Definition of Racism

November 5th, 2007 at 5:29 am by David Farrar

The Herald on Sunday attacks Winston Peters for his labelling those protesting against the Police actions were apartheid supporting racists.

Now what interests me isn’t the disagreement with how Peters has characterised the protesters, but the assertion:

Nor may Maori activists or their supporters sensibly be called racists. Racism has nothing to do with skin colour, and everything to do with power. Anyone who argues that those arrested in Tuhoe and elsewhere last month are more powerful than the state authority unleashed on them is deluded. Or trying to win votes by any means necessary.

This is a fascinating redefinition of racism. Basically it is an assertion that it is impossible to be racist unless you are powerful, and hence ipso facto Maori activists can not possibly be racist.

The Herald on Sunday argues for an unusual sociological definition of racism. The Oxford English Dictionary defines it as:

a belief or ideology that all members of each race possess characteristics or abilities specific to that race, especially to distinguish it as being either superior or inferior to another race or races

Webster’s says:

racism as 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, and that it is also the prejudice based on such a belief

The United Nations states it as:

the term “racial discrimination” shall mean any distinction, exclusion, restriction or preference based on race, color, descent, or national or ethnic origin which has the purpose or effect of nullifying or impairing the recognition, enjoyment or exercise, on an equal footing, of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the political, economic, social, cultural or any other field of public life.

None of these definitions come close to the HoS view that racism is nothing to do with skin colour and everything to do with power.  I do hope the HoS at some stage will expand on their view that by definition Maori activists can not be racists.

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29 Responses to “Definition of Racism”

  1. Lee C (4,516 comments) says:

    Racism is as racism does.

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  2. Stanley Climbfall (108 comments) says:

    The definitions you took, David, are all racist definitions, as those dictionaries were written by the white man.

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  3. Robinsod (354 comments) says:

    I have to agree with you on this one DPF – claiming someone needs power to be racist would let a lot of the impotent bigots that comment here off the hook too easily.

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  4. Lee C (4,516 comments) says:

    Stanley – not necessarily because that limits the idea of racism to one which is only able to be perpetuated or expressed by one with white skin, and history indicates that this is not the case. Racism, like sexism can be an abuse of power, but there are many who will claim that ‘everyone is racist’ to some extent, and I would agree, same for sexism, homophobia, etc.

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  5. Andrew W (1,629 comments) says:

    Well done Stanley, Lee thought you were serious – he’s usually sharper.

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  6. vto (1,128 comments) says:

    people congregate on the basis of many shared things, including race. It may be gender, the school you went to, which rugby team you support, religion, sense of humour, etc etc. Congregation on the basis of your race is another.

    This is an entirely natural part of the human character. Likes attract etc. I see no problem with racism on this basis. Where it goes pear-shaped is when that shared thing (in this case race) is used to the detriment of fellow humans. And that too is unfortunately part of the human character.

    Blah blah. I am sure you all know that already – just a bit of early morning verbosity on my part.

    Re the topic – yes strange redefinition indeed. I think they have got stuck in the narrow pear-shaped part of racism and one of the many offshoots from that. Doesnt reflect well on the Herald to have such a small mind.

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  7. Lindsay (142 comments) says:

    That’s what Atareta Poananga asserted on Eye to Eye. Maori by definition cannot be racist. So it must be right.

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  8. Lee C (4,516 comments) says:

    Stanley – sorry, it’s early, had t get th kid up unlod the car. illion things to do. I’m a tosser.

    sorry.

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  9. Andrew W (1,629 comments) says:

    “but there are many who will claim that ‘everyone is racist’ to some extent, and I would agree, same for sexism, homophobia, etc.”

    Agreed, We categorise everything around us based on obvious charasteristic, then, again instinctively, attribute other less obvious characteristics with associated with some knowns in each box as probably possessed by others in the same box.

    It’s a survival instinct;
    If it looks like a lion, acts like a lion, it probably is a lion and lions are known to eat people.
    If it looks like an apple, smells like an apple, it probably is an apple and so is safe to eat.

