The Bizarre Reigning Definition Of "Racism"
December 07, 2006, 08:10 PM
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A reader comments, in response to Malcolm Gladwell expressing the elite conventional wisdom, "To call someone a [n*****] is not as a bad as arguing that black people have lower intelligence than whites:"

I've wondered many times why social scientists always define racism as the belief in innate racial differences. Even when I was a liberal, I used to think things like, "Racism is supposed to be about hatred. Ordinary people constantly talk about how hating others is so terrible, but when it comes to scholarship, the topic is always framed in terms of nature versus nurture. What about the situation where a guy loves blacks, but thinks they are naturally faster sprinters than others. We want to get worked up about this guy? We want to call him a racist?"

Now, I wonder if there is something else going on. One thing I do know about social scientists (since I am one) is that, as the disciplines have gotten more specialized, they know nothing about biology. Perhaps they have feared that if the connection between biology and behavior were allowed to be studied, the day would arrive when they would look like phrenologists. By delegitimizing the field, they could always be looked to as the experts. Their reputations and jobs would thus be preserved. I don't know if I'm right, but something smells fishy to me. Or maybe defining racism in terms of nature-nurture is simply designed to provide more direct arguments for affirmative action programs.