Talk:Racism/Archive 3

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Archive This is an archive of past discussions. Do not edit the contents of this page. If you wish to start a new discussion or revive an old one, please do so on the current talk page.
Archive 2 |
Archive 3
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Revisit this page?

Maybe we should revisit this page--right now there are three or four competing articles on the page. None of them is particularly good or bad. We seem to be stuck on the issue of defining "racism" (which is not at all surprising, of course!).

What we need is some gracious, clear-thinking, unbiased soul to combine all of the content of these articles into one master article, one that does full justice to the conceptual and political difficulties surrounding the task of definition "racism." Where could we find such a person, I wonder?  :-)

--Larry Sanger

Sounds like a worthy chalenge. I poked my head in here once, but I wanted to wait until things settled down a bit before I did anything--maybe now's a good time. And I certainly have some perspective on the issue, having grown up in Mississippi with a liberal family, and being called "nigger lover" more times than I can count. On the other hand, I've been busy lately updating and reorganizing the policy pages and such. And I still have the Poker pages to complete and reorganize. Damn, having a job really gets in the way of getting work done. :-) BTW, could you pop over a take a look at Reductionism? Someone put up a really bad stub, so I replaced it with a better stub, but it's still a stub. -- Lee Daniel Crocker

Reverse racism vs. racism directed by a minority against a majority in power

So, clearly some dittoheads have been in here peppering this article with bits about "reverse racism", which is defined as discrimination by the minority against the majority. I have no problem with them including this discussion in here (though I find the whole idea absurd), but this is just plain wrong. Discrimination by the minority against the majority is what was practiced in apartheid regimes. Affirmative action is NOT discrimination by the minority against the majority... if anything it's a self-imposed limitation by the majority, since we hardly have a dictatorship of the minority here. Does a dittohead want to clean this up, so I don't have to? Graft 20:26 Sep 30, 2002 (UTC)

I don't know if I am a dittohead, but I will defer to yout omake the appropriate changes. I think you have a fair point, but there are two things you need to be clear about
1) there is a difference (at least, in US usage) between personal racism (attitudes and actions by individuals) and structural racism. When people in the US talk about "reverse racism" I think they are often talking about personal attitudes and not institutional policies. In these cases, one could define "reverse racism" as "racist attitudes held by members of a minority group towards members of a majority group."
2) as for structural racism, you are quite right to distinguish between the situation in the US and Apartheid. You are quite right that affirmative action is by no means a form of minority rule. You are right that it can be characterized as something self-imposed by the majority. Nevertheless it is wrong to characterize it as a "limitation." Laws against discrimination are a form of self-imposed limitation by the majority on the majority. But affirmative action was instituted precisely because self-imposed limitation was not enough -- some sort of positive action on the part of the majority towards members of minority groups was (deemed) necessary. Slrubenstein

Opinions, majority opinions, and facts

the last edit removed this: (The word "race" is incorrectly used in this entry to refer to ethnic background. The human race is, in fact, a single race.) because it is supposed to be an opinion. True, but is is a very well-established opinion, that most researchers now believe. In Belgium Law for example, there is a request to add a law forbidding discrimination based on [i]alleged[/i] race. In any case, this should not have been removed. I'll try to rewrite it from NPOV. roan

I was the one who removed it. I certainly wouldn't mind if there was a sentence or two somewhere mentioning this, and pointing the reader to race, which I believe discusses this very question in great detail. The way it was, it took one opinion of how the word "race" should be used (the biological sense) and claimed that the entire article was wrong because it wasn't being used in that sense. I suppose the user thought that, since biological human races don't exist, neither does racism. The idea is certainly relevant, but adding a disclaimer to the top of the article implying that race, and therefore racism, does not exist seemed silly to me. Tokerboy 17:55 Nov 26, 2002 (UTC)
The problem, clearly, is that NPOV is coming desperately into play in shaping this article. I think that someone should start the article over from scratch from the mind point of a basic stub like "Racism is the term that applies to discrimination of individuals based on their percieved ethnicity." I think all civilized individuals can agree that that statement is factual, and hopefully someone can take it from there. -EasterBradford-

I agree anybody would probably agree with that, but the first paragraph is already more informative. The second paragraph already says:

There is much critique on the simple "racism is discrimination based on :race" definition. Many researchers state that there is only one human race :left, the homo sapiens sapiens. Racism is therefore discrimination :based on alleged race; the racists themselves usually do believe in the :existence of different races.

This would seem to discuss that issue as much as it needs to here (since race is almost entirely on this subject). I'm not sure what you think is actually missing from the article as it stands, or what is not NPOV. Your addition (EasterBradford) seems to take this paragraph and introduce it as fact instead of one possible opinion. Tokerboy 18:12 Nov 26, 2002 (UTC)

Practical problem with the "only one race" position

I think Easter Bradford and TokerBoy both raise good points. Saying that all of humanity is "really one" and denying that the division or classification of humanity into groups called races is valid -- are just ways of sidestepping or dismissing the issue. That is, it's a tactic used to support a certain POV.

We should not, of course, support any particular POV. Rather, we should identify each of the major points of view and describe them.

