There’s no such sin as “racism”

While taking Zippy’s warnings about the dangers of nominalism seriously, I’m going to mostly agree with the neo-reactionaries on this one.  Being an essentialist doesn’t mean insisting every word refers to a real essence.  A word may fail to refer to an essence if it

  1. contains a mischaracterization in its definition.  For example, suppose I define “spousal exclusionism” to be the sinfully discriminating practice of not being willing to have sexual relations with anyone other than one’s spouse.  Although I can easily cite cases of this behavior, the word is still nonsense because the behavior it describes is not sinful, and cramming moral disapproval into the definition cannot make it so.
  2. arbitrarily singles out some instances from others that are essentially the same.  For example, suppose I discover the sin of “even-day arsonry”, the crime of committing arson on an even day of the month.
  3. arbitrarily joining distinct things.  For example, making up a word to refer to either orange juice or peanut butter but no other kind of food.

Every use of the word “racism” is meaningless on at least one of these counts.

If by “racism”, one means “the sin of having a special loyalty and preference for one’s own group”, then it is guilty of #1 above:  it is trying to define a natural and non-sinful attitude to be sinful.  “Racism” as “the sinful belief that one race is superior in some way to another” is also guilty of this, because such a belief may be true or false, but there is nothing inherently wicked in entertaining it.

(By the way, the suggestion that we moderns have discovered a sin that the wise men of antiquity didn’t know about should automatically be greeted with suspicion.  There is, after all, no other obvious evidence that we possess the refinement of moral sensibility to make such discoveries.)

If by “racism” one means “sinful acts perpetrated against members of other races”, then it is guilty of #2 above.  For example, if a man sets out to kill the first ten people of other races he comes across, he will certainly be guilty of a grave sin.  He will be guilty of the sin of murder.  The fact that he sought out members of other races rather than seeking out his own or being indifferent to the race of his victims does not change the nature or gravity of his sin one iota.  Thus, to prove that racism is a real sin, it is insufficient to show that some whites have treated some blacks unjustly.  One must also show that there is something wicked about having done unjust things to blacks in particular, so that if the victims had been whites the act would in some aspect have been not as bad.

If by “racism” one means “the inclination that leads people to mistreat those of other races”, then one is guilty of #3 above, because there is no single such inclination.  There are several, and they are very different in quality.  For example,

  1. Mere selfishness.  Slave traders didn’t have to hate blacks to be willing to make money off of them.  In this case, the racial aspect just involves the lack of a restraint.  The sinner’s bond with his own people would have deterred him from committing the sin against his own kind but not others for whom he has no such bond.  The racially-dependent variable is, in itself, a morally positive thing; what it’s doing is keeping him from doing injustice to some people.  It is just inadequate in itself for a fully moral outlook.
  2. A sense that the other race is a threat.  E.g. tribal warfare.
  3. A belief that another race is an “oppressor”, that is, one of the evil forces of Leftist demonology.  This phenomenon is quite different from the previous case of the natural instinct of loyalty to one’s tribe under threat in that this form of racial hostility is mediated by Leftist ideology.  Much black-perpetrated violence against whites is probably of this kind, and I suspect the public school system has a great deal of culpability.

Surely more is obscured than revealed by having a single word for all of these phenomena.

I therefore propose that the word “racism”, which in practice really does serve no purpose other than to pathologize whites, should be retired and replaced with the following:

  1. a nonjudgmental name for preference for one’s own race
  2. a nonjudgmental name for belief in differences between races
  3. a name for the lack of moral restraint toward those outside one’s own nation or race, that is, an undeveloped sense of justice toward man qua man
  4. a name for hatred of the perceived enemies of one’s race.  This name should include moral disapproval but with the recognition that it is a common deformation of a healthy feeling of protectiveness towards one’s own group under threat.
  5. a name for ideological hatred of Leftist scapegoat groups

New stuff by me

I’ve added some new pages to the book reviews.  These are actually not new in that the material has appeared already on this blog or on the Orthosphere, but in case you missed them then, you will now see perusing the book reviews links for

Over at the Orthosphere, I’ve been

The danger of human biodiversity to traditionalism

In discussions of Nicholas Wade’s new book, people seem to believe that the idea of human evolution continuing after different human sub-groups split and into historical times is particularly discomforting to liberals.  I think this is backwards.  After all, a key part of the liberal worldview–perhaps the key part–is that the current generation of Westerners is much smarter and more moral than the rest of humanity that has ever lived.  Thus, things that our ancestors or other civilizations didn’t believe (such as the moral imperative of democracy and sexual equality) are known even by the least sophisticated of us as obviously true.  What’s more, we don’t believe these things because they are the dogmas of our tribe which we accept uncritically like past generations of men accepted what they were told; no, we have each arrived at these truths through the use of our own independent Reason, by being the first generation unencumbered by Superstition and Prejudice.

Conservatives have, of course, always mocked this chauvinism of the present.  We have tended to assume that the differences between ourselves and our ancestors are relatively trivial, and that this generation is distinguished only by its hubris.  Thus, we assume customs that were beneficial for them will usually also be so for us, and we give the thinkers and witnesses of the past the same respectful hearing and presumption of credibility that we would give to people today.

However, there is some evidence that IQ has been rising and personal violence has been falling through the centuries.  There is even evidence that the Jews are a superior race in some ways, as the liberals have always treated them.  Suppose it is true that modern people are, on average, much smarter or less violent than ancient or medieval people.  What would follow from that?

Nothing necessarily follows from it.  The genetic enhancements under discussion don’t constitute a change of species (in the biological or metaphysical meaning of “species”), so changes to the natural law during human history are impossible.  Our defense of inherited traditions is also not compromised.  We never defended tradition because our ancestors who developed them were supposed to be so smart.   No one invents traditions; they are emergent phenomena of communities.  Nor did we defend tradition as something that takes the place of reason, as doing the sort of thing reason could do except that most people are (or were up till now) too stupid.  Traditions are suprarational; the truths they embody contain but transcend articulable propositions, so increased intelligence can enhance one’s ability to appreciate them but in no way makes one less in need of them.  Lastly, the conservative instinct to learn from the great minds of the past is as sensible as ever, since none of these were average products of their time.  Even if it could be shown that the average IQ of the great ancient and medieval philosophers is lower than that of the philosophy department in a contemporary university, we are still justified in preferring to study the former’s work because of the much broader perspective it brings.  (After all, very intelligent philosophers of today just parrot the conventional wisdom of the present in very sophisticated ways.)

Nevertheless, the prospect of one of liberalism’s key prejudices being confirmed is certainly vexing.

What do you mean “educated”?

Vox Day is right.

It is apparent that the cunning plan of Western liberals to destroy the Dar al-Islam  by pushing secularized Western education on Islamic women has been comprehended by the strategists of the global Caliphate…Now liberals like Kristof are aghast at the fact that the very young women they intentionally turned into cultural weapons on behalf of their secular ideals are being targeted for enslavement and destruction. But what else did they expect? It would appear they were misled by the widespread failure of the Christians of the West to respond to the successful capture of their daughters by the secular establishment into thinking that the Muslims of the South and East would be similarly complacent.

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