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Words Matter: Different Definitions of Racism Create Confusion for the Masses

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of

It appears the most recent New York Times editorial board hire, Sarah Jeong, has sparked one of those "difficult national conversations" regarding racism due to her tweets haranguing white people. But like most of these so-called conversations, national discourse has devolved into the left dismissing any concern from conservatives about racism. 


This dismissal stems from the left's definition of racism. Jeong one time tweeted, "Theoretically you can’t be racist against white people." This theory is predicated on the belief that white people in America benefit from an unequal power structure. Government discrimination against minorities exists to keep this inequality of the races present. Ergo, in order to be racist, you have to have power they argue. The left believes white people have all the power in American society. So if a minority attacks an entire group of white people, they are doing so honorably in order to dismantle the white patriarchy according to the left. 

To be clear, white people in America have benefited from advantageous government policies. This has created many different problems for various minority groups that persist today. But, leftists believe that that power structure is so pervasive in American society that only white people can be racist. 

Jeong has also tweeted remarks such as "White men are f*cking bulsh*t,” and "Oh man it’s kind of sick how much joy I get out of being cruel to old white men" and much more. 

Conservatives pointed out that Jeong was denigrating an entire group of people, even dehumanizing whites by calling them goblins in one tweet. Yet the left defended her tweets as satire and not actually racist.

Why? Because of their belief that "racism depends upon societal power structure, therefore only whites can be racist." This idea goes out the window when a white person is attacked simply for his skin color. Whatever supposed structure exists comes crumbling down in this instance. This happened just this week in New York City. The suspect in this case, a black man, was being racist by attacking a white man for being white.


Does the left ignore this kind of racism because they view members of society as collective units, not individuals each endowed with rights from God? If so, the left's idea that "power" equates to governmental action could arguably be tied to their tendency to disbelieve in God. 

However, for the true conservative, we believe in God and tend to believe in the dictionary's definition of racism. It is defined as "prejudice, discrimination, or antagonism directed against someone of a different race based on the belief that one's own race is superior." To a true conservative, racism is incredibly stupid and hateful because we are all God's children and therefore no race is more superior than the other. 

Our equality and human dignity come from divine power, not our fellow man. All humans have equal rights found in nature. And each person is granted these rights from God, not the government bestowing rights to groups. 

Leftists may argue that belief in God has been used to justify various atrocities. But this ignores the fact that God was the guiding source of inspiration for civil rights hero Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.. "We must keep God in the forefront. Let us be Christian in all our actions," Rev. King once said regarding protests for equal rights. 

Furthermore, King's definition of racism is inherently different from modern liberals. Rev. King's viewpoint was essentially the same as the dictionary's. King said racism was "a philosophy based on a contempt for life. It is the arrogant assertion that one race is the center of value and object of devotion, before which other races must kneel in submission. It is the absurd dogma that one race is responsible for all the progress of history and alone can assure the progress of the future. Racism is total estrangement. It separates not only bodies, but minds and spirits. Inevitably it descends to inflicting spiritual and physical homicide upon the out-group.”


If the left truly wants to progress society, we should stick to Dr. King's definition. If there is one thing we should be able to agree upon it is that it is wrong for one to judge or mistreat an individual based on that individual's race. 

We must also recognize that historically those in charge with vast amounts of power will use their personal biases and hate to advance their collective group and suppress others. That is not unique to America's past alone. It is not unique to white people. It is an abuse of power that has been the norm for most of world history across all cultures.  This does not excuse it in America. It indicates that the oppression of one group over another is a problem that can be found in every society. Each of us, regardless of race, can do our part to solve this problem by viewing each other as individuals.

That is why conservatives advocate limited government, the belief in individual freedom, and against collectivist thinking.  But, under leftist thought and their view of racism, we regress towards rigid collectivist group think and massive government power which makes hatred against the individual possible.

Whatever the sincerity of the left's desire to combat hatred, it is clear that conservatives are operating with one definition of racism while leftists view it as something completely different. This is problematic for society. It indicates that even the way in which the right and left use words is growing more polarized due to politics. Words matter. If we do not have the same understanding of language as critical as "racism" there is no chance of a meaningful dialogue for genuine progress. No true "difficult national conversation" can be had under this paradigm.


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