Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Let's get some definitions straight

Shaquille O'Neal came out with a pretty awful rap against Kobe Bryant, and I can't blame Joe Arpaio for firing O'Neal from his sheriff's deputy position. It's questionable, but not unexpected, to discipline someone at his volunteer job for high-profile insults of a co-worker at his main job. But it's what Arpaio said to justify the sacking that was so stupid: "Because if any one of my deputies did something like this, they're fired. I don't condone this type of racial conduct."

Shaq certainly conducted himself in a manner unbecoming a gentleman, and Arpaio apparently wants his people to be professional on- and off-duty. But "racial conduct"? Geez, times have surely changed. It's "racial" for a black man to call another black man a "nigga"? (Is it also "racial" when a black rapper refers to his "ho"?) I guess two black men I heard one night weren't friends, but racial or perhaps racist toward each other? They greeted each other with "Sup nigga" and "Hey nigga." By Arpaio's logic, I guess they were engaging in "racial conduct."

Were I O'Neal, I'd say about being fired, "Fine by me. I don't want to work for a man who can't get simple definitions straight." Does anyone seriously believe that he used "nigga" to insult Bryant based on race? Clearly O'Neal was using a word that many blacks use to refer to each other, and very insultingly, but there was nothing "racial" about it.

I'll preface this, and I really shouldn't have to, by clarifying that I'm not condoning truly racist or bigoted behavior. I'm merely laying out some clear definitions and pointing out misuse. "Racist" and "racial" are thrown around so often today that most people don't know what the words mean. It's also a crutch for "ethnic minorities" who don't get jobs, aren't accepted into a college, etc. It seems that anytime a less-qualified black or Hispanic doesn't get a job, well, that must have been because of racism! Today there's the seemingly omnipresent insinuation that you're racist if you don't vote for Obama (but it's not racist for blacks to vote for him because he's black). But does anyone remember John Thompson, the former Georgetown basketball coach, who staged a two-game walkout in 1989? He said the new C-average requirement for freshmen was "racist." And even my own mother, some years back, said in the parking lot afterward that the rude waitress in a restaurant was "racist."

"Racism," properly used, means a belief that one race is superior to another, whether it's David Duke or Louis Farrakhan. (For this very reason, blacks and Hispanics should be ashamed of affirmative action, because it's inherently racist by assuming they're inferior to whites and Asians.) If we're talking about hatred of someone based on race, that's "bigotry." While this seems like semantics, it's an important distinction than throwing around "Racism!" all the time. The two typically overlap but aren't necessarily synonymous: a racist typically believes other races to be inferior, but he may not hate them. A bigot, though, does typically hate other races because he believes them to be inferior. Some people, however, hate other races but don't find them necessarily "inferior."

Then there are the words "discrimination" and "prejudiced," whose meanings have been completely perverted. "Discrimination" is simply the act of determining differences between two or more things. But the modern politics of "victimhood" have given it such a racial overtone that it's used a crutch, like "racism": "You didn't give me that job because you discriminated against me!" "Prejudiced" can overlap with racism and bigotry, but it isn't necessarily racist. Hillary Clinton recently spewed, "There are no acceptable limits and there are no acceptable prejudices in the twenty-first century." The first is self-evident: "no limits" is the entire Clinton philosophy of big government at any and all costs (meaning your costs). The second is simply illogical, because it's logical to prejudge certain people, especially when it's your money and/or safety at stake.

When I see someone who looks straight from the ghetto with an oversized sports jersey and backwards baseball cap (particularly when the brim is tilted to one side to show his gang affiliation), speaking atrocious "English" to his "bros," I'm going to prejudge him. When two thug-looking teenagers sat across from me one evening on Metro-North, I prejudged them and kept a close eye on my bag, lest one try to grab it just before disembarking. My attitudes are often misconstrued as "racism," when in fact I'm prejudging people with no regard for their race, but their probable behavior based on their appearance. Also consider what Jesse Jackson supposedly said about being relieved that the people behind him on a dark D.C. street turned out to be white.

Recently, my friend Karol said about someone, "everyone already knows she's the most racist person on the web." I've met this person only once and don't know personally if she's "racist," but I know Karol knows what is and isn't racist, so I'll take her word for it. I've also mentioned the Republican idiot who thinks my opinion isn't as valid as his, because he assumed my half-Asian ancestry and accent means I haven't lived in the U.S. very long. That's racism and prejudice, although not bigotry. Let's also not forget Nuthead, who's clearly racist and probably bigoted too.

Later, I'll talk about the faux "outrage," the spectre of "racism," that the Obama campaign is creating.

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