I think the recent racism kerfuffle on my FL is dying down now. But, as the waters calm, I feel the need to illuminate a single concept.
What is racism?
The simple view would be that racism is one group believing that they are better than another group or groups. The Nazis put forward the idea that the Aryan race (which was a fantasy, BTW) was the "master race," i.e., superior to all others. The Nazis were racists.
But that's not really what's going on. It's the rationalization, not the underlying belief.
Nazism grew out of the economic and cultural chaos that followed World War I in Europe. In Germany, the currency collapsed and middle class Germans, people who's lives had been secure and moderately wealthy, suddenly found themselves in poverty. They found themselves staring down hunger and homelessness. They needed a reason to understand their suddenly reduced circumstances. Since they perceived the banking sector to be controlled by Jews, it was obvious (to many) that Jews were to blame for their plight. Never mind that the vast majority of the Jews who were victims of the Holocaust were ordinary, middle class people -- not bankers by a long shot. Once the "find someone to blame" ball gets rolling, logic doesn't enter into it.
(Note: Everything has its roots: Why were Jews perceived to control banking? Because in the middle ages, the Biblical ban on lending money meant that Christians couldn't be bankers.)
(Note 2: Hmmm... the currency collapsed in Germany after WWI... does that sound familiar to anyone reading today's headlines?)
Anyway, my point is that racism is never about thinking you're better than someone else. Racism is about thinking that someone else is responsible for your lack of success, declining fortunes, whatever isn't right about your life.
The Ku Klux Klan grew out of the turmoil after the American Civil War. Southern culture collapsed. Who better to blame than all those former slaves who are suddenly free -- putting pressure on the formerly white-dominated economic system? A rational assessment of slavery in the United States would tell you that it had all but run its course by the time the Civil War began. The economic system was already shifting away from slavery. The industrial revolution took care of that. However, in the southern states after the Civil War there was suddenly a large population of unemployed former farm workers (black slaves) to be absorbed. This meant economic chaos, and one of the almost inevitable side effects of economic chaos is racism.
There is a huge difference between celebrating and being proud of your own heritage and racism. Racism is offensive. Cultural pride is not.
Culture pride expresses itself in wanting to share the good things about your heritage with others. I express my pride in my heritage by cooking family recipes, by bragging about my 82-year-old aunt who flies an airplane, by looking up my genealogy, by learning about the culture of my Jewish ancestors and my Christian ancestors.
Racism expresses itself by enumerating the outrages visited upon the racist by the "others."
Every ethnic, religious, like-minded group can find some outrage in its history. That's why anybody can be a racist if they want to go that route.
Racism is NOT exclusively a white institution. It never has been. That's the primary logical fallacy in the piece that set off this storm. Nobody is saying that only white people can be racists. Because that foundation premise is false the rest of the argument becomes specious. Yes, there are black racists, and Jewish racists, and even Hispanic racists. That doesn't make racism OK.
Racism is counterproductive. It may make the person who is out of work and wondering how they're going to put food on the table and make the mortgage payments feel better to blame his plight on "all those illegal immigrants, or "N-g-rs," or "the Jews." But it isn't going to put food on his table or help make the mortgage payment.
The conditions that spark racism can be overcome. But that requires that we put our instinctive fear of "others," aside and work together to alleviate the conditions that are buggering us up.
The basic fallacy of racism is that "races" somehow act as one -- saying "Jews," are responsible for the financial collapse of Europe after WWI, rather than looking the actions of individuals.
The differences between individuals within any racial/ethnic/philosophical group is greater than the aggregate differences between those groups. Or, to put it more simply: We're all responsible for who we are. Our ethnic background may influence us, but the choices we make define us.
Racism is on the rise today. That's not surprising considering the state of the world.
But this I know, the challenges of the 21st century will not be overcome by dividing ourselves into camps based on race, religion, or any other trivial sorting method.
In this century we must overcome global climate change or become extinct as a species -- a species that includes all the races. We must find a way to distribute the planet's resources equitably, that includes petroleum, food, water and air. In a world that is no longer divided by geography, we must find a way for all the different cultures to co-exist and flourish -- without vying for supremacy.
If the human race is going to make it out of the 21st century, we're going to have to overcome our instinctive fear of the "other," and our need to hoard resources (a vestige of our tribal "hunter and gatherer" past). The mandate for our future, if we're going to have a future, has to be "work together." That doesn't mean we have to discard our heritage. It never did. That's a false dichotomy.
It means we have to look at the people around us as individuals, not faceless members of a "race" or a religion. We have to stop looking for someone to blame for our problems, and look instead for solutions to our problems.
Remove "blame" from the equation, and racism isn't going to be the answer.
(For the benefit of anyone who just read this and said "Huh? What kerfuffle?" Here's a link to the "Snopes" reprint of the piece that set this off