Thus, there are people who:

  • deny that there are races (human race is a single race)
  • claim that race is purely biological
  • insist that race includes ethnicity
  • ...or is the same as ethnicity

The Wikipedia should neither endorse nor oppose any of these views, but just describe them. (Same applies to the race article.)

I read a really good article (unfortunately, it's at what looks like a pro-white, anti-black website!) that delineates many of the differents slants on racism, such as "intitutional", etc. Despite its bias, it's actually pretty well-written and could help supply an outline and some basic definitions.

...unless we all think it's such a tainted source as to be unusable on principle; but what principle would that be, anyway? --Ed Poor

I hadn't realized Roan already NPOVed the originally offending statement above and added it (that's the second paragraph i quoted)--sorry for bringing up an issue that was already solved (IMHO). I'm fine with the way the article reads now (I think what you're talking about, Ed, is discussed in detail at race and should only be summarized here--no reason to duplicate in this case), except for the following section which I just removed. The problem is the oversimplification of a complex question used to address what is, in fact, a very simple question. I don't really see what this adds to what is already there. Tokerboy 18:32 Nov 26, 2002 (UTC)

Racism and power

Racism in society cannot be seen correctly without asking the important question: who is in power? For example, during Hitler's reign, the structural and ideological Anti-Semitism led to the murdering of millions of jews. This could happen because the people in power supported and stimulated this form of racism. On the other hand, there probably was racism from the jews directed to the Germans as well. The jews were at the time all but powerless and could not take according structural action: they could not in turn murder millions of Germans, even if they would have wanted to. This situation is similar to e.g. the historical South African apartheid and racial segregation in the USA; a good - but controversial- example today is the Zionist Israelian government.

Calling the Jews Nazis is viewed by Jewish groups as an act of anti-Semitism. Claiming that the policies of the current Israeli government, or of Zionists in general, is similar to the mass murder and genocide of the Nazi regieme should be out of bounds. This is especially apparent since Arabs in Israel have civil rights and participate as elected officials in the Israeli government, while Jews have few or no civil rights in Areab nations, and are generally forbidden from participating in any Arab government. JeMa 17:53, Nov 13, 2003 (UTC)

I had no more time left yesterday to post on the talk page, sorry. I'm glad most of my additions/changes have been well-received.

Power is a very important issue when trying to learn about racism. Racism is not always an individual saying stupid things about some group. Structural racism can only happen when the people that are in power use that power against a certain group. This is usually a case of looking for someone to blame. For example, the economic climate of Europe (I live in Belgium btw) is much worse than several years ago, and as a result most political parties have started to blame immigrants and refugees. They also implement severe discriminating action against these groups, which may be described as blaming the victim.

But you're right, the section is poorly written. I am planning to try to improve it, hopefully helped by other people here. Is is not better to let it reside there, for everyone to see and improve? roan

and one more thing:

Racism has been defined in many different ways, most having to do with prejudice and discrimination based on race.

There are other definitions. One example is:

"Racism refers to pejorative beliefs and/or harmful actions that are directed towards a person on the basis of that person’s race because of the belief that racial characteristics have some sort of effect on the individual's character or abilities."

the given definition is an example of a definition of racism that corresponds to racism = discrimination based on race ?? roan

racism didnt even exist until after 1865 when all of the slaves were freed.


The opening was wordy and full on at best debatable assertions. I have rewritten the opening to make it brief and to indicate the main issues in any discussion of racism. I realize that there is need for a lot of development (e.g. personal versus structural racism, "reverse" racism, the relationsionsip between racism and other forms of discrimination, etc.) but I think these are best left for the body of the article. Slrubenstein

However, there are groups of people who believe that other group(s) of people are behaving in racist manner towards them. There are also groups of people who believe that they are behaving in a racist manner towards other groups of people.

This sentence could really use some work. I'm not even certain what precisely is being said here. I guess you could say that 'there are some people who don't like other people, and there are people who don't like people who don't like other people.' What about those bastards who 'don't like people who, you know, like people'. Perhaps we could replace the above with a discussion of which groups believe that racism exists, which don't, etc.. However, isn't this all in the Reverse Racism section? Couldn't we delete this line altogether? --Axon

What? No mention of Gobineau? Kind of sad. Danny

I removed:

Of course, one's beliefs on race does not make them a racist. It is based on how that person acts. For example, a caucasian could be at odds with negroes but, so long as he does not act on these beliefs, he cannot be called a racist. If he openly discriminated against negroes however, then he would be classified as a racist.

