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May 24th 2014 print

Frank Pledge

You’re Calling Me ‘Racist’? Yawn.

Time was when the charge of racism packed a genuine punch, but that was before the word's meaning was turned on its head by mis-use, over-use and those who insist, in the vile tradition of Nazism and the Klan, that race and ancestry are the key determinants of who and what we are

klan3Back in February, The Australian published a news item detailing how an Aboriginal community leader  in the Pitjantjatjarra lands of north-west South Australia was alleged to have called a senior administrator and other staff members “white c***s” and “white pieces of sh**” for not following his orders. One suspects this might not have been a new experience. Indeed, I have even been so described myself on occasions, for example in conversations like:

“Got a cigarette?”

“Sorry mate, I don’t smoke.”

“Racist white c***.”

What you will observe is that the term “racist” being used exactly in the same way as the word “c***”.   It no longer has any real meaning, except as an expression of abuse intended to promote offence. If we were to be entirely honest, the practical definition of both words would be something like: ‘A person who stands in the way of what I want.’

These days, the word “racist” appears to be used most commonly in accord with that  definition, so most would  fail to be offended by having that term flung at them.  Incidentally, since most people do not invoke race as the primary and defining attribute of their identities, the term “white” can hardly be considered offensive. On the mining sites where I have worked one meets people of all races, nationalities, religions, and ethnicities, but almost universally people tend to identify themselves by their occupations and professions, not their ancestry.

But offence is very much intended all the same. When “racist” is bandied about there is a clear and obvious attempt to label the target as a monster, some vile species of white supremacist, and one can only wonder why such bids to cause offence generally prompt so little in the way of reaction.  So why is it that being labelled a white supremacist — on the face of it, a dreadful accusation — causes so little angst?

When I was a boy a “racist” was a person who believed in the existence of inherent genetic differences, and further, that these differences were highly significant factors in determining intelligence, aptitudes and, most perniciously, the nature and extent of permissible relationships between those of different racial backgrounds. In its most extreme  form this belief took flesh in the form of the Nazis’ race laws, which calibrated acceptance in terms of the individual’s generational distance from Jewish and other strains of untermensch ancestry. By contrast, any sane and rational person subscribed then and now to the view that differences between races are superficial and the right to equality and equal treatment are givens. I can cite no official figures or survey results to support my case, but I remain confident in saying that, even during the distant days of my childhood, the absolute bulk of thinking Australians fitted into this fair-minded category, with only a few on the margins having genuinely “racist” beliefs.

Now, fast forward to the present day, when denying that race is a key determinant in a person’s identity is considered to be itself a racist provocation.  Somehow, in an inversion of what had been the norm, the “non-racist” is the one who argues there are differences between races, that identity based on race is fundamental to defining social divisions, and that even a small percentage of specific ancestry is of great significance.

The term “racist” is currently being used according to this new definition.  Thus, a person who believes, and has always believed, that racial differences are superficial and insignificant can be labelled “racist” and tarred as an alleged upholder of white supremacy and the foul legacy of Nazi philosophy.

At the end of the day, those inclined to use race as the primary attribute of identity are the real promoters of racial differentiation. I suspect their very success in re-defining racism and debasing the currency of that word and its real meaning by over-use and mis-use — turning it on its head, in effect –  will be their downfall. After all, who can by offended by a word now stripped entirely of all meaning?

 

Comments [2]

  1. IainC of The Ponds says:

    The author is correct in what he says, with the value of the “racist” coin debased to “someone who doesn’t like lasagne”. The meaning of race can be tortured to be “someone who follows Islam” (ie different ideology = different race) or someone from elsewhere in Europe (a recent blog post accused someone from the UK who didn’t like Rumanians of being racist, despite them being from the same race: ie different but neighbouring country = different race). Racism is a negative attribute, and always applied to a white originator (don’t mention Asian superiority beliefs or it will spoil the hypothesis). A short step to “you don’t appreciate or acknowledge my non-white uniqueness” = racist. The problem is that nobody calls out these ignoramuses on their ignorance. It’s time to fight back (verbally) and call out these ignorati when possible. However, having witnessed the Bolt fiasco, words must be chosen with care.

  2. Geoffrey Luck says:

    Very good, Iain, but I disagree with your last point. I believe our words must be chosen with passion, not care. The best thing that could happen is a massive challenge to the orthodoxy of hatred hiding behind the term ‘racist’ to provoke responses, even charges. Why not use the weapons of the protest – numbers – to roll back this tide of political correctness, selective injustice and moral superiority? In runs through everything from the aboriginal industry, through academia with willing support and unlimited publicity by the ABC.