Participating on a blog, like this, can be annoying at times. Equally as annoying is engaging individuals on associated topics, when, inevitably, you get branded a supremacist (note I don't add white, since it is assumed that only whites can be supremacists), a bigot, a xenophobe, a racist or some other descriptor. In reality, the problem may be complex, but usually involves a poor grasp of the definitions.
Since racism is often used as an all encompassing term, it will be prudent to quickly analyse a definition thereof.
According to the Oxford Dictionary racism is a belief or ideology that members of each racial group possess characteristics or abilities specific to that race, distinguishing it as being either superior or inferior to another racial group or racial groups.
So there are two components, belief and superiority, and this is where many of our critics come unstuck.
Yet, consider this, any statement made by a white person, referring to another race, is considered potentially racist; even though it falls outside of the definition.
Recently Black Coffee branded me as being racist for pointing out that average sub-Saharan black IQs are below 90. Is that racist? Let's look at the definition. No it isn't. I did not mention IQ in order to reinforce a view that whites are superior. I mentioned IQ in the context of internet usage. However, the fact that white IQs are higher than sub-Saharan black IQs, by definition, makes whites superior BUT only in so far as IQ is concerned. If the belief is absent, namely the belief that I am somehow better than you, then it is not racist. I know black males, on average, are better at long distance running than me. This makes them superior, when it comes to running, but it isn't racist to make this claim.
If we look at most exchanges revolving around race, much of what we experience is not racism, perhaps stereotyping. Let's look at a few examples.
Peter De Villiers suggesting that the international press corp and David Dowd are racist.
This is complete nonesense, and should be treated with contempt. De Villiers makes his assertions based on flawed assumptions. Those assumptions are that ALL whites believe they are superior to blacks. This projection reveals De Villiers to be a bigot. Although his stereotype may be correct, it says nothing about the individuals involved.
Black men are a bunch of raping, thieving thugs.
Of course this is untrue, not all black men fit this profile, but the stereotype is valid.
Both examples do not reflect racist remarks, but rather stereotyping. Below is an article on stereotyping.
What Is Stereotyping?
What people call “stereotypes” are what scientists call “empirical generalizations,” (What I call the preponderance of probablity) and they are the foundation of scientific theory. That’s what scientists do; they make generalizations (Deductive reasoning). Many stereotypes are empirical generalizations with a statistical basis and thus on average tend to be true.
If stereotypes were not true, they wouldn't be stereotypes.
The only problem with stereotypes and empirical generalizations is that they are not always true for all individual cases. They are generalizations, not invariant laws. There are always individual exceptions to stereotypes and empirical generalizations. The danger lies in applying the empirical generalizations to individual cases, which may or may not be exceptions.
But these individual exceptions do not invalidate the
An observation, if true, becomes an empirical generalization until someone objects to it, and then it becomes a stereotype. For example, the statement “Men are taller than women” is an empirical generalization. It is in general true, but there are individual exceptions. There are many men who are shorter than the average woman, and there are many women who are taller than the average man, but these exceptions do not make the generalization untrue. Men on average are taller than women in every human society. Everybody knows this, but nobody calls it a stereotype because it is not unkind to anybody. Men in general like being taller than women, and women in general like being shorter than men.
However, as soon as one turns this around and makes a slightly different, yet equally true, observation that “Women are fatter than men,” it becomes a stereotype because nobody, least of all women, wants to be considered fat. But it is true nonetheless; women have a higher percentage of body fat than men throughout the life course (and there are evolutionary reasons for this as well). Once again, there are numerous individual exceptions, but the generalization still holds true at the population level.
Stereotypes and empirical generalizations are neither good nor bad, desirable nor undesirable, moral nor immoral. They just are. Stereotypes do not tell us how to behave or treat other people (or groups of people). Stereotypes are observations about the empirical world, not behavioral prescriptions. One may not infer how to treat people from empirical observations about them.
Stereotypes tell us what groups of people tend to be or do in general; they do not tell us how we ought to treat them.
Once again, there is no place for “ought” in science.
As empirical generalizations borne of the observations and experiences of millions of individuals, most stereotypes are on the whole true. If they are not true, they cannot survive long as stereotypes. Nonetheless, theory and research in evolutionary psychology have overturned a few stereotypes and shown them to be false.
So is it wrong to hold a stereotype?
Of course not. It is our way of short circuiting mental processes. You wouldn't survive very long if you required a solid body of evidence on every individual prior to taking action; but of course the Libbies will make you feel guilty for stereotyping. What you need, though, is personal honesty. Recognise when you have made a mistake, and judge individuals on their merits. On this basis, you may even find that you will have a black/muslim/gay friend.
If a group of black youths walk towards me, in a lower socio-economic area, it would be imprudent not to cross the street; not racist.
If you ignored this short circuiting system, you may get a Noddy badge from some, but you will incur a lot of hardship and your "gut feel" will be absent.