Racist: 1: One who holds a belief that race is the primary determinant of human traits and capacities and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race. 2: one who practices or ascribes to racial prejudice or discrimination. – Merriam-Webster OnLine dictionary.
A number of years ago, when I was when I first joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, I read a book called “Are Mormon’s Christian?” It was a very interesting read. At the time I was a bit sensitive to the opinions of others that, as a “Mormon”, I was no longer a “Christian”. One of the main things I took away from the book is that it is very important in any discussion that the terms used by both sides are clearly defined, otherwise outside viewers will “understand” the terms based on what they think they mean, rather than what the participants really mean.
An example in the book was when the author was invited as part of a Christian fellowship group meeting, to stand up before the crowd and explain the beliefs and practices of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The group was comprised of members of many Christian denominations, many of whom the author knew and was friends with. He proceeded to outline the basic beliefs of the Church, and closed with his personal testimony of Jesus Christ. When he was done, the floor was opened for questions.
The first person to speak, said that what he said was all very well and good, and that he believed that he was no-doubt sincere in his beliefs, but that everyone should know that as a member of the LDS church, he is not, in fact, a Christian.
As you might expect, this caused some conversation to ensue; labeling someone a non-Christian at a Christian fellowship group meeting is a serious issue. Fortunately, the author knew the person; he was a personal friend of his. He knew that there was no animosity – he was just stating what he believed to be true. And he knew why the gentleman was making the argument, even if everyone else did not. It was a matter of definition.
So he started asking questions. Do you believe that I believe in Jesus Christ? That I have accepted him as my personal Savior? The same Jesus Christ that was born of the Virgin Mary, suffered for our sins in Gethsemane, was crucified on the cross, died, and on the third day arose from the grave? The gentleman agreed to all that. Yes, he believed the author believed those things, but it still didn’t matter; he still was not a Christian.
“So”, he asked, “if I believe all these things, which the rest of these other fine gentlemen also believe, how can it be that I am not a Christian?”
“Well”, he answered, your church cannot trace its lineage back in a direct unbroken line to the original Christian church. Since you cannot trace such a lineage, you are not Christian.”
The author then began to question the man. “Do you believe in the virgin birth?” No, he replied, it is scientifically impossible. “How about Jesus being the literal son of God?” No, that is just legend. “Well how about the resurrection then?” Not possible, he replied. Once you are dead, you are dead. “So how is it that you call yourself a Christian”, he then asked.
“I belong to a church that can trace its roots back to the original Christian church,” he replied.
After the meeting, the author was approached by several persons, who stated that by his testimony they had no problems with defining him as Christian, but they were no longer sure about the other guy!
Definitions are important.
Recently, the NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored Persons) came out and claimed that the “Tea Party” was harboring racism in its ranks, and it must be denounced. This claim was based on several reported incidents whereby black members of Congress claimed that they had been called racist names and spat upon at a Tea Party rally.
First off, much as the liberals and mainstream media would like to suppose that there is some kind of overarching “Tea Party”, in the same vein as the “Republican Party” or the “Democratic Party”, there really isn’t. This has been pretty much a spontaneous, grass roots movement across the country. There is no single spokesperson that can stand up and speak for (or apologize for) the “Tea Party.” Tea Party members come from all walks of life; many have never before been active in a political sense. Many, like me, had never attended a protest rally before.
I have been to three Tea Party rallies. I saw no racism expressed. I saw no violence. I heard no racial epitaphs. I met a lot of interesting, “down-home” folks; moms, dads, kids, grandma’s and grandpa’s, young and old. Mostly white? Yes, but not exclusively. Did I see any blacks? I saw a few. Were they being hassled by the whites? No. Did I see any Hispanics? Yes. Were they being hassled? No. Why were blacks and Hispanics present at this “racist” rally? They were there for the same reasons everyone else was. Their protest signs were no different, nor were their concerns.
And what about the signs? They were the neatest part of the entire rally. They were all different. Oh, there were common themes, but they were all individual, handcrafted signs, displaying a lot of individuality, ingenuity, and “Americanism” if you will. Very different from what you see when the left holds a protest. You know, where everyone is bused in, carrying pre-printed signs and matching t-shirts?
Were there racists present? Probably. There are probably racists present in any public venue you attend. I would submit that there are racists in the congregation of the church that President Obama attended before it became a political liability to do so. And I am not just referring to the preacher.
But then again, it depends on what you mean when you use the term “racist.” Remember, always get the definition. These days, you never know.
Last week, Geraldo was interviewing both the head of the NAACP and the head of the New Black Panther Party (NBPP) as part of the on-going controversy over the tea parties. As you may know, the New Black Panthers have been in the news lately as well over a voter-intimidation lawsuit from the last presidential election that the Department of Justice recently dropped. You may or may not have heard some of the recent rants conducted by leaders of the New Black Panthers regarding hatred of white people, and killing of “cracker babies.” The video has played on Fox, but isn’t getting much play in the MSM.
