nancylebov (nancylebov) wrote,

Racism vs. Bigotry

I've given up on "racism"--I use "bigotry" instead. Firstly, people's prejudice is frequently tied to groupings which are smaller or other than race. Race is an artificial and relatively modern invention--I'm pretty sure that the natural unit of prejudice is ethnic, based on shared customs rather than shared appearance. I agree that there is racial bigotry, but the situation is much more complicated than that.

Also, I don't buy the idea that the only bad bigotry is accompanied by institutional power, so the word "racism" has been ruined for my purposes. If someone is one of the few white kids in a majority black school, they may well have a serious problem with the other kids even if the black kids are at more risk from the police.

I'll use "bigotry" instead of racism, and modify it as "racial bigotry" or "institutional bigotry" as needed.

I try to minimize hatred and confusion, but I don't think they (or at least anger and close-mindedness) are especially avoidable.

That "racism=prejudice + power" definition has been a disaster for clear thinking. It leaves out the facts that power is local and that holding prejudices is costly even for those who don't have a lot of power to enforce them. I've seen the idea used all too often to mean that black people can't be prejudiced and/or that they don't need to do anything about their own prejudices and/or that white people should just tolerate black prejudice.

The idea that racism/bigotry is about greed and/or fear doesn't cover the ground. Greed and fear come into it, but so does pleasure--that's why people spend so much time on prejudice, and why there are so many nasty jokes and bad dialect imitations.

Comment retrieved from a discussion over at twistedchick's lj.

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