Instead, he gave us any even bigger debt. Of the Tea Party supporters I've talked too, not one has mentioned any sort of intent to hurt or dis-impoverish blacks. Not one has suggested that they dislike Obama because he his black. They dislike Obama because he had the most liberal voting record in the Senate in 2007. Maybe, just maybe, people dislike him because of that? Perhaps the policies they advocate are because they are genuinely worried about our debt, not because they secretly want to hurt some group of people. Perhaps they think and don't just feel.
I do offer limited approval of the Tea Party. I believe they are a mixed bag, but mostly good. They could really improve with a heavy dose of a philosophy respecting individual rights.