Wednesday, March 08, 2006

The subtle art of "racialism"

[I grew up in geographic mono-ethnicism, but at age eighteen found life more rewarding in an ethnically rich community]

Definition: racialism

ra·cial·ism (rā'shə-lĭz'əm)
      a. An emphasis on race or racial considerations, as in determining policy or interpreting events.
      b. Policy or practice based on racial considerations.
   2. Chiefly British. Variant of racism.

Ok... Now that we have the academics out of the way, let's look at this conveniently ignored and misunderstood word at the everyday/middle class/just-looking-after-me level.

CBS's new series/comedy The New Adventures of Old Christine cleverly illustrated the results of "passive-discrimination" when Julia Louis-Dreyfus (yes, from Seinfeld fame) brings her stage son, Trevor Gagnon, into the classroom of an exclusive, private school for the first day introduction. Christine (Julia) tries to show Little Richard (Trevor) the amenities of the new school over her own quiet realization that the tuition and social class she encounters is way over her head. While Christine and son check out the bustling, morning activity of students, staff and parents from the doorway of Little Richard's classroom, the alert lad, drawing on his public school memories, blurts out, "Where are the black kids?"

"Racialism" means favoring, either directly or indirectly, a race—any race, even your own race. That's an important distinction! If you are aware in any way of a racial disparity in your community, state or country and do nothing about, not even making acknowlegment to someone else, then you are, albeit though ignorance, supporting racialism. As the saying goes, "either you're working to resolve the problem or you are at least part of the problem..." Ignorance is not absolution.

Racism, not racialism, is based on irrational fear and economic greed, pure and simple. We're not talking about reasonable fear (e.g., after doing the research, you don't move into a notoriously "bad" neighborhood, because you fear crime—that's reasonable fear: IF you did the research), we're talking irrational fear. The same distinction goes for racialism. If you see only "blue" faces in your neighborhood and irrationally, without reason, enjoy the benefits of this favorable dominance, whether or not you have a blue face, you're supporting "racialism."

This subtle bias happens everyday in middle class, lower class and upper class neighborhoods all over the world. No, I won't be looking for fault in those that practice racialism, but I certainly won't be applauding their humanity.

Reporting from the underground...

Stan Morris


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