For reasons that are, perhaps, obvious. (hint: NPOV). Tuf-Kat 03:27, Sep 4, 2003 (UTC)

I am in agreement with you. Racists beliefs are right termed "racist", even if a racist person (for whatever reason) does not act on her or his beliefs. A claim to the contrary smacks of apologetics for, or a justification of, racism. JeMa 17:53, Nov 13, 2003 (UTC)

See the history and talk pages of 2002 Gujarat violence for User:LibertarianAnarchist's point of view on NPOV. IMHO, just because some racist organisations have been elected to political office (even in the world's biggest democracy) does not mean that Wikipedia should be afraid of documenting them. Boud 15:38, 23 Oct 2003 (UTC)

To JeMa: I don't understand your edits with regard to duplicating the paragraph I edited. My edit did keep the material which you have put "back" in. The article now has the same information twice. It's true I abbreviated that paragraph, since it semmed somewhat redundant and unclear ("supposed economy of action"???) and NPOV'ed it (saying "controversial" instead of "pseudoscience"), but I did maintain that content. -- VV 23:54, 12 Nov 2003 (UTC)

I have restored some of this material, but only in an edited form. I am trying to avoid duplication and wordiness, but want to keep a paragraph on the basic idea behind racism. JeMa 17:53, Nov 13, 2003 (UTC)

Plea that commentators sign their postings and avoid dropping lugs

I had been following this page, yet looking at it today it seems to have changed for the worse without my being aware of it. In trying to figure out what has happened, I've looked over the above communications. A fair amount of what is written here is hard to follow because the comments are either not signed or not signed and not dated.

I see gratuitous lugs being dropped on people -- terms like "dittohead" -- which I very much object to anyone using in what is trying to be a forum of responsible adults.Patrick0Moran 04:35, 13 Nov 2003 (UTC)

Isn't "dittohead" a friendly name for Rush Limbaugh fans? (I am being serious.) JeMa 17:53, Nov 13, 2003 (UTC)
I think it may be a term that Rush Limbaugh uses to name people. Whether it is friendly (and/)or contemptuous may not be obvious on the face of it. To me it implies somebody who automatically reproduces any ideologically motivated statement that comes from his/her annointed source of authority. I wouldn't want to be called a Winston Churchill dittohead. Much less would I like to be called a Rush Limbaugh dittohead. Patrick0Moran 22:51, 13 Nov 2003 (UTC)

Critique of use of the word "race"

The first paragraph of the article ends with: The term racialism is sometimes favored as a less negative term by those who hold certain beliefs about race that they believe to be scientifically justified.

Two problems: The way this sentence is currently worded, it assumes the validity of the concept of race, when in fact that term is problematical because of the way most people interpret it.

There is no clear indication of what believers in "racialism" believe -- other than that they believe their beliefs are scientifically justified. It's also unclear whether these believers are even a reasonably coherent group, or whether for some users of the terms it indicates a belief that, e.g., people with a recent African heritage are more likely, statistically, to have sickle-cell anemia and therefore need to be screened for that disease, and for others it is just a cosmetic improvement on "racism." Patrick0Moran 17:08, 15 Nov 2003 (UTC)

I don't think it makes that assumption. It says that people hold beliefs about race. It could be that those beliefs are wrong. To take a more dramatic example, in God, there are phrases such as "The New Testament's statements regarding the nature of God", but these should not be taken to imply God actually exists. Adding in "alleged" or whatever a hundred times obfuscates more than clarifies. In this case, excess verbiage could be taken to imply the invalidity of the concept of race. (Anyway, race means something.) As to the second point, it's true "racialism" is under-defined, but nailing down a specific definition is tricky, and it may be better to leave it as an alternative term to racism which has the noted caveat. However, if you have an improvement you should note it. -- VV 06:02, 16 Nov 2003 (UTC)

Patrick, it seems to be a scientific fact that races exist. You are correct that a problem does exist, because of the many ways people interpret and misinterpret this word. Yet we probably already have a workable solution. The article addresses this issue. It admit that many scientists agree that "races" exist, and then states what races are not. Then it describes what scientists believe races actually are. If someone then uses the word "race" inappropriately, that is their fault and not ours.

The current issue of scientific American has a new survey article on this issue, and it is in agreement with our article:

Over the past few years, scientists have collected data about the genetic constitution of populations around the world in an effort to probe the link between ancestry and patterns of disease. These data are now providing answers to several highly emotional and contentious questions: Can genetic information be used to distinguish human groups having a common heritage and to assign individuals to particular ones? Do such groups correspond well to predefined descriptions now widely used to specify race? And, more practically, does dividing people by familiar racial definitions or by genetic similarities say anything useful about how members of those groups experience disease or respond to drug treatment
In general, we would answer the first question yes, the second no, and offer a qualified yes to the third. Our answers rest on several generalizations about race and genetics. Some groups do differ genetically from others, but how groups are divided depends on which genes are examined; simplistically put, you might fit into one group based on your skin-color genes but another based on a different characteristic. Many studies have demonstrated that roughly 90 percent of human genetic variation occurs within a population living on a given continent, whereas about 10 percent of the variation distinguishes continental populations. In other words, individuals from different populations are, on average, just slightly more different from one another than are individuals from the same population. Human populations are very similar, but they often can be distinguished.
Do Races Exist? in Scientific America, December 2003, By Michael J. Bamshad and Steve E. Olson

To whoever wrote the above, I do not see how you can say that "it seems to be a scientific fact that races exist," when the article you quote answers the question "Do such groups correspond well to predefined descriptions now widely used to specify race?" with a "no."

