Friday, February 27, 2015

The 'Power Dynamic' Definition of Racism Fails to Anticipate Changes in Political Status Quo

Stuart K. Hayashi 

I think that any form of prejudice against a group of people based on race, counts as racism. This means that even if white people are richer and more politically powerful than I am, I am still capable of being racist against whites.  However, numerous politically-correct activists, including Feminist Frequency producer Jonathan McIntosh and critic "Movie" Bob Chipman, advance what they consider a superior definition of racism.

 They say that the definition of racism is not merely unjustified generalizations about an entire genetic/racial grouping, but also a power dynamic. They say racism, by definition, is the racial group in a position of power acting in such a way as to keep other racial groups down, with such hostility running the gamut from relatively minor "microaggressive" condescension to outright violence.
According to that definition, by analytic logic alone we are to presume that  there can be no racism against white people in the West.

On Twitter, "Movie" Bob says, "BIGOTRY against white people exists. RACISM describes bigotry translated to a functioning power dynamic... . . . such a thing does not meaningfully exist against white people."

This "power dynamic" definition is intended to score political points for activists who want to shame people for being white and/or being born into wealth, but it does not help anyone combat racial violence.  The reason is that people who say that racial violence is caused only by some racial group in power happen to ignore that, because political change is possible, it is entirely possible for there to be dangerous racial hatred against Group X even if Group X is presently wealthier and/or even has more members in government than other groups. 

Consider the position of Jews in Germany throughout the first half of the twentieth century. A common complaint that the Volkish movement made was that Jews, despite being a minority widely disliked, tended to become richer and even more politically powerful than Aryans. If it is true that one cannot be racist against a group that is supposedly richer and more powerful than the other groups, then, by that twisted logic, it would be impossible to be racist against Jews in the Weimar Republic.

If this "power dynamic" definition of racism were the correct one, then it would seem that the Nazis' anti-Semitic prejudices were somehow non-racist during the 1920s and only became racist once Hitler was chancellor. The fact is that this prejudice was dangerous the entire time, regardless of whether Jews were so much richer than other groups in the Weimar period.

 The "power dynamic" definition of racism fails because it doesn't account for the fact that a race that supposedly hogs all the wealth and political power can actually lose that political power and be targeted by the State for abuse.

If Group X supposedly has more wealth and officeholders than Group Y, it is counterproductive to do as McIntosh and Movie Bob do, and say that Group X's prejudice against Y is horrendous racism whereas anything prejudiced that Y does against X is somehow less bad.  If Group Y nurses seething hatred for Group X, then if political fortunes change and Group Y gets into power, Group Y can be just as cruel and unjust toward members of X as members of X once were toward Y.  

Therefore, rather than wrangling over which group is richer and more powerful than which, it would be best to discourage any animosity toward any racial collective and instead to judge persons on individual merit.