What is Racism
You can't walk 3 steps without someone trying to blame the riots in Cronulla on racism. Just check out Evil Pundit's commentary about the anti-racism rally held last weekend in Sydney for an example. It shouldn't be denied that there were 100 or so white supremicists in the 5000 strong crowd in the original riot, but from this many people are blaming racism for the riots. Others are identifying the issue as a cultural, rather than a racial issue.
What has occurred to me however, is that the definition of racism is entirely unhelpful here. Many definitions of racism have 2 possible meanings
1. The belief that race accounts for differences in human character or ability and that a particular race is superior to others.
2. Discrimination or prejudice based on race.
Wikipedia defines racism as "
3. the belief that people of different races differ in value, that these differences can be measured on a ranked, hierarchical scale, and that result in the social, political, and economic advantage of one group in relation to others"
and also mentions the UN definition as
4. "any distinction, exclusion, restriction or preference based on race, colour, descent, or national or ethnic origin which has the purpose or effect of nullifying or impairing the recognition, enjoyment or exercise, on an equal footing, of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the political, economic, social, cultural or any other field of public life."
Personally, I view definitions 1 and 3 as the same, and as the best definition of racism, with all it's negative connotations. The problem with definitions 2 and 4 is that it can apply to actions which are not necessarily immoral. For instance, illegal immigration is situation where the government places a restriction on people based on their national origin (definition 4). Or, as another example, when the US and its 30_ coalition partners invaded Iraq, it was called a 'racist war' by some. Certainly the US and it's allies chose their targets (i.e. discriminated) on the basis of nationality. Some would call racial profiling racist (according to definition 2), yet if 95% of terrorists are Arab males, does it really make sense to do spot checks on 65 year old asian grannies? Or how about the fact that most serial killers are white males leading investigators to concentrate on white males as suspects.
Clearly, definitions 2 and 4 are too broad as definitions for racism. So why are they commonly used?
If for instance, young Lebanese gangs have been illegally terrorizing the cronulla beach for years, then shouldn't it be expected that some anti-lebanese comments are made. Given all the rhetoric of the mob, why is it we don't hear about little old lebanese ladies being assaulted? Indeed, all the references I could find of assault are against lebanese men of around 16 to 35 years of age. So, it wasn't just middle-eastern appearance that was the factor, but having the same profile (age,ethnicity, sex) as those who have been hassling the community for years.
So why do we have the Media and left commentators complaining with so much self-loathing of racism? Is there some underlying beliefs in cultural equivalance that is being threatened by the cronulla riots so that to avoid the threat, the phantom of racism must be embraced? Andrew Bolt has a good roundup to help you start to answer the question.
Update: Of course, it seems the Lebanese thugs have been doing some discrimination of their own.