I’d like to ask ILP members what their definition of racism is, it’s scope and whether all racism is bad. This topic may have been done and dusted for many of you, since I’m aware it’s been discussed a lot in previous years throughout the western world and for that, I’m sorry if this bores you.

I’d also like to some thoughts. So here goes nothing:

Race (Wiki) - Race is a classification system used to categorize humans into large and distinct populations or groups by anatomical, cultural, ethnic, genetic, geographical, historical, linguistic, religious, or social affiliation.

Racism (Google) - 1. The belief that all members of each race possess characteristics or abilities specific to that race, esp. so as to distinguish it as…
2. Prejudice or discrimination directed against someone of a different race based on such a belief.

Discriminate (Google) - Recognize a distinction; differentiate.

Discrimination (Google) - 1. Discrimination is the prejudicial or distinguishing treatment of an individual based on their actual or perceived membership in a certain group or category, such as their age, ethnicity, gender/sex, national origin, sexual orientation, religion, skin color, or other characteristics.

Ok, let’s say we’ve divided people into three groups. Group A has 4 fingers per hand, group B has 5, and group C 6. Each group, is a separate race of equal size. Our job, is to give all people gloves, regardless of race. Let’s also assume, for the sake of clarity, that all people want a glove that covers each of their fingers, without excess finger spaces remaining.

If we only have 4 fingered gloves, and we give a pair to each person, I would say we’re not being racist (Perhaps if the person who assigned this task to us, had knowledge of the intended consumers of these gloves, and chose to make 4 fingered gloves, then they could be acting racistly).

However, if we had been given 4 , 5, and 6 finger gloves and chose to give each person a pair of gloves that equaled the number of their fingers, this could be described as being racist, for we have given different pairs to each race. But have we done the wrong thing? I would say no. Each person in this scenario were given the gloves they wanted. Perhaps it isn’t racist at all. We gave all people, regardless of race, gloves equally the number of their fingers.

Let’s say we asked each person which glove individually which size glove they preferred. Is it racist to treat them differently based on their preference? By the definitions above, it would seem so. Yet how many would argue that we should not grant them their preference?

I haven’t really gone into my beliefs, because the thread might lose focus, but I also recognize what I believe to be racism, that I don’t see described as such. An example being Atheists being racist against the religious. I might elaborate more if things go well.

Anyway, what are your thoughts on Racism? And what are your thoughts of my portrayal? Do you think I’ve lost myself in definitions and am misattributing racism?

Thanks for any input.

Check This Out
A bit OTT is that one…

I’m not completely sure what I think about race.
On the one hand, I certainly don’t think it’s a ‘social construct’ or things of that nature – I think it refers to something that is, in some sense, ‘real’.
On the other hand, I don’t know if I believe that “all members of each race possess characteristics or abilities specific to that race”. While race is ‘real’ in a loose sense of the word, I don’t think it’s as clear-cut as that.

Assuming I were to accept the take on ethics such that I assume von Rivers believes in, then what is wrong is wrong because it adversly affects happyness. How would we apply such a broad defintion here to racism (or anywhere else for that manner) I don’t know. But, let’s assume it’s wrong, but compared to what? People suffer for many reasons, I assume that most of the work against racism, was probably a good ship to get on for one who wanted to help the welfare of as many as possible, because people were getting shit in really large numbers in a very obvious way. But, now there’s nothing about modern first world racsim that stands above other types of actions that lead to suffering.

Let’s deal with race’s defintion; just another distinction we make, it’s arguable that such a distinction is largely irrelevant, and many argue that it is, but so are thousands of other distictions we make involving people.

Racism defintion 1; nothings wrong with that in itself, but it can be done ‘wrongly’, just like something as innocuous as washing a car can be done wrongly, if one uses paint thinner.

Definition 2 seems wrong, but take a look around you, do you think people don’t discriminate about anything and everything, we’ll sooner cure depression before we stop that.

Discrimination (Google) - 1. Discrimination is the prejudicial or distinguishing treatment of an individual based on their actual or perceived membership in a certain group or category, such as their age, ethnicity, gender/sex, national origin, sexual orientation, religion, skin color, or other characteristics.

Or other characteristics? How convenient, to put the well known one’s in the definition, then leave one wondering. We’ve all heard of playing the race/gender/etc. card, but if moral indignation, rather than the resposivness of others, was my only goal, then I can play hundreds of cards despite being on the ‘easy’ side of all the issues in that definition. People used to ignore me for being extremely boring. I suppose that’s a negative attribute of mine, I have no protection, but I could have declared that I’m a member of a group, the group of the boring, us boring people have suffered as long as any other group, before humans were fully evolved the boring (or to put it PC, those-with-a-propesity-to-be-uninteresting) were suffering from isolation and all the negativeties that come with that, such as death.

