“When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less.”
“The question is,” said Alice, “whether you can make words mean so many different things.”
“The question is,” said Humpty Dumpty, “which is to be master—that’s all.”Lewis Carroll, Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There
There is racial and ethic hatred and bigotry of all kinds. But these days the word “racism” has little to do with actual hatred and bigotry. Increasingly, it is no more than a political weapon that has no definite meaning at all.
Merriam-Webster is redefining “racism” to reflect more recent developments in critical theory. But you don’t need a dictionary to notice the creativity with which accusations of “racism” are currently thrown around. Math is racist. “Guac” is racist. Coco Pops are racist. Seat belts are racist. Accurate crime alerts are racist. Colorblindness (remember “I Have a Dream”?) is racist. White flight is racist. The reversal of white flight is racist. Time is racist. Earth, wind, fire, and water are racist. Capitalism is racist. Socialism is racist. Lots of things are racist—everything is racist (except prejudice against white people).
Such flexible and ever-changing usage is not an accident. Politics is war, and in political war language may be the most important weapon. Language corrupts thought; thought shapes values; values shape what we buy, vote for, and retweet; money, votes, and retweets are important sources of power. The incentives aren’t complicated, and all political movements respond to them by weaponizing language somehow or other. (That said, since the Establishment is Blue, Blue’s weaponization is much more pervasive and effective. If you don’t believe me, just check out The New York Times Best Sellers List.)
With the word “racism” in particular, the weaponization strategy is simple: Pretty much everyone thinks “racism” is bad. So if (the activist wing of) the Establishment can control what people think is “racist,” it can control what they think is bad. It can control their outrage, their—our—mental, emotional, and even spiritual focus. It can blame anything on “racism,” whether or not any actual hatred or injustice was involved. And it can #cancel anyone who doesn’t fall into line and (literally) bend the knee.
Oh, and it can make money. Lots of money. There’s a whole “anti-racism” industry, which may or may not actually be helping black and other nonwhite Americans but is definitely helping professional activists and “anti-racists” (not to mention good ol’-fashioned scammers): “[A]bout one-quarter of Black Lives Matter expenditures in fiscal year 2019 went to salaries, benefits, and payroll taxes and 46% went to ‘consultant fees.'” (Don’t worry, the Minnesota Freedom Fund—which spent less than 1% of its donations on bailouts of arrested protesters—is “working on doing more.”)
This weaponization strategy isn’t new. Orwell noticed the same pattern with the word “fascism” back in 1944:
It will be seen that, as used, the word ‘Fascism’ is almost entirely meaningless. In conversation, of course, it is used even more wildly than in print. I have heard it applied to farmers, shopkeepers, Social Credit, corporal punishment, fox-hunting, bull-fighting, the 1922 Committee, the 1941 Committee, Kipling, Gandhi, Chiang Kai-Shek, homosexuality, Priestley’s broadcasts, Youth Hostels, astrology, women, dogs and I do not know what else.
Then: astrology, women, dogs. Now: math, “guac,” Coco Pops.
At least since the time of FDR, the Blue Establishment has used this weaponization strategy to take over pretty much the whole world. For decades, it’s been able to defeat almost all opposition by calling it “racist” (or “fascist”). Language control is thought control, and thought control is emotional control, and emotional control is power. By mastering such control, the Blue Establishment has become the most powerful establishment the world has ever seen. And here’s the proof: Even most of its opponents (on both the Right and far Left) willingly submit to its mental and emotional policing. If that ain’t power, then I don’t know what power is.
Why, however, should we put up with the Establishment’s thought policing? “Racism” is not a biblical concept, and at this point it’s not even a concept at all—it’s an anti-concept, a political weapon designed to mean whatever the activists want it to mean. It obscures rather than illuminates, referring to an omnipresent but nebulous malevolent force rather than to anything concrete—and giving the powers of this world (rather than God) ultimate control over our moral outlook and priorities.
“But doesn’t systemic racism obviously exist?” No, not really (at least not in the way you think): “[W]hile studies about anti-black bias that are well-designed generally find either no bias at all, small effects or ambiguous results, the existence of a huge pro-black bias in a variety of settings has been documented over and over.”
“But what’s the big deal? Isn’t this just semantics?” No. Besides what I’ve already said:
- Oftentimes facts are wrongly discounted as “racist” (or “sexist,” or…) even though they are true. (Example: “African-American [college] applicants receive the largest race/ethnic preference (by a factor of 5.5 over whites).”) Consequently, the word “racist” (by design!) impedes our ability to see the world accurately.
- As I’ve said, in the background of most “racism” talk is the presupposition that “racism” is an omnipresent malevolent force. Underlying this presupposition is an entire Narrative of historical, economic, and sociological assumptions. But this Narrative, which is perpetuated by words like “racist,” is mostly false.
- Lots of Christians claim that “racism” is a sin. At first glance, this claim might seem obviously right. But if the word “racism” has no stable and definite meaning, then it’s not only wrong but dangerous, because it subjects the Church’s moral vision to the chaos and corruption of modern culture wars. When the Church uses the world’s language, it is robbed of its unique vocabulary and voice and ultimately reduced to cowardly pandering: “Please don’t hate us, we think racism is bad, too!”
- To reiterate: Nowadays the word “racism” has precious little to do with hatred and other actual sins. For instance, this Racism Test asks lots of questions about the offensiveness of jokes but none about hatred of different ethnic groups. Accordingly, contemporary anti-“racism” is first and foremost about #cancelculture insanity, not the teachings of Jesus Christ (or the well-being of nonwhite Americans). The word “racist”—and the associated constellation of
Wokeneo-Marxist terminology (“marginalized,” “privileged,” “intersectional,” “problematic,” etc.)—sucks us into the vortex of modern activist thought instead of drawing us closer to Christ.
- Actual people all over the world are deeply hurting in all kinds of ways. Focusing on Establishment myths like “systemic racism” distracts us from the issues which matter most to actual hurting people like extreme poverty abroad and the loneliness epidemic at home. (Moreover, it distracts us from solutions to social and political problems that actually work and genuinely help those in need.)
For all those reasons and more, I avoid using the r-word. Instead, I use good ol’-fashioned words like “hatred” and “bigotry.” They aren’t perfect, but they usually get the job done, and they haven’t been politicized to the same extent. At the end of the day, I don’t want the Establishment to control my thoughts; I want Reality to control my thoughts. What about you?
I oppose hatred and cruelty. I’m repelled by them whenever I encounter them, regardless of who their target is: blacks, whites, Mexicans, cops, Muslims, Christians, or any other group.
But I refuse to bend the mental knee to the powers of this world, which are much more interested in their own wealth and power than in the plight of black Americans. I refuse to play their language games. I refuse to give them my emotional and verbal allegiance.