I think you have misread the article; it doesn't say what you think it does. The article does say that races exist. All the article says is that "descriptions now widely used to specify race" are wrong. I agree, and this article says that as well. This article then goes on to show how scientists use the word "race". It is used today in a way that is different from the way that the average person understands the word, but it is still used as a valid concept. JeMa 15:18, Nov 18, 2003 (UTC)

No one questions that different populations are characterized by distinct frequencies of inherited traits (i.e., genes). And, as the quote above makes clear, this knowledge may be relevant to the diagnosis and treatment of diseases. This is not at all the same thing as saying that "races" exist. Scientists continue to be divided over what to call these different groups; some use the word "race" and of this group many define it rather differently from popular notions of race; most use the word "population" instead.

I am not exactly sure what you mean when you write, "If someone then uses the word "race" inappropriately, that is their fault and not ours." I agree that if someone mischaracterizes how scientists use the word race it is a sign of their ignorance. But one of the purposes of an encyclopedia is to educate, so it is indeed our responsibility to explain how different people use the word race and why.

Right. So are we not in agreement? This article, as far as I can see, does educate and explain. It does explain that scientists do not use the old definition of "race" that people used to use, and why scientists reject this old definition. Then this article then tries to state how scientists currently do use the word. JeMa 15:18, Nov 18, 2003 (UTC)

But if you mean that it is too bad if some people use the word "race" in an unscientific way, that is their problem and not ours, I disagree even more -- because scientists simply do not have a monopoly on the word "race." Words can have different meanings and be used differently by different people in different contexts. Medical doctors use words like "present" and "express" and even "signs" differently from non-physicians. This doesn't make MDs or other people "wrong," it just means that two groups of people use the same word differently. Those who choose to write an encyclopedia article on a word are obliged to recognize this. Slrubenstein

I am in complete agreement. JeMa 15:18, Nov 18, 2003 (UTC)

I agree with SLrubenstein. Moreover, I think the word "race" is used inappropriately in the sentence:

The term racialism is sometimes favored as a less negative term by those who hold certain beliefs about race that they believe to be scientifically justified.

It is inappropriate because you cannot be said to have a belief about Martians unless you can be said to believe that Martians exist. You can believe that they don't exist, but you can't hold a belief about their benign or evil natures, or whatever, unless you first believe that they exist. It doesn't make sense to say, "Santa Claus is a nice guy, but he doesn't exist."

People who come into a discussion with major preconceptions are unlikely to put those assumptions aside in the course of reading half a dozen sentences -- particularly if one of those sentences at least seems to give credence to their original beliefs. Patrick0Moran 00:36, 18 Nov 2003 (UTC)

I still do not agree with JeMa. The article does not explain how scientists use the word "race," it explains what a "population" is, which is quite different from race. Slrubenstein
Now that I re-read the article, I see what you mean. We do need to clearly describe how 20th century scientists use this word. We should more explicitly refer the reader to the article on race, so that we do not needlessly repeat the entire discussion here. We can also summarize that discussion here, for ease of reading. So I do want to reiterate that I am in basic agreement with you. JeMa 15:38, Dec 9, 2003 (UTC)

JeMa 15:38, Dec 9, 2003 (UTC)

Once again, please sign postings

On most talk pages I have little difficulty determining who is talking to whom. On this talk page the lines and layers of discourse seem to me to get very muddy at times. If A writes three paragraphs and signs them at the end, then B comments on paragraph one (perhaps without indenting), C comments on B's comment and also on paragraphy two.... Things can get rather hard to follow. Maybe we all need to treat ourselves as characters in a play:

Max: That won't work, of course.

Jon: Of course it will.
Tim: Will what?

Max: Scarlet.

Somebody wrote above: "Patrick, it seems to be a scientific fact that races exist." Trying to follow the indentations and signings, it looked to me as though those words might have come from SLR, but I rather doubt that is true. Patrick0Moran 17:17, 8 Dec 2003 (UTC)

I wrote those words. Of course, I was trying to use the word "race" in the modern sense of this word, not in the 19th century understanding of this word. I am using this word in the same way that it is used in the recent article in Scientific American.

P0M: It is, perhaps, a "scientific fact" that something exists, but whether that "something" is what other people mean by "race" is surely a matter of doubt -- particularly in view of the fact that there are at least thirty-eleven divergent views of what "race" means to start with. Patrick0Moran 18:18, 8 Dec 2003 (UTC)

I agree; for many subjects (not just this one) we need very clear definitions. We do need to clearly describe how 20th century scientists use this word. We should more explicitly refer the reader to the article on race, so that we do not needlessly repeat the entire discussion here. We can also summarize that discussion here, for ease of reading. So I do want to reiterate that I am in basic agreement with you. JeMa 15:43, Dec 9, 2003 (UTC)

P0M: It becomes particularly tricky when one almost has to use a word or concept that is the subject of scrutiny to discuss what one is scrutinizing. Some people say that any [race] (put in brackets to show we are inquiring how that concept is grounded) is a construct, or, in other words, it is what people in the Vienna Circle would call a "useful fiction." Then we say something like, "People are identified as members of the white race depending, in practice, primarily on their skin color, although albinos whose genetic heritage..." When we make that statement, even though it occurs in a discussion of what "race" really means, we create in ourselves and in readers the expection that there is something "out there" that corresponds to our useful fiction.

