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From the BULLETIN of the A. C.C.C., Issue Number 10 (January 1996)



One word does not necessity have one correct meaning in the way that 2 plus 2 yields one correct sum, 4. A word can have several meanings, and can accumulate various connotations. These connotations can call into usage a new meaning for an old word. (For example, "silly" several hundred years ago meant "blessed." Compare the German word selig today.)

Dictionaries register the developing meanings of words. "Racism" is a new word. It does not appear in either the 1st (1909) or 2nd (1936) edition of Webster's unabridged dictionary. "Racialism" does appear in the 1946 printing of the 2nd edition.

"Racism" is defined in the 3rd (1961) edition of Webster's as "1. the assumption that psychocultural traits and capacities are determined by biological race and that races differ decisively from one another which is usu. coupled with a belief in the inherent superiority of a particular race and its right to domination over others, 2a. a doctrine or political program based on the assumption of racism and designed to execute its principle, b. a political or social system founded on racism."The 3rd edition defines "racialism" as "racial prejudice or discrimination; race hatred."

The 2nd (1989) edition Oxford English Dictionary defines "racism" as "The theory that distinctive human characteristics and abilities are determined by race."The O.E.D. defines "racialism" as "Belief in the superiority of a particular race leading to prejudice and antagonism towards people of other races, esp. those in close proximity who may be felt as a threat to one's cultural and racial integrity or economic well-being."

Racism, as it is defined in these dictionaries, is approximately what is often called Institutional racism, while racialism is rather more what is often called attitudinal racism. The former kind of racism is in abeyance today, but the latter is still present, though present to an unmeasurable degree.

Institutional racism in the U.S. has been most evident in the institutions of slavery and segregation. Alexander Stephens, vice-president of the Confederacy, said that slavery was justified because blacks, as an inferior race, could never be citizens. Most Confederate spokesmen preferred to defend slavery by recourse to constitutional law.

Scientific racism was used to defend slavery. Your editor recalls discovering (in a public library in Ohio!) almost forty years ago a large book by two Southerners, Nott and Gliddon, entitled Types of Mankind, which was published in 1858. This book was a pioneering work in craniometry and had wide distribution in the South. They also published an edition of Gobineau's racial work.

Usually, however, racist theory in defense of slavery was creationist racism or the Hamitic theory of black descent. Alexander Winchell, a geology professor dismissed by Vanderbilt University in the 1870s', lost his job because he held that blacks are a pre-Adamic creation, a heresy that denies their need for a Savior.

Today, almost no one can be found who speaks of a superior race. Superiority itself is a difficult concept to apply to groups. Applying the Darwinian test of survival of the fittest, one can argue that blacks are superior to whites because they continue to grow in number and occupy ever more territory while whites dwindle in numbers and flee.

Institutional racism is defunct today. Almost no one can be found to advocate white supremacy, although for many years the Democratic party in the Southern states held primaries for whites only. "White Supremacy" was printed on every Democratic primary ballot in Georgia, for example.

Black spokesmen and leftists in general still maintain that institution racism somehow exists. Institutional racism is supposed to explain high black crime rates and lower black per capita incomes. (The fact that part of lower black per capita income is due to higher percentage of non-earning children in the black population is never mentioned. It all must be due to institutional racism!)

So-called "disparate impact" is linked to institutional racism. If a standardized test has a disparate impact (i.e., if disproportionately large numbers of blacks fail it), then it is a manifestation of institutional racism..

Attitudinal racism is still strong, but public opinion polls are an inaccurate means of measuring it. Even the most isolated "redneck" watches television and has learned from the celebrities he follows that it is "no longer cool" to be "prejudiced."

Attitudinal racism is the best assessed, therefore, by observing what people do, not what they say. Attitudinal racism today is avoidance behavior. Blacks appear and whites move away. This avoidance behavior appears only in the personal sphere where freedom of association still prevails.

Even the whites who most loudly deplore racism themselves avoid large concentrations of blacks. They are in favor of integration, but they themselves would never help to bring more integration into being by moving themselves and their families into a predominantly black neighbor. That assignment they gladly delegate to those whites who are poor or working class.

The reasons which whites give for their avoidance of blacks are sometimes amusing. Your editor recalls two instances: A white man, quoted in the local newspaper, said that he took his son out of public school, where blacks were in the majority, and put him in private school, where there were almost no blacks, because he did not want his son to become racially prejudiced. A white college girl was overheard to say that she was much happier at X university than at Y university because she had to be prejudiced at Y because there were so many blacks there, but at X, with fewer blacks, she even had black girl friends!

These two people were employing rather fuzzy logic by arguing that racism can be prevented by avoiding large numbers of people of other races much the way that one prevents alcoholism by avoiding the excessive use of alcohol.

In conclusion, institutional (legal) racism is non-existent, but attitudinal (private) racism (judged by what people do, not what they say) is rampant. The greatest propaganda campaign anywhere at any time in history has been mounted to stamp out attitudinal racism, but it remains a hardy perennial which ever springs up again. Could racism be natural?