No More Phony Charges of 'Racism'

On March 22, 1998, The New York Times published an article by Gloria Steinem in which she defended President Clinton against charges of sexual harassment resulting from his inappropriate and unwarranted sexual assaults on women. This date went down in history as the day feminism ended. There is still some low-decibel whining from feminist types now and then, but for all intents and purposes, the movement died on that day. It also marked the ending of the blitz of sexual harassment charges against influential men that have been a mainstay of the feminist movement.

On May 17, 2004, comedian and actor Bill Cosby used the occasion of the fiftieth anniversary of the Brown versus Board of Education decision to publicly chastise blacks for abandoning personal responsibility and attempting to blame their problems on white people. "There is a time when you have to turn the mirror around" Cosby admonished his black audience. Significantly, his comments were not booed but enthusiastically cheered. Is it too much to hope that May 17th will signal the end of phony racism accusations?

Of course, other blacks have been making claims similar to Cosby’s, but the mainstream media will not afford them the extensive coverage it gives to Bill Cosby. There are black columnists such as Larry Elder, Star Parker, Eric Rush and Mychal Massie. Also, black professors like Thomas Sowell, John McWhorter and Walter Williams. The Reverend Jesse Peterson’s BOND (Brotherhood Organization of a New Destiny) encourages black empowerment over victimhood. And these philosophies can also be found on websites including Project 21, Issues & Views, and The Conservative Brotherhood. These voices are a powerful indication of a growing sentiment among blacks to reject the victimhood syndrome advocated by race hustlers.

But race hustlers still have the ear of white do-gooders in the mainstream media. A typical illustration of white left-liberal thinking is the response to Cosby’s claims by Barbara Ehrenreich in The New York Times. Some representative comments: "It’s just so 1985 to beat up on the black poor. If Cosby’s worried about poor grammar and so forth, why isn’t he ranting about the Bush 2005 budget, which would end a slew of programs for dropout prevention, recreation and school counseling? You can blame adults for their poverty — if you’re mean-spirited enough — but you cannot blame babies, and that’s, in effect, what we’re talking about here."

Ms. Ehrenreich quotes a sympathetic sociologist: "Younger black America today is struggling admirably against massive disinvestments in schools, terrible unemployment, harsh policing and degrading prejudices, and they’re succeeding amazingly well. They deserve respect, not grown-up tantrums." Ms. Ehrenreich’s column follows the liberal party line — individuals are not responsible for their success or failure. They are simply pawns moved around by a cruel society and an uncaring government.

But others are not as gullible as Ms. Ehrenreich and the liberal media. In 1997, political science professor Robert Weissberg wrote an article for The Weekly Standard entitled: "White Racism: The Seductive Lure of an Unproven Theory." Weissberg maintained that white racism as a source of black failure has never been proven empirically. Professor Weissberg stated: "Clearly, many whites harbor negative images of blacks. But to my knowledge, no scientific research demonstrates how white racism — as a mental state among whites — incapacitates blacks."

As a Southerner, I have a keen understanding of Dr. Weissberg’s reasoning. From childhood on, we Southerners are exposed to news media reports, Hollywood films and TV programs disparaging our speech, abilities and behavior. But these media depictions, offensive as they are, have not handicapped us! We rise above them.

Now, begrudgingly, I have to admit that, as much as I resent dubious accusations of racism, I am fascinated by the clever use of the term. This results from my long-time interest in the study of language and meaning by semanticists.

Semanticists tell us that if you change words, you can change behavior. It follows then, that if you redefine words, you can also change behavior. But how many definitions can one word have? Or, how many times can you redefine the same word?

Of course, many words have more than one meaning depending on how they are used. For example the word "wake" could mean to cease sleeping, or the track on the sea’s surface left behind a passing ship, or a pre-burial service for a deceased person. These variations have simply evolved naturally over the passage of time. But, of course, this is not the kind of word that would normally change behavior.

"Racism" is a prime example of such a word. Racism has been deliberately redefined to advance societal goals and tactics. It is a word designed to manipulate others. And racism might have more definitions than any word in the English language. In fact, if the concept of racism had been around in the 1700s, Dr. Johnson might not have been able to complete his Dictionary of the English Language, unless he omitted the word altogether. Luckily, the cruel society theories were not concocted until much later.