Thursday, February 03, 2022

The Language of the Debate (5)

[Editor’s note: Nobody ever wants to be called racist, and yet the word is everywhere these days. It also doesn’t mean what it used to mean, which means it was one of those words I planned to get to in this series eventually. All too conveniently, Immanuel Can sent me an email this week analyzing the current usage of the term (and the logic behind the change in meaning) better than I might. I have reproduced it below.

Trust you enjoy it. — Tom]

9. Racist

Individuals and Systems

Things I’ve been pondering … social criticism, and all that.

I’ve only recently got my head around the idea of what social justice (‘SJ’ or ‘SJW’) types mean when they call everybody “racist”.

I always thought of it in terms of the classical sort of definition of the term, meaning “an individual who believes that ‘race’ (a dubious concept in itself, of course) is determinative of the value of other individuals”.

But this is not the SJ usage. In SJ usage, racism is not limited to the practice of individuals. After all, the individual, according to them, is just a creation of his environment: and racism is SYSTEMIC.

Racist from Womb to Tomb

This is a difference of huge importance. For while in classical usage, one actually has to hold personally to particular views about race, in SJ usage one can be racist without holding any views at all. All one has to do to be an SJ-racist is to serve as a functionary of any party of the “system” that is already presumed to be itself racist and unjust.

And that’s every system that currently exists, of course. The social justice crowd insists systemic racism is built into the very structure of traditional or received society: all our institutions, all our ways of thinking, all our everyday living procedures. All are “racist”, in that their structure serves to reinforce practices and institutions of “injustice”.

The upshot of this is that all one has to do, in SJW-think, in order to be genuinely racist, is to stand for, uphold or serve any element of the status quo, or fail to be vociferous and violent enough in campaigning for its overthrow. That makes you a racist regardless of your conscious beliefs on the subject. By this redefinition, all institutions and businesses are racist, all authorities are racist, all parents are racist ... because all of these fail to respond instantly and supinely to the SJW agenda.

In other words, for SJWs, “racist” simply means any kind of conservative. Or even more plainly, it simply means “not-SJW”.

Freeing the Conscience

Once one understands this perverted and self-serving employment of the term “racist”, one stops feeling the moral sting of having been insulted or called out for unfair attitudes to other human beings. All “racist” really means to the woke crowd is somebody who resists Neo-Marxism.

Of course, the power of the term depends on us not understanding how loosely and dishonestly the SJWs are employing it, and on being vexed in our post-Protestant consciences for perhaps failing to be sufficiently open-minded and free of bias. (The conservative conscience is often tender and sensitive in degrees that the sclerotic SJW self-certainty never is.) So they want to use it as freely as their definition of it will allow, but want us to feel the sting of it in a classical way.

Time to disambiguate the usage, I think.

Afterthought: In a clich├ęd phrase like “Punch a Nazi”, I wonder what their use of the word “Nazi” signifies. I suspect it means something similar: anybody who is not whole-hog SJW. But there might be some additional twisting of language and concepts going on. They certainly don’t mean it to refer to followers of the ideology of the National Socialist party in pre-war Germany, or even to people who might follow their historical lead. It seems to be used to mean something quite different.

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