And indeed, many people believe that there is something out there. Its no fiction. The black race, for thousands of years, was genetically distinct from the white race, which was genetically distinct from the aboriginees of Australia. This does not mean that all three were separate species. This does not mean that all three had more genetic differences than commonalities; this does not mean that 19th century racist assumptions were correct. The problem is that people are reading way too mcuh into this word; that's an emotional issue based on our reactions to the last 200 years of race relations, but this is not a scientific issue. JeMa 16:50, Dec 10, 2003 (UTC)
P0M:If a Martian were to grab some individuals from Australia before the arrival of explorers and colonialists, and some individuals from Iceland at the same time, the Martian would see that they were of the same species, but he would also see that they had major differences, most of which would be due to adaptations to their different environments and environments encounter along the migratory paths that brought them to those two areas. Given an individual plucked at random from one place or the other, it would be no trick to tell which set of humans s/he belonged to. So, in that sense, there really is "something out there." If the Martian tried the same thing with a group from Norway and one group from China at around the same time, there would likewise be no problem in deciding where a random "sample" should be grouped -- unless that individual were plucked from somewhere close to the midpoint of clinal variation between the two original sample points. What to do? This individual does not fit with one group better than the other. Let's make that a third race. Then we give the Martian a sample from a clinal midpoint between Novosibirsk (or wherever we just grabbed the last sample) and Shanghai, and we find that the Martian has the same problem. So we define.... and define... and finally we are back to individuals, or maybe to identical twins.
I agree with all of this, but this does not mean that Icelanders and Chinese are the same race. Rather, it means that there is usually not a fine line between races. As we physically move from one geographical location to another, we find a continuum. This doesn't mean that races don't exist; it just means that in some cases we need to discuss continuums. Sometimes races stay very distinct for many milennia; consider pre-Viking people in North America versus those in Europe, and people in Australia versus those in South America. Please understand that I am not disputing any of your points. I just don't think they are a contradiction to what I am saying. JeMa
A point that might appear somewhere: It looks like, that in the USA, different races may cease to exist within the next 200 years if current inter-marrying trends continue. China, by contrast, will stay about the same as it today, unless a hundred million black, white and Hispanic people immigrate to China. We will be seeing some interesting examples of change. JeMa 17:44, Dec 10, 2003 (UTC)
P0M:I saw something recently that quantified the "purity" of inheritance of supposedly white people, black people, etc., in the U.S. I was suprised at how often the "white" is really "light gray". (If memory serves it was somewhere around 30%.) On the other hand, if we end up uniformly "tan", then there probably be still be a high enough concentration of some genes to make useful predictions about the probability of certain diseases, etc.
P0M: The individuals are real. The differences are real. The similar individuals (generally speaking) are grouped close together. But where we draw the lines between them is a matter of convention based on preferences.

P0M: If you have five easily determined characteristics that you use to determine that a person belongs to, e.g., the category of white humans, and you know that John Brown had white skin but was not an albino, had a tall, beaky nose, had thin lips, had no epicanthic eye folds, and had no natural "arch supports" built into the bottoms of his feet, then you know for a surety exactly those facts (within the limits of your own and/or your community's capacity to observe, measure, and judge) and nothing more. If you conclude from the fact that John Brown is a white human that he will not be lactose intolerant, then you will be making a judgment based on statistics. You won't know for sure that he can digest lactose until you test that belief, nor will you know that he does not suffer from sickle-cell anemia until you check him out. On the other hand, if you are rushing famine aid to a million white humans you can be pretty sure that you can send freeze-dried milk without overwhelming your emergency medical services with cases of diarrhea and dehydration.

P0M: All of that is just to say that the "white human" whose is lactose tolerant is something like the .97 adult male children who appear in some families. You don't have a certifiably "lactose tolerant white human" unless you test for lactose tolerance as part of the process of deciding who goes on the list of "white people" and who goes on some other list. So, with that understanding, I question whether people will understand "race exists" unless a great deal of supporting context is immediately present.

P0M: Anyway, to go back to the sentence I questioned a while back:

The term racialism is sometimes favored as a less negative term 
by those who hold certain beliefs about race that they believe 
to be scientifically justified

Changing "about" to "pertaining to" seems to me to make it clear enough that there is not some solid and immutable thing called "race" out there about which people can have one belief or another.


Are these valid removals: [1]? The person ('s edit summary was: "removed nonsense: XIX century was." (That's the entire sentence.) --Menchi (Talk)â 13:38, 8 Dec 2003 (UTC)

P0M: The person who did that edit removed Poles from the list of nationalities that transgressed against the Jews, leaving Germans and Austrians. Did something significant happen in the 19th Century that would have a bearing on this question? Historians, what is your judgment?

P0M:I don't have time to fix it just now, but the same paragraph uses "lead" where it should have "led." Patrick0Moran 18:11, 8 Dec 2003 (UTC)

P0M: Menchi, since you noticed it would you like to revert the changes. I had another look and the person known only by his ISP number has changed Germany to Imperial Germany -- as though Germany under Hitler had no racist taint. The change would seem to represent a definite POV regarding things in that part of the world, and nothing has appeared on this talk page to justify or explain the change. I haven't been following the racism very closely and might wipe intermediate changes out if I do it right now. If you don't have time I'll take care of it after I get grades in.