You see how riduclous it is to get caught up in these issues? “I’m being screwed over for some reason, but rather than try earnestly to come up with a moral theory and work towards that with the goal in mind, happyness for all, or whatever, I want psuh my issue so that things can get better for me, fuck everyone else.”

I’m not saying that we should reduce every commonly accepted idea of morality to nothingness, at least not in America. Violence in this country should be frowned upon as it always was. (It’s always been frowned upon, certainly it hasn’t been stopped.) I could reduce it, the effects of violence is pain. Can you think of any other action that one can do, a legal action, that causes others pain? How about name 20,000 legal actions that can cause pain. But, I’m content to live in a country where everyone is causing everyone else pain, but not through violence.

The issue of discrimination is entirely different. We discrimnate people, that’s what we do, if our squirrel ancestors 20 million years ago hadn’t discrimniated by associating and mating with the fittest, most pleasant, etc. other squirrels then we would never have advanced beyond squirrels in evolution. Don’t get me wrong that wouldn’t even be a bad thing, I wouldn’t care if we had never left the self relpicating microbe stage, that would be great, then there would never have been discrimination in the world.

What I’m trying to say is their is always going to be discrimination in some form, even the most ardent utopian idealist has to admit that, so what’s the use of taking it on peice meal rather than all at once, let happyness or whatever be the underlining factor, not attributes that one can have and be discriminated against that stand out more than others, despit not nessesarily affecting them adversly more for standing out. Maybe boring people should get a tatto that says “boring” on their head, then there’d be no ambiguity.

For violence it would be easier to eliminate the ambiguoity, outlaw all contact sports and ‘rough housing’, then socially shun anyone who makes or watches movies with violence, unless it’s done in a preachy way, with a strong self righteous message, such as, those evil bastards back in the day when boxing was illegal, didn’t they know that they were mimicking such a destructive factor in so many lives. Well maybe I’m missing something here, but it’s strange that we get outraged by racism and don’t enjoy it (at least most of us including myself)but we enjoy violence so much when it’s in a fictional or controlled form.

This is 2013, not 1968.

It’s pathetically primitive that liberals still insist on playing the same old song and dance over social issues. They have no willingness to engage the depths of personality, but rather engage in superficial forms of equality.

Seriously, whenever a liberal talks about racism, it’s like I came through a time warp from the year 2500 or something.

Anyway, I wouldn’t qualify the OP’s example as racist. It talks about technological functionality, not social status.

I think what you are doing - although I know it is not explicitly your intention - is an aid to racists everywhere. Racists will often tell you that there are good reasons to classify people by race - good, sound, scientific reasons. They may be right (but probably aren’t), but what they are doing (and what is done all to often now) is removing racism from its social and historical background.

The history is already there. Racism and racist attitudes have caused incredible amounts of human suffering in the past 500 years, form the slave trade to Nazism. Racism has been a force of evil for centuries. Such ‘justifiable’ abstract racism almost always a pretext for something very real and very nasty. Most of the people touting such arguments are also the ones in far right parties, often descended from a long and brutal tradition of racist attitudes and practices. And very often what they are really aiming for is the revival of these brutal practices.

There are many racists who would see the return of genocide and white supremacy. Once most of these people have disappeared, there may be a case for reopening the dialogue about the ‘scientific’ differences between races. But for now, I see most such attempts at dialogues as subversive, as do a lot of people. I have, as Daktoria puts it, no willingness to engage.

What could this possibly mean??

Does it make more sense now I’ve deleted the accidental extra word - ‘races’ - that somehow found its way into my sentence?

You mean that you are only willing to have discussions with people who don’t have ‘distasteful’ opinions?

Don’t you have to have a discussion to change those opinions in the first place? Why would they change by themselves?

No, that’s not what I said. I mean that I am not willing to have discussion which is about racism ‘in abstract’, when this is a frame put forward by people who I suspect are trying to seek support for a return to the racism that existed in practice of the last few centuries. This is because the frame of the discussion - the theoretical justification of racism, is just a disguise. A racist might end up looking agreeable on such a theoretical - indeed they may even be right about certain things, such as differences between different racist and abstract reasons for differentiating. But the discussion itself is deceptive, because their real desires are not for abstract distinctions, but real suppression. Racists have often developed a strong line of argument on the purely theoretical level, but I have no desire to engage them on this level. I am more likely to try and engage them on the level of what they actually want to see - in practice - to happen to people of other races, and then work back from that.

