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OPINION

No, Professors, White Students Are Not Inherently Racist

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Townhall.com.
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AP Photo/Mark Lennihan

One of the Left’s favorite tactics is to define or redefine a word to suit their purposes, then act as though that’s the only possible definition and the rest of us must simply go along. 

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Take “racism,” for example, or better yet “racist,” an epithet leftists love to hurl at anyone who disagrees with them or even at people they simply don’t like.  

Indeed, Campus Reform and other conservative outlets have been reporting for years on university professors and administrators who insist that “all white people are racist.” The latest example comes to us from Dominican University in Illinois, which this fall will host a “White Accountability Group.”  

There, white students will “explore how to recognize…white privilege [and] identify and interrupt internalized dominance”—because, you know, they’re all a bunch of racists.  

But it’s true that all white people are racists ONLY if we accept the Left’s perverse definition. Otherwise, it’s pure nonsense. 

Before we examine what leftists mean by “racism” and why they’re wrong, I’d like to look briefly at a few words they often use more or less interchangeably with “racism” but which don’t actually mean the same thing. 

First, there’s “bias,” which simply refers to personal preferences. Some biases are conscious, some subconscious. Many are completely benign, like where you wish to live or what sports team you root for.  

Others, like preferring to socialize or work only with people who share your beliefs, background, or physical traits, can be irrational and harmful. As we grow aware of such biases, we should work to overcome them. 

Racism is thus an extreme form of bias, but the two words are not synonymous.

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Then there’s “prejudice,” which means to pre-judge or make determinations about someone without even knowing them. Often, such judgments are based on observable traits, which is why racism is a form of prejudice (although, once again, not exactly the same thing). 

The problem with pre-judging people, of course, is that you’re usually wrong. Much better to get to know someone first. Then, instead of stereotyping, you can base your opinions of them on their character.   

Next on the list is “bigotry,” which may be one of the most misused words in modern English. According to Dictionary.com, bigotry refers to “the stubborn and complete intolerance of any creed, belief, or opinion that differs from one’s own.” 

Bigotry, then, is aimed primarily at ideas, not individuals, except perhaps to the extent those individuals represent the distasteful ideas. It means intolerance of others’ beliefs, not necessarily their race, sex, or ethnicity. 

“Discrimination” is another frequently misunderstood word. It has to do simply with making value judgments—basically, choosing. It isn’t even necessarily a negative term, as we acknowledge when we describe someone with refined tastes as “discriminating.” 

The fact is, we all discriminate constantly—in our choice of friends, pastimes, political candidates, beliefs. Those choices are ours alone to make; we have every right to make them; and to live happily, we must choose well. We must be able to discern not only between right and wrong, good and evil, but also, sometimes, between good, better, and best. 

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Problems arise when we discriminate for the wrong reasons—and racism is a classic example. Indeed, the simplest and most accurate definition of racism is “discrimination based on race”—judging people as less valuable solely because of their skin color or ethnicity. 

That’s wrong because it is both unjust and illogical. It incorporates all the worst connotations of the terms above—bias, bigotry, and prejudice—while focusing on one relatively inconsequential human characteristic: race.  

In short, racism accurately defined is bad enough.  

But that’s not what leftists mean when they use the word. In their neo-Marxist universe, every relationship is about power; hence, racism, as they see it, is a function of the white majority—the only ones, in their minds, with power—oppressing the black and brown minority, who in their view have no power. 

Thus, they can accuse all white people of racism, whether or not they engage in discriminatory behavior, by virtue of their membership in the “oppressor” class. Meanwhile, non-whites cannot be racist because they lack the capacity.   

That is absurd on its very face.  

First, all human beings are equally capable of racism. The temptation to discriminate based on observable characteristics like race is hardly confined to one group; it is simply an especially ugly feature of human nature—one we must all strive to resist.  

More importantly, though, the power monopoly postulated by the Left doesn’t exist in modern America. Whites today make up a scant majority, while plenty of minorities occupy positions of authority: managers, administrators, teachers, coaches, military leaders, police officers, politicians.  

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My boss for several years was a black woman. She was a good person and a good boss, and we got along fine. For heaven’s sake, we’ve had a black president and vice-president of the United States. How much more power can someone hold in this country? 

So when the Left starts telling you you’re a racist just because you’re white, don’t fall for it. You’re not. And as long as you do your best to treat everyone with dignity and respect, you won’t be a racist or a sexist or any other kind of -ist or -phobe.

Meanwhile, do not hesitate to push back. Don’t accept the Left’s defamatory labels, designed to marginalize and silence conservatives. Don’t let them define you. Learn what the words they use actually mean, then wield them accurately and honestly as you speak the truth.  

Because in the end, as we seek to navigate the Left’s un-funhouse maze of linguistic distortions, it is the truth that will set us free.

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