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Racism 101: What is racism?

My last posting suggested that the decision to scrap Soweto off the Springbok victory parade was racist. The response was predictable. There were as many who agreed as those who didn’t.

Of course none of us who wrote were unfamiliar with the real reasons, so it is possible that some of us were wrong and others were right. Or none of us were correct in what conclusion we arrived at.

Which brings me to the following: When is racism racism? In other words, is racism like art or beauty — you know it when you see it? Is it in the eyes of the beholder? Granted, there are many dictionary definitions of what racism is. It is a pity people don’t live in dictionaries and real life is sometimes much more nuanced that dictionaries have space to express.

I suggest therefore that we compile a list of what racism is. You know, in the same way that the criminal code defines what is an offence, we can all contribute to a list of what defines an act of racism. I say this with due respect to all people who responded negatively to my point of view. It does not help pontificating about who is right and who is wrong and thus repeating the classic tale of the blind men who could not agree on what an elephant was because each touched a different part of its anatomy.

I am saying this appreciating that the theory that the feeling that blacks are too ready to jump to the conclusion that an act is racist and that white people refuse to acknowledge racism are two sides of the same coin. We are clearly unable to find common ground on what racism is.

For some black people, examples of acts of “racism” include the fact that white people don’t greet blacks, which of course has been found absurd by whites.

So what is racism? I am keen to know what people think so that I would not blame racism for acts of foolishness and that unconscious (perhaps unwilling) racists would change their attitudes.