I do not think that many hardcore racists are very changeable in nature. At the minute, racists are a vast minority, at least in the UK. I would like it kept that way - therefore the best strategy is simply to ignore everything that they have to say. and encourage everyone to do the same. If I do engage, its normally with the aim of exposing the nasty people that behind an air of intellectualism.

I don’t think it’s necessarily a disguise. I’ve interacted with various people who identified as ‘race realists’ which is essentially the stance you’re talking about, but who don’t even remotely find any validity in the sub-human treatment of people of different races. One can, apparently, believe in differences between races without supporting the ‘nasty’ stuff as well.

I’d define racism (in the modern, everyday sense of the word) is the denial of social opportunities to (or the imposition of social costs on) people on the ground of their (perceived) race. It’s considered bad because it’s a denial of opportunity applied on an unfair criterion: one can’t change ones mind about ones race. Similarly sexism: transgendered people aside, you can’t realistically do much about your sex.

People can be denied opportunities based on choices they make: committing a crime may get one incarcerated, leaving the education system early deprives you of access to certain jobs, not wearing a tie will keep you out of the sort of restaurants you probably shouldn’t want to go to anyway. This is not considered unfair because you could have chosen not to commit crimes, to stay in school and to wear a tie.

In the sense that it is an unjust penalty that the target had no chance to avoid, it seems inherently bad. Giving people gloves is not denying them any opportunity. It’s not racist to sell more suncream to whites or more hair straighteners to blacks.

The campaign in FJ’s link misses the mark on this ground: it’s not inherently unfair to be white-skinned either, as one can’t do much about that. It pushes hyperbole too far, IMO, and probably alienates some who would be sympathetic to the problems they want to raise. I’m well aware that as a middle-class white male in the west I have many opportunities and advantages others don’t. It’s a problem only if I attempt to use (or even rely on) my whiteness or maleness to maintain the situation, I think - both from the ground of justice and from a pragmatic desire for a meritocracy.

Thank you, even if you are just incidentally agreeing with much of what I said.

I think “racism” is often one of the symptoms of “elitist” type ego-trip.
And elitist type people want to think that they are superior usually because they have inferiority complex.
Also, instead of trying to be very good at something by learning/working hard, some of elitists try to hyper-boost their (imaginary) self-worth by the delusion that they belong to “superior race” (or superior religion, group, whatever).

And I often see the victim mentality around “racism”, hate, insensibility for the suffering of others, and elitist mentality.


Brevity Monkey, do you have anything to say to the above succint quote and the Daktoria’s? You see the world in black and white, as bad as the worst racist could. May I make an argument that may be based on little actual eveidence, so correct me if I’m wrong. In the 50s most people couldn’t handle subtleties in thought when applied to society. They wouldn’t even comprehend, let alone respond well too, the idea that all people should be treated as well as possible despite their supposed or real dispositions and that society ought to work towrds that difficult goal, without continuing the extreme segragation in classifications that had been always going on.

But, now we can see such subtlties, and like Daktoria said, those that don’t sound very old fashioned. The terms black and white regarding race will always exist in some form, because of the obvious differences different people have in skin color, but the harsh dichotomy has remained all these years when refering to a long out of date steriotype based on social advantages.

Even in 2013 one saying, “You don’t know what it’s like to be black, so you can’t speak to me about adversity because you don’t understand”, to a ‘horse faced’ white person, sounds natural to most people, but the reverse with the ‘horse faced’ white person saying, “You don’t know what it’s like to have a ‘horse face’, so you can’t speak to me about adversity because you don’t understand”, to a black person, sounds strange to most people, they would probably laugh.

What you seem to be implying is that we are in a crisis of race relations still and therefore must keep things simple. Perhaps in many places in the world that is true, and simultaniously some of those places may have people with the mind set of the average American in 1950, but could we possibly assume that more “modern minded” people make up 99.99 percent of this forums members. Even if they’re are any extreme racist reading this thread, chances are they understand the intrtacsies of the these issues, they just choose not to ignore them. (And yes their are always exceptions.)

I realize that even "modern minded"people can have trouble distinguishing the intricasies of issues of race relations far away from them, or at least they choose to. Perhaps some such people do need to be taught that there are no differences whatsoever between races, lest their imagination get the better of them. But, I would argue that such simplistic teaching has a neagtive affect on most “modern minded” people. if we can’t speak about the differences between races, whenever they happen to be worth mentioning, such as in medical contexts, because of fear of helping the wrong people, then we are going to be a society with much less of an ability to speak about other differences among people. You may say, that we should let the boring people, the “horse faces”, the people who suffer from chronic fatigue, but in an diagnosable way, leaving them with the stigma of laziness, should be left to the way side because your busy with the big picture of preventing genocide, but doesn’t everyone say that for a society to be tolerent of other distant societies, they must become tolerent of their own differse members? In other words how does intolerance fight intolerance?