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  10. Lee C (4,516 comments) says:

    Yes and yes. I knew an jamaican woman in the UK who, hand on heart expressed the view the ‘It is impossinbe for Black people to be racist.’ This showed that her own experience of racism was defined as a personal experience, and of a certain kind.

    But history shows us that every race is capable of bad things agianst another on the basbis of their skin colour. May be it requires sertain situations such as lack of resources or perceived threat to culture to bring it out? I think that the PC guilt complex that white people often manifest has retarded the discussion about racism and checked our progress towards solving sertain issues. How, by making racism a ‘taboo’ subject (like sexual guilt in cathoicism) and attempting to suppress its existence.

    What is required is openess and debate, not furtive denial.

    By the way may I share my theory about PC?

    Yes?
    Good. I think that the class of people who went abroad and asserted colonialism were of a certain ilk, controlling and educated, but essentially frightened. When ‘The Empire’ collapsed after WW1 and WW2 especially. That class had no foreign climes to visit and dominate, so they turned their attentions to their home countries and invented ‘political correctness’ as a controlloing device. We are the modern version of the uneducated savage simply waiting for the path into the true light of correctness.

    start the car.

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  11. hinamanu (2,352 comments) says:

    “We are the modern version of the uneducated savage simply waiting for the path into the true light of correctness.”

    In fact we are now the modern day Indian and the govt is the calvary.

    The raping has cotinued unabated for decades, surely the genocide must follow.

    We must remember,, The nations who fought Nazi Germany had their own forms of diluted fascism in the form of apartheid, segregation, even concentration camps.

    For myself personally, I have found no documental evidence Russia freed its political prisoners after dropping communism, they could still be rotting.

    The Soviet Union did not free German P O W’s after the war. They died in custody.

    I find your analogy very substantial when seen in the light of history.

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  12. GPT1 (2,115 comments) says:

    That is overly desperate. Winston deserves a great deal of criticism, indeed earns it. Seems unnecessary to make up definitions to beat him up over.

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  13. peteremcc (342 comments) says:

    “Racism is simply an ugly form of collectivism, the mindset that views humans only as members of groups and never as individuals. Racists believe that all individual who share superficial physical characteristics are alike; as collectivists, racists think only in terms of groups. By encouraging people to adopt a group mentality, the advocates of so-called “diversity” actually perpetuate racism. Their intense focus on race is inherently racist, because it views individuals only as members of racial groups.”

    -Ron Paul

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  14. Pita (373 comments) says:

    So am I reading the HoS right…If I was a poor (read powerless) white guy…I could call a maori a black **** and it wouldn’t be racist?

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  15. peteremcc (342 comments) says:

    As long as he’s your boss or superior or at least richer than you, then sure, why not?

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  16. Peter Cresswell (48 comments) says:

    David: The Herald is using the same postmodern definition of racism that allows the likes of Tariana Turia and Atareta Poananga to deny with a straight face that they’re fronting a racist party, and to tell me last year on ‘Eye to Eye’ that I was the racist, not them, because I was “part of the power structure.”

    Given that at the time they said that I was surrounded by two MPs, a district councillor and the country’s most highly-paid Maori broadcaster — two of whom were making the accusation — all I could do was shake my head at such self-deluded blindness.

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  17. David Farrar (1,881 comments) says:

    PC – indeed. The way they define power structure means they are automatically excluded from it – even if a Cabinet Minister!

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  18. dad4justice (8,023 comments) says:

    Hey bro, can you give this honky a light, so I can crank up a cancer stick ?

    Racism is part of Winstonism, which is a deluded puppet , full of self importance and bullshit as he hangs on a thread dangling on a witches thread of deception and rorts !!

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  19. tom hunter (4,656 comments) says:

    David: “This is a fascinating redefinition of racism.”

    A redefinition? Are you kidding? This has been the standard definition of racism in NZ universities since at least the early 1980’s. It has been hammered relentlessly into almost three decades-worth of students by lecturers and activitists in the humanities and social sciences divisions.

