Unless I've missed something, no one is bothering to define "racist"
or "racism", so that tends to make anything one has to say about it
more or less right and more or less wrong, depending on what one's
own definition of racism is. Just off the top of my pinpointed head
(where not much can balance without falling off), I consider the term
to refer to any kinds of distinctions regarding the value of human
beings based on "race" (whatever that is defined as in the society
under consideration, since it's a social construction, not a
biologically definable category). So....I think racism is
pre-eminently a characteristic of a society, and all members of that
society are inculcated, influenced, enlanguaged, and enthoughted by
it, whatever their moral and ideological persuasions. (I'm old
enough to make up my own words, goddammit!). So....if you are born
into and raised by a racist society (and who isn't?), you share in
those sensibilities one way or another. Does that make you a
"racist"? The question is silly. It makes you a participant in a
racist society, and to some extent you embody those values in your
thinking, willy nilly. It's what you do with it, how you respond to
it, that matters for the real issue of human redemption.
When I was active in the civil rights movement in the 60s, as rabid a
white anti-racist as you could find, brought up from the cradle by
left-wing anti-racism radicals, I was deeply conscious at every
moment of my racist instincts, the huge package of prejudice with
which I responded to people reflexively. I considered these to be
poisonous elements in my consciousness, deeply embedded in my bones,
and that was one of the major motivations I had to try to overcome it
in every way possible by changing myself and my society. Unhappily,
I only succeeded partially on both counts. Same for Twain, I'd
Just my 2 centavos.
Benjamin N. Wise, Ph.D.
Keene State College