Racism <longish>

John McCreery (JLM@TWICS.COM)
Wed, 20 Mar 1996 11:08:58 +0900

Clyde Davenport objects to my writing that,

"any claim whatsoever that people should be treated in a certain
way because they were born into a certain group is, ipso facto,

I would agree, absolutely, that this is a hasty judgment, flawed by
the vagueness in "treated in a certain way." If, for example, I am
careful not to serve ham to an orthodox Jewish or Muslim friend,
that is not racist in the usual sense of the term.

Davenport suggests, instead, that,

"If a person hates, fears, sees as a threat, looks down on, etc.
people of other ethnic or racial groups, then that person is a

On the whole, I'm inclined to agree. Still, there's a niggling doubt.
Let us suppose, for example, that I am a French Jew in occupied
France during WWII. I hate, fear, see as a threat, and look down
on any German I encounter. Am I racist?

What if the German is a two-year old child?

In my own, flawed, formulation I used the expression "born into
a certain group" to point to the essentializing gesture that would
say,"Yes, I hate that two-year old--because she is German." The
ethnic label determines the judgment, regardless of other factors.

A similar labeling process was what I found wrong in the
statements that started this argument. To say that the Taiwanese
are Chinese and, therefore, X is not to rise above the fray because,
after all, we must understand the "Chinese" position. It is,
instead, to favor one side of what is now a very contentious
argument. Li Peng favors one position, Peng Ming-min another.
Lin Yang-kang and Lee Teng-hui represent positions between
them. To make the fact that they are all, in a broad sense, Chinese
the only factor in assessing their views would, to me, be a
thoroughly racist proposition.

John McCreery
March 20, 1996

P.S. Li Peng is premier of the Peoples Republic of China and the
leading spokesman for China's current bellicose attitude toward
Taiwan. Peng Ming-min is the Democratic Progressive Party
candidate in Taiwan's first presidential elections, to be held on
March 23. He is a vocal advocate of Taiwan independence. Lin
Yang-kang is an independent candidate who was expelled from
the KMT because of his opposition to Lee Teng-hui, the current
president of Taiwan, who, says Lin, is leaning too close to a
Taiwan independence position. It is worth noting that Peng, Lin
and Lee are all three Taiwanese. To learn more about them, an
accessible source is the March 14, 1996, issue of the Far Eastern
Economic Review.