Believing other people are racist is the most convenient way to convince ourselves that we are not.
Most people would agree that the very idea of “Make America Great Again” is built on the sentiment of xenophobia — fear if not hatred of the “Other” — which is often but not always linked to racism. The Huffington Post cites a poll revealing that just about half of Americans have made up their minds: The president of the United States, Donald Trump, is a racist.
“Forty-nine percent of voters said Trump is racist, while 47 percent said he’s not,” writes Paige Lavender.
Here is today’s 3D definition:
An ethnic narcissist. A person who believes that because a group of people showed itself capable of colonizing three-quarters of the world, this constitutes proof of the color of skin required and authorized (by God or the spirit of nature) to do so.
A superficial reading of this poll — which, like any poll, may or may not be accurate — will lead us to two possible but potentially erroneous conclusions: That 49% of Americans are antiracist or that the 63 million who voted for Trump are racists.
This is the problem with polls, but it is also the reason why the media adore polls: They lead to conclusions that may not be justified, and they create false and often sensationalist impressions.
Let’s break it down. Forty-nine percent of voters deem Trump a racist. The Huffington Post leaves us with the impression that all those people disapprove of racists and, therefore, consider Trump illegitimate or dangerous. But for all we know, 15, 20 or 25% — an unknown number — of those people may be racists who gleefully recognize a kindred spirit in Trump.
Concerning the 47% who deny that Trump is a racist, a significant number — but not necessarily all — share Trump’s attitude toward race but reject the idea that it should be called racism. According to our definition above, they may well believe that the state of the global economy and political forces — dominated by white cultures — proves that there is a “natural” hierarchy of races.
Some probably significant proportion of the 47% have no idea what racism means and believe themselves to be antiracist, while entertaining a belief that is widespread across Western civilization that those in control were meant to be in control and the darker people were meant to benefit indirectly from the daring initiatives of those of white European stock.
The West, in general, has failed miserably at recognizing the forms of racism — explicit and implicit, conscious and unconscious — that exist and continue to play a major role in world affairs. The “enlightened” — such as The Huffington Post — delight in exposing explicit racism but typically shy away from exploring the deeper, pervasive manifestations of racism. As with so many things in the US, the media entertain an artificial and fundamentally imaginary divide between Republicans (racist) and Democrats (antiracist).
Any serious observer of recent history will notice that — two generations after the formal end of European colonialism — the wars, assassinations and overturned elections, and financial maneuverings across the globe (sanctions everywhere) have been unidirectional, initiated by the white nations and their institutions against darker populations. Some of it is xenophobia rather than racism, but a general attitude prevails that could be summed up as “these populations have proved nothing and, therefore, their subjugation and suffering is part of the order of things.”
At its height, the Mongol Empire created by Genghis Khan extended from Siberia to Eastern Europe, the largest connected land empire in history. It subjected numerous populations to its often brutal rule, achieved through military conquest. But it never cultivated racism or any form of ethnic or religious intolerance. According to History on the Net, the empire “incorporated many nations and religions. The governance of this huge area would not have been possible without the Mongols’ policy of religious tolerance.”
The European empires elevated racism to a fine art, so fine in fact that they made it possible to be a racist while believing one is antiracist. By making the culture created by white people the model for humanity, Europeans and now North Americans can live with the conviction that wherever they go and whatever force they apply to managing other people’s business, they are bringing civilization, the rule of law, human rights (defined as individual liberty and property), and all the “great ideas” that they as a race have created and now use to judge the rest of the world.
Polling people on who is and who isn’t a racist can only be a futile exercise.
*[In the age of Oscar Wilde and Mark Twain, another American wit, the journalist Ambrose Bierce, produced a series of satirical definitions of commonly used terms, throwing light on their hidden meanings in real discourse. Bierce eventually collected and published them as a book, The Devil’s Dictionary, in 1911. We have shamelessly appropriated his title in the interest of continuing his wholesome pedagogical effort to enlighten generations of readers of the news.]
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Fair Observer’s editorial policy.