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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