Everyday when we turn on the news, we see someone new being lambasted as a “racist.” Whether it be the president, a member of congress, or even that friendly golden retriever down the street, the main stream media is never short a supply of xenophobic white supremacists to criticize. But the word racist has a very specific meaning, or at least it used to.
The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines racist is “a belief that race is the primary determinant of human traits and capacities and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race.” In other words, when we believe that someone else’s physical or psychological characteristics are inferior to our’s because of the color of their skin, it’s racist. But when we use the word on our friends, family, and strangers from internet, it’s probably not because they said something racist, just something we disagree with. See the difference?
It’s like the word love. Once a deep and substantial term for two people crazy about one another, it’s been whittled down over the decades to nothing more than a careless adjective for like. “I’d love a hamburger right now. I’d love to go to the World Series. I’d love to not be stuck in traffic right now.”
“Racist” has gone through the same transformation. Once a term used to describe disgusting, ignorant people who provide nothing but hate, it has become a a weapon used simply to shut down our opponents during discussion. For example, NFL players who choose to stand for the national anthem are racist (yes, liberals really think this). Or believing that legal immigration to the United States is the only acceptable form of immigration, is racist. In fact “to be white is to be racist, period” a white Oklahoma high school teacher informed his class last October.
The hyper-overuse of the word is not only annoy, it’s extremely dangerous. Everytime you casually drop the word in everyday conversation or casual debate, it loses a little more of its value, undermining its effectiveness against actual racists. It devolves legitimate discussion into a slinging of personal insults and increases the toxicity of an already pernicious political environment. Instead of using reason, facts, and logic, it permits individuals to believe they’re right because they’ve labeled other side of the argument is ignorant and small-minded. It instills a mindset of superiority, and limits the ability of meaningful dialogue.
The latest example of this is the mole-hill-into-a-mountain situation between president Trump’s Chief of Staff John Kelly and Rep Frederica Wilson (D-FL) of Miami. Kelly last week referred to Wilson as an “empty barrel” an adaption of Shakespeare’s empty vessel phrase. Wilson immediately accused Kelly of being a “racist” and defaming her because she’s a woman. She went on to state that the “White House is full of white supremacists.” The term of course, means someone who’s empty headed, and is not a derogatory phrase for black people.
As we’re seeing on college campuses across the country, the idea that everyone and everything is racist is actually suppressing all other idea’s