It’s one pretty much certain way to determine that you have won a debate. Your opponent, having despaired of countering your arguments one by one, having consulted Shopenhauer’s 38 Stratagems, and found nothing to aid him there, finally, in desperation, is reduced to calling you either a Nazi (an abject admission of utter defeat anyway), or…
So what actually is racism? If you are going to throw about accusations of this sort, you had better have a concrete definition. The word in the English language is generally defined like this:
Racism is the hypothesis, or belief, that one race of human beings is inherently superior to another race in some way.
It’s a theory that’s so easy to pick apart it hardly seems worth the time. But let’s do so, just out of interest. For a start, there’s the definition of race. Advances in the field of genetics in recent decades have almost invariably tended to de-emphasize race, and highlight the similarities among all humans. We all share, I believe, something like 99.8% of our genetic code. I remember social science textbooks from my childhood asserting there were just four races of humans: caucasians, mongoloids, negroids and australoids (I guess it was just my good fortune not to be an -oid). But then, I guess, these are the same social science textbooks that once told me that when Europeans first settled on the Australian continent in 1788, the native inhabitants simply ran away, or died of the common cold. The current state of scientific knowledge is that, depending on how you want to define it, there are anything from three to three hundred races of humans. Race, as a descriptor of people, becomes less and less useful with every passing year.
There are actually, however, some occasions when racial descriptors are useful, even unavoidable. It has been demonstrated, for example, that people of West African descent have a significantly higher proportion of fast-twitch muscle fibre than other people. Which kind of explains the make-up of the Olympic Games 100 metres sprint final. Or when you look at various diseases, to which certain races are especially susceptible, such as cystic fibrosis (most common among Northern Europeans), haemochromatosis (Celts), Tay-Sachs disease (Azkhenazi Jews) or sickle-cell anemia (Arabs and sub-Saharan Africans). But sporting predispositions and public health aside, the practical uses for the concept of race seem pretty thin on the ground.
Do you know any racists? I’ve met a few in my travels, but not many. People who genuinely believe that black people, yellow people, Arabs, Indians, whatever, are somehow inherently inferior to themselves. It was a dominant cultural belief in the West as recently as a century ago, and persists in many (actually, Virginia, most) cultures around the world today. It stems from tribalism, of course; the natural human tendency of people to divide themselves into sub-groups, or tribes, and then reinforce that distinction with visible markers, of which physical appearance is the most obvious.
Unfortunately, then you get the army of snivellers, who appear determined to hold on to the race argument at all costs. They do this (as they have done with so many other English words) by altering its definition: broadening it, diluting it and, invariably, weakening it. No, no, Ozboy, begins one, racism is all around you. There’s subtle racism, coded racism, implied racism and—
At which point, I fight the urge to hurl a dictionary in his face. But I suppose that even that may not help any more. I’m reminded here of Julia Gillard’s 2012 “Misogyny speech” in the House of Representatives, aimed at Tony Abbott. After it had been pointed out that a) the Macquarie Dictionary (the official reference of Australian English) defined misogyny as a hatred of women, and b) there was not a scintilla of evidence that Abbott, with a wife of 25 years, three independent adult daughters, a devoted sister (who came out as a lesbian and is now seeking preselection as a Liberal candidate), a highly-regarded female parliamentary Deputy Leader, and a fiery female Chief of Staff, has any hatred of women whatsoever—quite the opposite, in fact—the Macquarie Dictionary’s editor Sue Butler came rushing to Gillard’s aid, actually changing her dictionary’s definition of misogyny ex post facto, to fit Gillard’s argument! Misogyny is now defined to mean whatever a totalitarian wants it to mean, and reserves the right to change the definition as the need fits. A terrifying precedent.
Talk about Orwellian.
You may remember two years ago, I posted a thread on the controversial Enoch Powell, on the date of his 100th anniversary. When asked his own view by interviewer David Frost (using the then-common variant racialist), he was unequivocal:
It depends on how you define the word “racialist”. If you mean being conscious of the differences between men and nations, and from that, races, then we are all racialists. However, if you mean a man who despises a human being because he belongs to another race, or a man who believes that one race is inherently superior to another, then the answer is emphatically “No.”
The key to the paradox lies right there in that quote. It isn’t race that most people use as a criterion for discrimination, it’s culture, which is what Powell refers to by men and nations. Most people in the West today regard it as backward, if not embarrassingly scatological, to judge any human races as superior or inferior. But we can (and should) form such judgements about cultures, primarily using the yardstick of Liberty. I am quite happy to denounce cultures (or at any rate, many of their dominant aspects), on the basis that they imprison women, treat children as chattels, permit slavery and human trafficking, and so on.
But that’s the loophole the race-mongers love to slip through. It’s a fact that, as you look around the globe, the cultures that most deserve condemnation are largely peopled by humans of a small number of races. Historical happenstance, no more, yet a loophole still. Whereas the cultures we regard as more enlightened are peopled by nice, clean, God-fearin’ white folks. In their eyes, to judge a culture which practices infanticide based on gender, or captures schoolgirls at gunpoint and sells them off as sex slaves or concubines, or slices out their external genitalia, ensuring a lifetime of pain and no pleasure; to condemn these cultures at all, they assure us, is closet racism!
We need to counter decisively the accusations of those who, wilfully blind, appear determined to conflate race and culture, and not merely for the purposes of sophistry. By accusing anyone who condemns the practices of another culture as barbaric of being a closet racist, not only are they implying that culture is in fact racially pre-determined but, by extension, that non-white people can never independently succeed in the culture of the West. This is the real reason they agitate for things like affirmative action: because, at the end of the day, they really do suspect that non-whites are inferior. Which suffuses them with guilt, and anger. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is the real racism.
The fact is, Western civilization was once just as barbarous as many of today’s other dominant cultures. The fact of the Enlightenment of its culture, the Reformation of its often bloodthirsty religion, and the institutions of Constitution, parliamentary government and Common Law have set Western civilization on an upward trajectory for half a millennium. We have a bloody long way to go yet. And we welcome all those from around the world who wish to buy into our philosophy, irrespective of genetics. We have even attempted (often naïvely) to transplant Western civilization into cultures which are neither prepared for it, nor even desire it. Maybe these cultures will one day experience their own Enlightenment. And eventually, perhaps, rise even higher than our own. But there is very little we can do to advance that process; like our own transformation, it must start from within.
All of which leaves any confected accusations of racism, all the more hollow.