    It’s no surprise at all to me to see it emerging in the editorial page of the Herald in 2007 by those former students. That was exactly the intention of those professors all those years ago.

    I remember my reaction to the claim when I read it in the old Waikato university paper, Nexus, in my first year at varsity. I’d grown up watching and reading about the stories of the great civil rights marches in the US in the 60’s and I had thought we were all hanging together to drive out racism, etc, etc.

    If the intention was to shock and challenge my concepts it certainly did that, but not in the way that was probably intended. It seemed to me then that it was merely a thin mask to hide all manner of nasty shit. A licence to get away with just about anything in the world of race superiority and hatred. Listening and watching the reaction of the Poananga’s and Hawarera’s of this world over the last twenty years has simply reinforced that thought.

    What I did not foresee at the time was how this definition would bolster the modern climate of victimology: the old line from West Side Story “I’m depraved because I’m deprived”.

    But while the notion has been cleverly broadened far beyond racism the real impact has come from its being welded to the thinking of the modern political left. After all, they represent all the powerless and oppressed of this world do they not?

    It enables any Left-wing movement to justify almost action to gain the power of the state and hold on to it, for even after holding such power for years or even decades they can still claim that they are powerless, at the mercy of mysterious, hidden forces in society that can be countered in no other way.

    For all his harking back to a golden time of traditional working-class Labour action it was actually this post-modern notion of enternal powerlessness that lay at the heart of Chris Trotter’s observation that Labour’s 2005 victory represented “acceptable corruption”.

    Hate is Love. War is Peace. Pah, crude! Power is Powerlessness is infinitely more subtle and brilliant.

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  20. Linda Reid (412 comments) says:

    “When you call yourself an Indian or a Muslim or a Christian or a European, or anything else, you are being violent. Do you see why it is violent? Because you are separating yourself from the rest of mankind. When you separate yourself by belief, by nationality, by tradition, it breeds violence. So a man who is seeking to understand violence does not belong to any country, to any religion, to any political party or partial system; he is concerned with the total understanding of mankind.”
    Jiddu Krishnamurti

    I find it offensive to be defined by my race.

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  21. vto (1,128 comments) says:

    I think that is a slightly shallow interpretation Linda Reid.

    It makes sense on one level but ignores the instinctive nature of humans, and in fact all animals on the planet, to gravitate towards each other on the basis of various similarities. It is a survival instinct. It is not violent, but taken on sans that understanding, it can become many things, including violent.

    Do you find it offensive to be defined by your gender?

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  22. ManukauMum (134 comments) says:

    Cactus Kate has an interesting comment on racism in Hong Kong:
    http://asianinvasion2006.blogspot.com/2007/11/crazy-day.html

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  23. unaha-closp (1,155 comments) says:

    Tom

    It enables any Left-wing movement to justify almost action to gain the power of the state and hold on to it, for even after holding such power for years or even decades they can still claim that they are powerless, at the mercy of mysterious, hidden forces in society that can be countered in no other way.

    You are correct, but are misconstruing this as a left-wing phenomena when any government acts in this manner. The longer their term the more powerful, yet ill-defined their nemesis appears to become. Piggy Muldoon saved us from a global band of marching reds. Bush is conducting a war against a military tactic.

    Chris Trotter is a party writer, if he wrote for Bush he would justify on the basis of the defending liberty as part of the GWoT.

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  24. ManukauMum (134 comments) says:

    Linda, there is a big differerence between acknowledging differences between groups of people and hating someone who is different from you. We are not, and will never be, one homogenous group of humanity. Hatred is the true beginning of violence, not defining yourself separately from mankind.

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  25. Max Call (212 comments) says:

    I agree with ManukauMum.

    Don’t be ashamed of your identity!! Who you are!!

    celebrate difference

    I am proud of who I am, where I come from and my culture.
    I am also interested and open to learning about others.
    I am happy other people are different to me – how BORING would it be if we were homogenous?
    Different is NOT bad or better or needing to be judged. Its just different.