I agree with you. The change from Germany to Imperial Germany is POV. JeMa

Preamble: pejorative usage

The preamble currently states that the word racism "is almost always used pejoratively". This phrasing seems to have been introduced in early November and survived until Slrubinstein's change on 10 Dec 2003 UTC. Slr indicated he only made the change in order to make the prose more straightforward, but for the record, here is some corroborating evidence for the validity of the claim:

  • The Cambridge Advanced Learner's Dictionary [2]

This dictionary indicates which words are pejorative (by using the mark "DISAPPROVING"). Peak 07:34, 11 Dec 2003 (UTC)

I removed this sentence because I do not understand what it means and I do not think it adds anything. I made some other changes that I don't think cut any content, and are intended only to make the prose tighter.

Sometimes the term is used in a weaker sense to describe the belief that race is the primary determinant of human capacities, or that individuals should be treated differently based on their ascribed race.

I have a few problems with the above sentence: (1) the use of the passive voice (2) the use of a comparative wors "weaker" without any comparison (weaker than what? (3) weak in what sense? I understamnd that this view exists, but people who identify it as racist are not calling it a weak form of racism, they are saying it is bad; people who hold to this belief but do not believe it is wrong do not consider themselves racists. It's too much to cover this debate in the introduction; perhaps it should be brought up in the body of the article in a clearer way. Slrubenstein

Dear SRL: Once again, you are removing material on relatively trivial grounds rather than fixing it. You could have asked, or you could simply have removed the bit about 'weaker' since it caused you such confusion. (Since we are offering a second meaning here, "weaker" is obviously relative to the first meaning; the word is used in the ordinary sense in logic: entailment.) I will add it again without the 'weaker'; please do not remove it a third time. Peak 18:33, 11 Dec 2003 (UTC)

Dear Peak, I believe you are placing too much detail in the introductory paragraph. The result is overwrought prose. I do not consider this trivial. By the way, I have not deleted the material on the KKK because I believe it is important and relatively well-written -- BUT I do not believe it belongs in the introduction. Specifics should be in the body. Can yo find a more appropriate place to put this? Slrubenstein
Since there seems to be a body of opinion that something should be said about "racialism" in the preamble, this paragraph at least makes interesting reading. However, in the interests of brevity, I would be inclined to omit the last sentence (the one beginning "People not in these groups...") as it is a bit preachy and may be difficult to substantiate.Peak

I have removed this sentence to talk in order to make it easier for you to put it back into the article:

Sometimes the term is used to describe the belief that race is the primary determinant of human capacities, or that individuals should be treated differently based on their ascribed race.

The reason I removed it is because it simply does not belong in the first paragraph. Peak: it is a valid poiont, a good point, an important point and I am not trying to diminish your work. I simply believe it is too nuanced for the first paragraph. Indeed, I think this sentence should be expanded into a full paragraph -- but it belongs in the body of the article, not in the first paragraph. The first paragraph provides a simple introduction to the article; the article is the place to explore the different forms of racism and debates over what constitutes racism. Tour sentence (above) is perfectly appropriate -- but for the body, not the introduction, Slrubenstein

Dear SLR: As Einstein said: "Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler." There is a big difference between saying that "Foo means X" and "Foo generally means X or Y." The article on Analytic proposition, for example, gives three closely related meanings in the very first sentence to avoid giving the wrong impression that the phrase has just one meaning.
If one must eliminate X or Y, and if Y is the more general meaning, then it would be better to start with "Foo means Y" and then later give the more specialized meaning. In this particular case, the more specialized meaning is the one that involves negativism. However, I am not recommending that the preamble should only say "Racism means Y" or "The most general meaning of racism is Y" because it may well be that most people do believe that "Racism means X" is the primary meaning. (Do they?) I am simply recommending we respect the idea that "simplicity is an exact medium between too little and too much." Peak 21:48, 11 Dec 2003 (UTC)

So we are in agreement: right now, the introduction says racism may refer to x, y, or z (beliefs, practices, or institutions). Now, what constitutes a racist belief, practice, or institution is a matter of debate. Some people would argue that affirmative action is a racist practice. SOme would argue that the very belief that races are real is a racist belief. I think all of these things should be covered in the article. Just not in the first paragraph. Slrubenstein

Dear SLR: The point which your written explanation implies you have missed is that the first definition is greatly narrowed by the qualification about "negative discrimination". If a single definition is to be given in the preamble, it should not be one of the narrowest definitions that can be given. In the present situation, however, there is no need to give a single, broad definition: it would be far better to give both definitions so people can readily see at the outset both the similarity and the difference between the two. Peak 03:40, 13 Dec 2003 (UTC)

P0M:The first sentence contains a logical defect. It says:

Racism refers to beliefs, practices, and institutions that negatively discriminate against people based on their race.