Thank you in advance for your reply.

Thanks again for the input.

@Flannel Jesus

I see what you’re saying. You believe a race to be only anatomical. What about ethnicity? Ethnicity is socially defined based on culture and nationality. Based on your take, discriminating based on ethnicity, isn’t racism?

The definition is that of racism, so you’re disagreeing with the belief of racists. :slight_smile: Doesn’t every person in a race have to by definition possess characteristics that distinguish said race? For if they didn’t, they wouldn’t be part of the race.


I agree generally with a lot of what you’ve said. Our positions are very similar.


So you’re saying if it’s a technological problem, discrimination is OK? Because in the example there’s clear discrimination, in my opinion.


Information is a tool, it’s possible to use it for many different purposes. I agree that people could try to use this logic to justify the mistreatment of others, but that’s not it’s only purpose.

In order to stop mistreatment, one must first clearly understand what is mistreatment and what isn’t mistreatment. What has a place, and what doesn’t have a place.If we’re unwilling to question, we wont find any understanding.

As for the rest of your comments, I see where you’re coming from. You don’t want to arm your opponents with weapons, and you’re generally skeptical of discussions in regards to racism because the outcome seems to be just that.


So it’s only racism if an act denies social opportunities or attaches social burden to group?

If I say to you all African Americans are good at basketball. By your definition, I’m not being racist. I have in my mind, paid a compliment to this group, have in no way restricted their opportunities and I haven’t implied any burden they induce on society.

Would you agree then, in this scenario, I’m not being racist?

My personal beliefs, namely determinism, diminishes the responsibility of someone’s choice, but for the sake of argument, I’ll assume we all have the ability to make free choices.

If I choose to identify myself as Christian, is it then OK for someone to deny me the opportunity to purchase goods at their store?

I agree, punishing someone for what is beyond their control, seems bad.

You inspired this rant: viewtopic.php?f=6&t=182020

Racism is making race the excuse for a decision rather than considering finer details.
It is the same over-generalization for sake of simplification mentality that has plagued homosapian since the beginning, leading to kingdoms/socialism and eternal warring.

What is racism–an unwarranted claim of superiority by one (racial) group over another. A very loose definition, I know, but… Imm, any ‘-ism’ is a claim of superiority whether its racism, sexism, agism, elitism, whatever -ism. I think one of the most recent examples of the effects of racism is Chris Dorner in California. He was no hero, but his outcry against racism was certainly sincere.

But racism isn’t always Black/White. It can also stem from ethnicity–Latino/European American; Armenian/Turkish; Indian/Pakistani; Taiwanese/Chinese–and, of course, religion. Thus, broadly defined, racism is pretty universal.

Is all racism ‘bad.’ I think so. We live in a multicultural society, especially here in the US–the Nation of Immigrants–the Melting Pot of the Western World. This is very apparent where I live, in the Pacific NW. Over 120 different languages are spoken in the county in which I live. Would it be possible to live here if there was racism or racial prejudice that went as far as racism? Imagine the fights at the Costco check-out registers! :cry:

But racism will be thought of as Black/White, and the US will be thought of as the country of black/white racism. Not true.


The key here is differentiating between ‘racism’ and ‘prejudice’. Your instance is the latter.

Some of you have chosen to give your definition of racism, and others have simply implied it. It appears many take it for granted that a race can only be divided anatomically (biologically). If this is the case, may I ask to you, is there a reason you don’t consider that a race can be defined culturally or by social affiliation?


Based on my experience, I would agree strongly that racism appeals to those who lack a sense of self worth. I looked at your graph, and it does give a fair representation of how these different mentalities relate. I liked it. :slight_smile:

@James S Saint

You and Nah have defined different results of racism. Nah’s being sense of superiority or worthlessness, and yours being broad overarching reactions to races.

For example, my instinct would tell me I’m a lot safer if I have an alley encounter with a man in a wheelchair, as opposed to a man with able legs. How true is generally? I don’t know. Perhaps another person came into the equation and tried to attack me - it’s far more likely an able bodied man could help fend the attacker off, than a wheelchair bound man. Or perhaps the man in the wheelchair carries a gun 24/7 due to fear, and is worried I may hurt him. Where as the able bodied man may feel less threatened and therefore be less like to strike at me. In this case, it would be much safer to be with the able bodied man.

Would my instinct tell me this? No.


I see that it’s a common theme that if one is unwilling to deviate and listen to new information, that’s a product of racism and that it’s never positive to purposefully blind oneself to new information.


Based on the definition I gave in the OP, prejudice is a product of racism. Therefore, until you define the terms, there is no differentiation to be made.