Friday, May 19, 2006

Redefining racism

According to the Seattle Public Schools, if you’re an individualist, you’re a racist (HT: Volokh Conspiracy). On a web page that lists various forms and definitions of racism, the school system defines “Cultural Racism” as:

Those aspects of society that overtly and covertly attribute value and normality to white people and Whiteness, and devalue, stereotype, and label people of color as “other”, different, less than, or render them invisible. Examples of these norms include defining white skin tones as nude or flesh colored, having a future time orientation, emphasizing individualism as opposed to a more collective ideology, defining one form of English as standard, and identifying only Whites as great writers or composers. [Emphasis added].
This definition is racist itself; it ascribes racist thinking to white people only—if one “overtly and covertly attribute[s] value and normality” to black or Asian races, one falls outside its definition of racism. More fundamentally hoverver, this definition attacks the very notion of treating individuals as individuals. In her 1963 essay Racism, Ayn Rand observed that

Racism is the lowest, most crudely primitive form of collectivism. It is the notion of ascribing moral, social or political significance to a man's genetic lineage—the notion that a man's intellectual and characterological traits are produced and transmitted by his internal body chemistry. Which means, in practice, that a man is to be judged, not by his own character and actions, but by the characters and actions of a collective of ancestors.

Racism claims that the content of a man's mind (not his cognitive apparatus, but its content) is inherited; that a man's convictions, values and character are determined before he is born, by physical factors beyond his control. This is the caveman's version of the doctrine of innate ideas—or of inherited knowledge—which has been thoroughly refuted by philosophy and science. Racism is a doctrine of, by and for brutes. It is a barnyard or stock-farm version of collectivism, appropriate to a mentality that differentiates between various breeds of animals, but not between animals and men.
So why then are the Seattle Public Schools smearing the antidote to collectivism as racist? At root is the Marxist theory that history is nothing more than group struggle, and according to such a theory, we are always defined by the group.

Of course, Marxism is patently false; if we are all connected via our collective memberships, every time I had a glass of water, you would stop being thirsty, and every time I had a idea, it would pop up in your head as well (at least if you were the same race as me). Marxism refuses to acknowledge that we are each separate individuals and that we deserve recognition as such—a premise the Seattle Public Schools seems to share.

So count the Seattle Public Schools’ definition of racism as yet another article of evidence against the public schools, which mandate that we must pay to spread of ideas we deeply oppose.

No comments: