Re: racism

Michelle B. Golden (mgolden@UNIX.CC.EMORY.EDU)
Fri, 21 Oct 1994 18:00:25 -0400

With all respect to Webster, I stand by my definition (what blasphemy!) I
think that in common usage, "racism" is shorthand for "racial
oppression." Or, put another way, whatever words we use, we're talking
about two distinct issues--so I suppose I could say that Marius is
confusing Rushton's "racial oppressiveness" with Webster's definition of

The reason this is so confusing (IMHO) is that there is a certain type of
"racism" (by Webster's def) that is expressed by an individual AND backed
by institutions), and a certain type that is expressed by individuals and
NOT backed by institutions. As another David pointed out (relatively
unintentionally in a private post to me), the former type of racism
(backed by societal insts) is not limited to members of the dominant
race, though I suppose it's most common there.

In any case, Rushton's and Shirwin's comments are not analogous.

BTW, since when have we waited for Webster to have a definition in order
to express complex (radical?) social concepts? Out of curiosity, did
Webster have a def of racism prior to Abolition and/or the Civil Rights
Movement? What about "sexism" before the first or second wave of the
women's movement? (these aren't rhetorical questions. I'm genuinely curious)

Yours in dictionary blasphemy (oh boy am I in trouble now! To disagree
with Webster of all things! Please don't hurt me)

Michelle (

On Fri, 21 Oct 1994, David Driscoll (ANT) wrote:

> On Fri, 21 Oct 1994, Michelle B. Golden wrote:
> > Racism is a form of oppression, which means that it is that is structural.
> > That is, it is a set
> > of beliefs and practices **backed up by societal institutions.** Given that,
> > Sherwin's message isn't racism. This "reverse discrimination" thing
> > really gets under my skin, not only because it's off-base, but because it
> > demonstrates a total lack of understanding of what oppression is (which
> > means that Marius doesn't even understand the language he's co-opting.)
> >
> Wrong. According to Webster's 7th Collegiate "Racism" is (1) a belief
> that race is the primary determinant of human traits and capacities and
> that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular
> race, and (2) racial prejudice or discrimination. In other words, racist
> attitudes are an individual's conceptions of superiority or inferiority,
> be it in the physical, mental, or mentalist realms, based on certain
> *perceived* phenotypical variations. According to this definition,
> Rushton's ideas are racist, so are Francis Welsing's, and, yes, so was
> Mr. Sherwin's, (not to mention sexist, what about my grandmother?).
> Oppression is racial discrimination, as you said, "backed up by societal
> institutions."
> Thank You,
> David L. Driscoll
> University of South Florida
> Department of Applied Anthropology