P0M:If someone beats a very dark-skinned individual from Sri Lanka to death in the belief that he is a black man from Africa (I'm not sure what name the violent hater of people with black skins would attach to that racial group.), then that act would not fall under the given definition of racism because the crime was not "based on [his] race" but on the race that the assailant falsely perceived him to be.

This is a good point, POM. I see two eay sollutions: simply cut the word "their," or add the word "perceived." If either of these appeal toyou I'm happy to let you pick; otherwise perhaps you could suggest other possibilities. Slrubenstein

P0M: It was o.k. until you changed it. I will put it back the way it was and, as JDG said, "see what happens." "...based on race" won't work because it could mean "based on the race of the racist." Or..... actually, "perceived race" ought to cover things correctly. Good suggestion.

Para Two. NPOV and Logic questions"

P0M: This paragraph has a POV problem: It says: "Some groups such as the Ku Klux Klan and Christian Identity have engaged in a public relations campaign to improve their image." My cynical nature wants to cry out: "Of course that is true!" However, I see no evidence adduced regarding whether either group would claim that they have waged a campaign to curry favor with the man on the street. Nor do I see any evidence adduced to show that they would admit to doing anything to improve their image. It is possible that they would assert that any public pronouncements that they may have made in regard to race, racialism, and the differences between them are intended only to express their highest aspirations to seek truth, justice, etc.

P0M: There is something to bring into question if the characterization of their public stance is correctly reported in the following words:

Some groups such as the Ku Klux Klan and Christian Identity ... use the term racialism instead of racism, and they term themselves racialists instead of racists. They hold that racism is active hatred of people of another race, while racialism is the love of one's own race.

P0M: One rhetorical device used here is "setting up a straw man to attack." The position attributed to them gives "racism" a definition that reduces its scope to only the most extreme of attitudes ordinarily covered by that term, and then assert (without being able to prove it), that they do not fit the definition of racists because they do not behave in the very extreme way "defined" as racist.

P0M: The second part of the argument attributed to them implies that one may treat oneself and one's own group better than one treats one or more other groups at least as long as the treatment of other groups does not descend to the level of "active hatred." What that might mean in actual practice, assuming the racialists can even be proven to hold this position, is a question for objective inquiry. The range of treatment of other groups could range from treating them almost as well as one's own group gets treated, to treating (at least some) other groups with total disdain, neglect, animosity, etc. -- in other words, anything nasty that falls short of the standard of "active hatred."

P0M: I don't mean to whitewash these groups, but I do think that it is important to give even groups or individuals that one finds odious a "fair trial." If a major newspaper made a statement like this one, its editor would be well advised to have the traditional "three sources" and/or evidence that would stand up in a libel trial.

Peak: Most of the detail currently in the second paragraph of the preamble is far too specific for a preamble. The original point, I believe, was simply to mention that the meanings of "racism" and "racialism" intersect. (If there is no intersection of meaning, then I cannot see any reason to mention "racialism" in the preamble at all.) One possibility would to give "racialism" a separate page. However, I would suggest rewriting the preamble along the following lines:

Back to paragraph 1

Racism has several distinct meanings in contemporary usage, but most of them are close to at least one of the following:

  1. discrimination or prejudice based on race;
  2. the belief that one race is superior to others;
  3. a set of beliefs that justify adverse discrimination against individuals based on their ascribed race;
  4. a set of beliefs that justify the differential treatment of individuals based on their ascribed race;
  5. the belief that race is the primary determinant of human capacities.

The word is usually used pejoratively, but some people believe that racism is legitimate and identify themselves as "racists"; others who oppose adverse discrimination but subscribe to some of the other beliefs mentioned above prefer the term "racialist".

(By the way, P0M's point about the relevance of perceived race is excellent but the proposal to replace "race" with "perceived race" was suboptimal. "Ascribed" addresses the issue, without incurring the problems of adding the adjective "perceived", and without incurring the wordiness of a phrase such as "perceived or ascribed race".) Peak 07:12, 14 Dec 2003 (UTC)

Hm, an interesting proposal. I tend to agree there was too much detail, but it's been pared down pretty well now. Do you agree? The idea is to give a quick description of racism and racialism (which redirects here and won't need its own page at least till someone can really flesh it out) and their usages, and it looks very cogent doing that. I too see perceived as not great, but ascribed seems to me less natural and not really an improvement. One problem with your list is that it doesn't really connect the meanings, making them seem independent, but different language might fix that. Also, I think your proposed list could use adjustment, but that's not an objection to the idea. So, personally I don't think this change is needed, but try it out if you feel otherwise. -- VV 07:22, 14 Dec 2003 (UTC)
Peak Thanks VerilyVerily for your comments. I agree that removing the specific examples in the second paragraph resolves the main problem there. My main concern with the first paragraph is that it is wrong, as I have explained elsewhere. I too was thinking about what connects the various meanings and came up with: "Racism is a term used to describe beliefs and practices that, in the eyes of the beholder, attach excessive importance to race; racism therefore has a wide range of meanings, including:...." What do you think of this approach? My main goal, however, is simply to add something that explains that the term is also used to describe the belief that race is the primary determinant of human capacities, or that individuals should be treated differently based on their ascribed race.
Peak As for "perceived" vs "ascribed", I'm afraid that the latter happens to be an appropriate choice here, whereas "perceived" alone is inappropriate. "Ascribed" means attributed, and leaves open whether attribution is by perception, inference, hearsay, genetic analysis, or whatever. If you prefer "attributed" that would be fine too. Perhaps there are others, and perhaps something which includes "perceived" would work too, but why not keep it as simple as possible? Peak 22:40, 14 Dec 2003 (UTC)