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  26. Jim (407 comments) says:

    ManukauMum, Cactus Kate’s post is dead right. It pretty much confirms my own experiences.

    I have had a local Chinese complain to me that their own race is very racist – more so than Europeans. We just don’t notice because we don’t speak the language and we assume that only english speaking caucasians are capable of racism.

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  27. tom hunter (4,656 comments) says:

    Unaha-closp

    I partially agree – but only partially. While what you say can be true of any long-term government, the left-wing has internalised this theory as a core driver in gaining and retaining state power, and more than that, has made a point of driving that theory into personal relationships.

    Even a casual observation of the various facist movements of the 20th century would certainly have seen such victimology used to justify horrendous crimes – the ‘solution’ that would have to be applied to the Jews if the Aryan race was to survive being the extreme example.

    However, in the modern world, while I can see a classic left-wing argument being made about an ‘unconscious’ aspect of victimology with GWoT, the application of the theory of powerlessness by the right does not really stand up in the way it does with the left-wing. I’ve never heard any right-winger talk of the powerlessness of our societies in the face of Islamist terror. More often than not it has been the pathologies of their weaknesses that has been the point, not to mention a bitterness at the degree to which the left is willing to apply this theory to groups such as Islamic Jihadists.

    With communism you’ve probably got a stronger case, but even there the fears of the right were tied directly into a fear of state power – a fear that predates by two thousand years this post-modern nonsense and has very rational foundations based on history.

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  28. tom hunter (4,656 comments) says:

    Unaha

    Just some more thoughts on the points you raised.

    To me there are two key differences between those examples and what we see here today with the left-wing.

    The first is that none of those things were intellectualised to the degree this has been. As rat-cunning as some of those facists were they never elevated the idea of powerlessness beyond vague feelings and anecdotal and mythological tales. There may have been professors pushing eugenics but the real impetus was emotional – in fact the last thing facists wanted was for people to think too deeply about it all.

    But by contrast this stuff has been deeply explored and expanded as a societal explanation by dozens of very respected left-wing intellectuals around the world for decades now, with very little opposition until recent years. The whole thing has not emerged and coalesced crudely from many wellsprings of primal hatred. Instead it has unfolded steadily from the intelligentsia and has been deliberately spread down and across the whole spectrum of human interaction – from individual arguments to political parties and the media.

    It ties in so beautifully with almost every type of left-wing politics, from anarchists to traditional union-backed parties. While it is a mask for the race hatred of individuals it is also a modern mask for long-held beliefs of the left about who holds power in our society and what is to be done about that.

    The second difference is that even the facist victimology saw a tangible end point: get rid of the jews, crush the Slavs and it would be done. Given the lack of theory it could not have been otherwise.

    But with the modern left there is no end in sight to this process, there are merely types of powerlessness that have not yet been identified for correction, and seemingly no limit to the degree of coercion that can be justifed in the name of that correction. It matches the eternal search for reactionary enemies that was seen in extremis in the societies of Stalin and Mao.

    Our modern social democracies are not that extreme, but only because they move at a much slower pace. Still, as talk is heard of ‘climate change criminals’ and parents are visited by police for smacked hands, it is clear that our societies are travelling down that same road, exactly as the theory logically demands.

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  29. hinamanu (2,352 comments) says:

    “I’m depraved because I’m deprived”.

    In many cases this is certainly a statement that links charateristics with poverty. and in a lot of cases, yes its an excuse.

    I don’t know how John keys and Banksie rose to the positions they did but both came from the workers class. How they both found right wing politics is something else I don’t understand either, but they’re both cases that prove no matter a man’s background he can achieve abundantly.

    Racists turn the above statement back to front. They say a man is deprived because he is depraved. I believe the word nigger does not reflect a mans skin but his attitude. If he is a trash book of excuses because of his deprivation, it is because he has no clues, no skills and no class regardless of his skin.

    This is what a nigger really is and who ever calls some one a nigger because of his skin is the real nigger.

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