The gentleman from the NAACP was very upfront in his demands that the Tea Party denounce the “racists in their midst.” Geraldo responded by asking him if he would denounce any racists in the NAACP. The exchange was much more heated than this description would imply. Finally the gentleman from the NAACP allowed that he would repudiate any racists that were in his organization.
At this point, I turned to my wife and said, “Geraldo really needs to ask him what his definition of “racist” is. He is assuming that he means the same thing most people do, and I bet he doesn’t.”
>From there we cut to the “gentleman” (and I use the term loosely) from the NBPP. From him, we learned an amazing fact. Black folks cannot it seems, by definition, be racists. Being a racist apparently demands that you are in a position of power and authority. Whites are and have been in such a position for the last several hundred years. Whites are therefore, by definition, all racists, and deserving of whatever happens to them; and blacks can never be racists no matter what they do or what views they hold.
So when King Samir Shabazz of the NBPP says “I hate white people”, and “You want freedom? You’re gonna have to kill some crackers. You’re gonna have to kill some of their babies.” He isn’t being racist. He isn’t spewing hate speech. He is just explaining the truth as he sees it.
This point of view is echoed by FOX contributor Dr. Marc Lamont Hill, who has stated that in order to be racist, you need to wield “institutional power.” Of course, “institutional power” is the exclusive province of white folks; even the lowliest white “cracker” wields more “institutional power” than the most powerful black. Really? So the smelliest, drunkest, drooling, addle-brained homeless white person sleeping under an overpass with their shopping cart full of rags and empty beer cans has more “institutional power” than, say President Barack Obama, at least according to Dr. Hill.
My opinion? I am not entirely certain what Dr. Hill means by “institutional power”, but in my simple mind, a racist is someone who hews to Merriam Webster’s definition #1 or definition #2 above (or both) – that’s a racist. It doesn’t matter whether or not they have power. All having power means, is that they have the means to act on their racist mindset if the occasion presents itself. Power is an enabler, not a determinant. To define racism in such a manner has to, by the very definition itself, exclude a segment of the population based on arbitrary attributes such as skin color is very dangerous. It gives folks license to act in any manner they wish and get away with it. Isn’t that exactly what you were accusing whites of before the civil rights era?
Look around you Dr. Hill. There are blacks in positions of power everywhere. You yourself wield not inconsiderable power. Do you have “institutional power?” I submit that within the institution where you work, you do. Could you make life a living hell for a white student if you chose? Probably. Have you? I sincerely hope not. You seem a likable individual, even if I disagree with most everything you say.
But I digress.
The full formal name of the NBPP is the New Black Panther Party for Self-Defense, whose motto is “Freedom or Death.” It is not an offshoot of the original Black Panther Party, and has been identified by the Anti-Defamation League and the Southern Poverty Law Center as a hate group. (But then again, the SPLC defines the tea-parties, which it characterizes as a “patriot movement” group, as a “hate group” too, so go figure.)
What followed was just as interesting. After hearing this, Geraldo cut back to the head of the NAACP and asked him if he agreed with the definition of “racism” just expressed. He never got an answer.
He talked around the question, expressed his opinion on several side issues, and generally took up a lot of time, talking over Geraldo’s repeated questions on whether or not he agreed, but ultimately he never said yes or no.
Definitions are important.
Based on his unwillingness to answer the question, one would have to conclude that he agreed with the definition – but didn’t want to come out and say so directly. Which brings into question his earlier statement that he would be willing to repudiate all racists in the NAACP; it is easy to repudiate what you don’t define as existing in the first place. And the beauty of it all is, you can go on record saying you did, and everyone will believe you have done something that in reality you didn’t do.
So listen up, conservatives, and others; when dealing with liberals, and in particular when dealing with progressives and members of groups outside the mainstream, it is important, no imperative, that you get them to define the words they are using. Do not assume when one uses the term “racist” for example, that what they mean by the term is the standard dictionary definition that everyone else means when the term “racist” is used. Do not assume they will “play fair” and define the terms for you before you start. They are perfectly happy for you to go away thinking they said something that they never meant and do not agree with.
Likewise, make sure that your audience knows that what they mean when they use a particular word or term is not what is commonly meant by that particular word or term.
When someone says you are not a Christian, it is good to know what they are basing that judgment on; it may not be the same thing to everyone who hears it. Likewise, when repudiating racism, it is good to know what both sides mean by the term "racist".
I suspect that most in the black community would disagree with the definition of racism put forward by the NBPP, and that most would be vehemently opposed to the ranting of King Samir Shabazz; at least I hope and pray that is the case.
Additional links containing video links.