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Racial vs. Racist

Updated on February 24, 2010

"Racial" is not (necessarily) "racist"

The word "racial" is used to describe things pertaining to the social category of "race". As such, surveys that track race-group representation in employment and higher education, or research that examines the effect of perpetrator's or victim's race on sentencing are clearly "racial" in nature.

Whether such surveys are also "racist" depends on how the information is used. If the information is used to oppress or otherwise deride a racial group or elevate a more powerful racial group, it is racist. In contrast, if the goal is to track racial data in order to ensure racial equity, then the racial data are not only not racist, they are, in my way of thinking, anti-racist.

I apply the same distinction to humor. Jokes that seek to put a racial outgroup down are, in my way of thinking, racist. Those that make fun of racial dynamics, racial stereotypes, or even racial inequality are not.

Not everyone agrees with this distinction. Racial neoconservatives (those that present a color-blind ideology) tend to categorize any acknowledgment of race as "racism."

From my perspective, this is a disingenuous and calculated response that is actually "racist" in nature, because its purpose is to obscure the racial inequity present in our society by making such record keeping taboo and silencing the activists that would bring such data to public attention.


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    • lyubansk profile image

      lyubansk 7 years ago from Urbana, Illinois

      Daniel, if I had time, I'd write a longer blog about this, but the short answer is that I don't think Rather meant any harm but that yes, given the history, any link between African Americans and watermelons is likely to bring froth racist images and arouse a lot of strong feelings. I'm not trying to say anything about Rather's character (that's a much longer discussion), just that it was a very poor choice of words because it completely derailed almost everyone's thinking away from the main point.

    • profile image

      Daniel Harrison 7 years ago

      So how do you feel about Dan Rather's recent statement about Obama not being able to sell watermelons at a roadside stand even if he had the help of state troopers?

      Rather's critics are suggesting that to use the word "watermelon" in a sentence describing a Black man is inherently racist because of the old prejudice that African Americans like watermelon. But Rather didn't suggest that Obama had some preordained relationship to watermelons, unless I'm missing some overtone.

      Whadya think?

    • someonewhoknows profile image

      someonewhoknows 7 years ago from south and west of canada,north of ohio

      So,do advertiser's.

      Have you read the back or even the front of the labels on foods these days. What does the word "natural" mean when you say "all natural" ?

      According to F.D.A.rules the word natural can mean anything,or nothing depending on what the advertiser intended.For example : the words "All natural antibiotics " or "No un-natural antibiotics" meaning they could be using hormones that are all natural,say from a cows immune system, but in order for the cow to produce that all natural hormone ,they may be given an un-natural synthetic hormone booster ,in order for the cow to be able to produce that all natural hormone that makes them produce more milk.

      Then there are juices that say all natural flavors .They tell you what natural flavor or flavors it has plus one that says and other natural flavors,yet it doesn't say what those other natural flavor or flavors are.

    • someonewhoknows profile image

      someonewhoknows 7 years ago from south and west of canada,north of ohio

      lawyer's do it all the time.

    • someonewhoknows profile image

      someonewhoknows 7 years ago from south and west of canada,north of ohio

      It,depends on the context in which it is used.A lot of words original meanings have been used out of context that word alone was ment to covey.when used in conjunction with other words.that change it's meaning.

    • Ralph Deeds profile image

      Ralph Deeds 7 years ago from Birmingham, Michigan

      I agree with your observations.