Getting Racism Really, Really Wrong, Part 2

In a previous post we saw how racism is a form of collectivism. Like all forms of collectivism, it divides people into groups and classes according to their attributes rather than uniting them through their shared human nature.

Racism is collectivism plus discrimination and prejudice. The In group, the racists, regard the Out group as lesser, inferior, undeserving of the civil rights and liberties of the In group. This is the type of racism we are most familiar with, at least in the United States and Britain, especially for those on the Right. This is the racism, for instance, of the famous Jim Crow laws of the southern United States. White nationalists and supremacists aside, we can safely say that for most people this kind of racism is a thing of the past.

In the last decade or so, however, a new type – a new definition – of racism has emerged. It’s the definition of racism that is behind the charges of white nationalism, white supremacy, and institutional oppression of person of colour that we hear so often these days, especially from university campuses in the United States.

This new way of defining racism has an added element borrowed from Marxist theory. Marxism, another form of collectivism, divides the world into two groups: the bourgeoisie, the capitalist owners of the means of production, and the proletariat, the workers who toil for them. In short, they are the haves and the have-nots.

But Marxist thinking is more than just an economic alternative to capitalism. Its real concern is with the power relationship between the two groups. It is an unequal balance of power, a relationship of oppression. For Marx, the bourgeoisie are the oppressors of the proletariat.

These two things, the separation of people into groups based on a single attribute and the focus on the power relationships between the groups, have been imported from Marxism directly into modern discussions of racism by the Left.

Take this example: in September 2017 Ohio State University offered its students a seminar called Interrupting Racism: Tools & Tips For White People.

According to The College Fix website,

During the workshop, students were taught there are three “ingredients” of racism: race, power and prejudice. According to Angie Wellman, associate director in the Student Life Multicultural Center who led the event, every race that is not white lacks the power aspect, which is why white people cannot be victims of racism.

This definition of racism directly mirrors Marxist thought. The world is divided into two groups: whites and non-whites. In Western culture (as if that were a monolithic thing to start with) whites have power while non-whites do not. Therefore whites are the oppressors of non-whites. And since whiteness and not-whiteness are inescapably tied to one’s genetic make-up, whites cannot be anything other than what they are: oppressors. Whites who do not feel guilty for their oppression of non-whites are guilty of enabling if not actually advocating white supremacy.

It is this fundamental difference in definitions that leaves so many white people, often those on the Right, confused or even dismissive when told they are oppressors of minorities solely because of their whiteness. Often the only definition of racism they know is the traditional one. They look inward and see no racist attitudes to be guilty of. They respond, naturally and genuinely, that not only are they not racist but don’t even see a person’s race. But this ‘race blindness’, it turns out, is itself a sin; it fails to recognise the oppression of persons of colour and thereby perpetuates it.

Accusations and allegations of racism cannot be simply denied. They must be fought against. And the only way to fight them is to reject the inherent Marxist assumptions from the start.

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