The term racism can be misapplied. But it also can be defined and used too narrowly to hide or defend racism.
A belief in racial superiority is widely used to define racism.
Since few (though a growing number now that it’s en vogue politically) express their racist views publicly — and since we can’t see into the hearts of others — using the term racist has a sense of unfair judgment.
Therefore, I tend to use “racial insensitivity” or other descriptors to avoid being unfairly judgmental of others who are out of touch, at best, with their racist tendencies and opposition, at least philosophically and politically, to racial justice.
In doing so, however, I fear being too gracious at times. Here’s why:
Most of the people I know no longer find it socially acceptable (unlike in the earlier years of my life) to espouse racist ideas and terminology. In fact, in most cases, they do not think of themselves as being racist.
Any accusation of such receives pushback such as, “Hey, I have black friends at work.” Or “I like everybody who acts right.”
Often these are the same persons who say a nice word about MLK who has been dead for decades and gives them a day off from work or school each winter. Yet, they have no sympathy (and certainly not empathy or support) for those who protest clear, documented acts of racial injustice today.
In fact they ridicule them. And they aggressively support every political maneuver to retain white privilege — something they wouldn’t recognize or admit if it bit them on their behinds.
However, justice only matters in the present tense.
Not your black friend at work, nor most anyone else with racial sensitivities, is too interested in your MLK quote or your appreciation for the black football star at your alma mater or your posting of some right-wing black preacher’s sermon.
That doesn’t help and it proves nothing about one’s heart. It’s like continually demeaning people based on race and ethnicity and then bringing a messed-up black entertainer to the Oval Office to claim… Nevermind.
And I’m not interested in your deflections (“But what about…”) to draw attention away from the reality that many who say they aren’t racist always support politicians and policies designed to retain unequal political and economic empowerment. Power is supremacy!
As I said, justice only matters in the present tense.