What is a racist anyway? The word is certainly getting a lot of media space lately. It started when our esteemed president made international headlines last July 16 when he declared on Twitter “I don’t have a racist bone in my body.”
Them that love him said, “Me either,” and them that don’t think the statement is up there with Richard Nixon’s “I am not a crook.” Doesn’t it make you wonder, though, what exactly is a racist?
According to Google (so we know it must be right), a racist is a person who shows discrimination against people of other races, or believes a particular race is superior. And “race” means inherited physical characteristics; namely, skin color.
So the nitty-gritty is that a racist is one who discriminates against people of a different color. If that is the case, there are very few racists in America today. But you and I know there are plenty, even in our own city. It seems to me, then, that people do not discriminate by color but perhaps by culture or maybe by how people behave in public.
For example, if we have a man who moves here from Mexico, and he openly proclaims that Mexico is the best country in the world, and he wears a cap and T-shirt and bumper sticker that say Mexico and hangs the Mexican flag from his rear-view mirror, well it’s hard for us to like that guy. He’s like a man who marries a woman but then pines for his ex-girlfriend. And no one likes a man who acts like that.
Or if we have a young black man who wears his pants at his thighs and shows his butt to the world, we can infer what he says by that. It’s hard for me to like him either. He is like a guest who insists on sitting at the head of the table. And no matter how much you give him, he always demands more. Only other butt-show-offers like a man who acts like that.
However, neither of those two men cares whether I like them or not. In order for them to care how I feel, I have to be able to keep them from something they want. That involves a power to decide. And that power is where discrimination comes in. If I deny those men entry into a restaurant, a school or a job based on my opinion of them, I have discriminated. But the only thing I can deny them is the right to read this column — and some would consider that doing them a favor!
Thus, two things must be present for discrimination to occur: a behavior that does not conform to mine and the power to decide. By that definition, very few Americans are racist since there is little we can do about those two men except complain to our spouses.
But if (and only if) you accept my definition, we may have many racists in America today, but they can truthfully claim that they are not. Because they do not judge anyone by their skin color but by the things they value and how they behave: by their culture. Instead they are “culturalists”? Is that even a word? Don’t believe it is. Maybe one of those good people who like to make frequent commentary in this newspaper can give us a word for it. If we’re not racists, what are we?