For a long time now, I’ve been wondering how it is that anyone could call Barak Obama racist for saying, for example, that Trayvon Martin could have been his son or that he is fomenting racial hatred because he says that too many Black men are dying at the hands of the police.  To me, both are simply objective observations by a President attempting to humanize or otherwise illuminate racial problems.   How, I asked myself, could anyone come up with the idea – much reported in the media – that by claiming Trayvon Martin for his own he was fanning racial hatred?  It just made no sense to me. 

But unbeknownst to me, apparently we as a society have changed the definition of racism since my youth (the 1960’s) or if not the core definition, then the genesis of racism.  No longer is racism and discrimination a product of willful or inadvertent practices and actions by, say, our police departments stopping Black men for no good reason, Federal Agencies like HUD excluding African Americans from subsidized housing or the real estate industry’s (and the Fed’s) practice of excluding minorities from certain neighborhoods through redlining.  This, as I knew it, was the macro scene on the racial front, i.e. “institutional racism” as it used to be called.  The other component, personal racism, was based on personal, individual utterances and actions against minority folks by people who were ignorant.  This was the mirco-social racial scene.

The larger macro scene was to be fixed by enlightened legislation, targeted lawsuits, training and educational programs.  The micro scene, was to be ameliorated by integration of neighborhoods, schools, workplaces and other social constructs that promoted cross group fertilization, as it were.  Efforts on both fronts were prime elements of how America would confront and resolve its racial divisions.   

But somewhere along the line, my take on macro and micro race issues got superseded by definitional changes.   Society does this.  Over time a particular term – “liberal,” for example – morphs into a different definition sometimes diametrically opposed to what the original definition might have been.  Used to be that “liberal,” in a personal sense, referred to someone who believed in equal rights for everyone regardless of race, creed, religion or ethnicity, but over the past three decades has now come to men “weak, socialist, anti-patriotic and subversive.”

The same shift in definition has apparently occurred with the term “racism” It now means, according to a recent article in the New York Times, someone who has evil in his heart, is racist in his personal outlook and his singular view of minorities (my micro scene definition). Gone, apparently, is any references to “institutional” racism (redlining, steering, systematic exclusion, restrictive covenants, etc.) the more pervasive and, indeed, the more egregious form of racism.  The Justice Department, in its report on the Ferguson Police Department, outlined a list of “systematic actions” that the Ferguson Police Department undertook that promoted racism towards Ferguson’s African American community.  Even this one, small, study highlighted pervasive, systematic discrimination in a mini-macro sense as opposed to the personal attitudes and views of individual police officers.  (This is why “sensitivity training” tends not to work to correct abusive police practices.)  But in today’s redefinition of “racism,” it’s White folks who play the race card claiming that they are the ones who are discriminated against and not all those “other” minority groups. 

As David Duke is quoted as saying, “There’s massive racial discrimination against European Americans and that’s the reality.”

So there you have it folks!  It’s not Blacks, or Latinos, or Women or the Handicapped or LGBT folks who are discriminated against.  It’s White Folks!  Now he didn’t say this, of course.  David Duke only said that – and I’m completing his thought - in addition to discrimination against all the minority groups there is ALSO massive discrimination against White people.

But this only works, only has traction, if you adopt the new definition of “racism” that is “racism of the heart,” the evil work of individuals with hatred in their hearts (bigots) and not institutional racism.  This is a very convenient thing for White folks to believe in because by adopting this view there is no need to reform social institutions since they are not the genesis of racism.   Individuals are.  Thus society as a whole need not be concerned about such reform since racism is the result of the sins of the few. 

When Trump criticized Mexican-American Judge Curiel for being biased against him, House Speaker, Paul Ryan, called it a racist comment.  “Claiming a person can’t do their job because of their race is sort of like the textbook definition of a racist” is what he actually said.  Yet, Ryan could not and did not bring himself to call Trump racist.  Why?  Well, as he said: “I’m saying the comment was racist.  I don’t know what’s in his heart.”  Ryan could not speak to the state of Trump’s heart and soul because only God could actually divine Trump’s heart and soul, thus he had no cause to call Trump racist.

Trump also coached his surrogates to call out the people who were asking if he, Trump, was racist. “The people asking the question, those are the racists.  I would go at ‘em.”  Trump, in this context, is the victim of racism, not the perpetrator.  This is the end result of the re-definition of racism to mean “personal evil,” the bigotry in one’s heart:  now anyone can be racist, can be the victims of racism and anyone – Black, White, Latino, Asian, Buddhist - can be racist.  This is why Black Lives Matter can be so readily derided as a “racist organization,” why Al Sharpton, Beyoncé Knowles and Kanye West are racist.  Or advocates of bussing and quotas and folks who object to Voter ID Laws are racist.  When racism comes from the evil heart, there is simply no such thing as racism in the macro sense. Institutional doesn’t exist. 

This, then, is how our Black President can be called racist, can be condemned for “fanning the flames of racism.”  Never mind that Red State efforts to prevent voter fraud with bogus Voter ID laws inordinately impact minorities.  That’s not racism because in order for it to be labeled as such under the new definition of racism, the legislators who drafted and enacted such discriminatory laws would have to have done so with personal evil and animosity in their hearts.  And, if you ask them, this was most certainly not at all what their hearts were feeling when they voted to disenfranchise Blacks, Latinos, poor folks and the elderly as they were attempting to prevent voter fraud. 

But this trend towards the redefinition of commonly used terms has a particularly dangerous downside:  one of the essential elements to promote Fascism is the evocation of “victimhood” much the same way that under today’s new definition of “racism,” it’s White folks who are the targets of racism.  The victims, as it were.  (How easy was that? See how this works?)

Have A Great Day!


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