Just a couple of comments: although Peak is correct that race is technically ascribed, in the opening paragraph "perceived" is the appropriate term -- this has to do with POM's concern:

If someone beats a very dark-skinned individual from Sri Lanka to death in the belief that he is a black man from Africa ... then that act would not fall under the given definition of racism because the crime was not "based on [his] race" but on the race that the assailant falsely perceived him to be.

In other words -- let's for the sake of argument assume that "race" is real (whether for social or biological reasons) a racist may hate someone not because of what the other person's race is (which would be ascribed), but because of what the racist perceives or believes the person's race to be. "Ascribed" in this case does not address the issue, POM's valuable point was precisely the possibility of a difference between one's ascribed race and one's perceived race.

Dear SLR: You are making things far more complicated than necessary. If one uses the word "ascribed", it leaves open who does the ascribing. It could be the perceiver. Using the word "perceived" alone is far too specific. For example, suppose person X is told by person Y that person Z is of race R. X then kills R because of this information. X never "perceived" Z at all. Perhaps Y got the information from a genetic test, so Y never perceived Z either.Peak 19:40, 15 Dec 2003 (UTC)
It is also false to define racism in terms of attaching "excessive importance" to race. Slrubenstein
Please note that I did not propose that racism be *defined* as such. What I proposed was merely descriptive: "Racism is a term used ..." If I say a dog is an animal, I am not defining 'dog' to be equivalent to 'animal'. Once again,

you seem to be getting yourself tangled up in knots of your own creation.Peak 19:40, 15 Dec 2003 (UTC)

P0M: My New World Dictionary of the American Language differentiates among four words as follows:
  • ascribe, assignment of something to someone (ascribe a motive to Ms. X)
  • attribute, assignment of a quality, etc., that may reasonably be regarded as applying (attribute error to Mr. X's carelessness)
  • impute, assignment of something negative or accusatory (impute evil to Mrs. X)
  • assign, placement of something in a particular category because of some quality attributed to it (assign a poem to the Ming dynasty)
  • credit to imply belief in the possession by somebody of some quality (credited Mr. X with some intelligence)
  • attach, connect something with something else as being considered appropriate to it (attached great importance to the discovery of Pluto)
P0M: If a Democrat ascribes a motivation to a Republican Congressman (or vice-versa), one may reasonably question whether the observation is objective. At least the way I use "ascribe", it would fit a statement made by a politician such as: "Representative Drath Vrader's patent disregard for the safety of his constituents left the elders of his community with feelings of astonishment and alarm." (The disregard for safety is mentioned as though it were a known fact to be used to explain the feelings of constituents, when in fact the supposed negligence is the main burder of the communication, and the reaction of the community is of no great importance.) "The press attributed the above statement to the speaker's long-time enmity toward Rep. Vrader." "Rep. Vrader imputed pure malice to the source of the accusations, noting that his accuser was entirely anonymous." "The elders of the community attached no great importance to the affair since Mr. Vrader had already decided not to seek a fifteenth term."
P0M: To "ascribe" the motive of revenge to someone merely means that somebody asserts that motive as though it were a matter of fact. Mr X can ascribe a guilty conscience to Ms. Y even if person X knows that it was he himself who commited the crime. If the sentence in the article were changed to: "Racism refers to beliefs, practices, and institutions that negatively discriminate against people based on their ascribed race," then wouldn't that incorrectly include cases where some injustice was done and merely rationalized to racists as being due to the race of the injured party? But what we are really trying to describe, I think, are cases where person X genuinely believes that person Y is of some race and behaves in a way consistent with that belief. How about something like the following? "Racism is said to be practiced when one group of people acts upon their belief that another group of people belongs to a certain race and therefore does something that negatively affects the interests of that second group." It's a little problematical because doesn't deals specifically with the case of the individual racist or of the individual target of racism, but the alternative would be frightfully complex.
Dear P0M: Sorry, but your proposal has at least two fatal flaws. Firstly, as you say, it gives the impression that individual beliefs don't matter; and secondly it gives the impression that beliefs cannot be called racist unless they lead to action.
By the way, I think it's probably rather pointless trying to get group consensus on a single "definition" of a word that clearly has several meanings. The dictionaries all agree that racism has several meanings. Why can't we just say so here? I agree with VerilyVerily that an umbrella description would be nice, but that can always be added later on. The alternative would be to say something like: "This article is about racism in the sense of beliefs or practices regarding ...." Peak 19:40, 15 Dec 2003 (UTC)
P0M: I think that should work. I couldn't think of any way of patching the original sentence satisfactorily.

Racism is wrong!!

Any1who makes a racist attack, comment, or assult should recieve a hefty fine and a couple or yeadrs in jail.