There is surely no nation in the world that holds "racism" in greater horror than does the United States. Compared to other kinds of offenses, it is thought to be somehow more reprehensible. The press and public have become so used to tales of murder, rape, robbery, and arson, that any but the most spectacular crimes are shrugged off as part of the inevitable texture of American life. "Racism" is never shrugged off. For example, when a White Georgetown Law School student reported earlier this year that black students are not as qualified as White students, it set off a booming, national controversy about "racism." If the student had merely murdered someone he would have attracted far less attention and criticism.
Racism is, indeed, the national obsession. Universities are on full alert for it, newspapers and politicians denounce it, churches preach against it, America is said to be racked with it, but just what is racism?
Dictionaries are not much help in understanding what is meant by the word. They usually define it as the belief that one's own ethnic stock is superior to others, or as the belief that culture and behavior are rooted in race. When Americans speak of racism they mean a great deal more than this. Nevertheless, the dictionary definition of racism is a clue to understanding what Americans do mean. A peculiarly American meaning derives from the current dogma that all ethnic stocks are equal. Despite clear evidence to the contrary, all races have been declared to be equally talented and hard- working, and anyone who questions the dogma is thought to be not merely wrong but evil.
The dogma has logical consequences that are profoundly important. If blacks, for example, are equal to Whites in every way, what accounts for their poverty, criminality, and dissipation? Since any theory of racial differences has been outlawed, the only possible explanation for black failure is White racism. And since blacks are markedly poor, crime-prone, and dissipated, America must be racked with pervasive racism. Nothing else could be keeping them in such an abject state.
All public discourse on race today is locked into this rigid logic. Any explanation for black failure that does not depend on White wickedness threatens to veer off into the forbidden territory of racial differences. Thus, even if today's Whites can find in their hearts no desire to oppress blacks, yesterday's Whites must have oppressed them. If Whites do not consciously oppress blacks, they must oppress them Unconsciously. If no obviously racist individuals can be identified, then societal institutions must be racist. Or, since blacks are failing so terribly in America, there simply must be millions of White people we do not know about, who are working day and night to keep blacks in misery. The dogma of racial equality leaves no room for an explanation of black failure that is not, in some fashion, an indictment of White people.
The logical consequences of this are clear. Since we are required to believe that the only explanation for non-White failure is White racism, every time a non-White is poor, commits a crime, goes on welfare, or takes drugs, White society stands accused of yet another act of racism. All failure or misbehavior by non-Whites is standing proof that White society is riddled with hatred and bigotry. For precisely so long as non-Whites fail to succeed in life at exactly the same level as Whites, Whites will be, by definition, thwarting and oppressing them. This obligatory pattern of thinking leads to strange conclusions. First of all, racism is a sin that is thought to be committed almost exclusively by White people. Indeed, a black congressman from Chicago, Gus Savage, and Coleman Young, the black mayor of Detroit, have argued that only White people can be racist. Likewise, in 1987, the affirmative action officer of the State Insurance Fund of New York issued a company pamphlet in which she explained that all Whites are racist and...
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