Racism <comment>

Sat, 30 Mar 1996 17:11:00 PST

McCreery writes:

Racism is also typically a matter of "We are good," while
"The Other is bad," expressed in categorical (the famous
"essentializing") terms.

Let us agree that to say of the Other, "The Other is good"
is not racist. It may be simply foolish.

I disagree. I view racism as the process of attributing to an individual
categorical attributes merely by reason of category membership and with the
assumption that individual variability either does not exist, or is of less
importance than the purported categorical attribute. Thus a racist argument
would be of the form: Group G has (purportedly) attribute A; X is a member
of group G, therefore X has attribute A. Examples of this kind of argument
abound; e.g., group G on the average has more of X than group H; therefore
each person in group G has more of X than each person of group H. It also is
a form of argument that characterizes sexist arguments; e.g., women on the
average have less upper body strength than males; therefore no women is
qualified for a job which requires upper body strength.

If the attribute is "goodness" and even if we agree that on the average "The
Other is good" (i.e., the Other has lots of "goodness" on the average), if I
then say that person X (who is a member of the Other) has "goodness" BECAUSE
X is a member of the Other, then that is just as racist a statement as to
assert a negative attribute. It may have different CONSEQUENCES, but the
form of the argument is still racist. Otherwise, we would need to have some
means to determine when an attribute is "positive" versus "negative"
that is univerally agreed upon. The latter is highly problematic, hence
making the onus of "racism" hinge upon the quality of the attribute rather
than the form of the argument reduces "racism" to: "its all in the eye of the

D. Read