The word racism has approached the point of overuse and its definition has been wrongly distorted, Isaac Newton Farris Jr. writes.

First published in September 2019.

CNN’s Don Lemon while interviewing me once incorrectly referred to “2018 racism.” Now everyone from President Trump, presidential candidate Joe Biden, and Saturday Night Live’s hired and then fired comedian Shane Gillis have all been wrongly accused of racism. All 3 are shamefully guilty of something related to racism but not equal to racism.

Currently, the label of racism is the modern day equivalent of a Scarlett Letter. A person accused of racism rightfully losses respectability, income, employment, and friendships overnight as an indication of how opposed American society is to racism. Everyone runs from the label not just because of the personal harm it can do, but also because American society, to its credit, has pretty much conquered and defeated the very idea of racism.

Unfortunately due to the growing trend of incorrectly accusing non-racist of racism the label of racism is on the verge of losing its potency. Proof of this was seen in 2017 at the infamous Charlottesville rallies when for the first time Klu Klux Klansmen proudly showed their faces as they spoke their racist phrases and burned their torches. When asked why the change from wearing the traditional hoods that covered their faces they replied that “all white people are called racist these days so why not wear it proudly.”

Those that abuse or overuse the label of racism by incorrectly accusing someone of being racist, are wrongly conflating what President Trump, former Vice President Joe Biden, and comedian Shane Gillis are guilty of with racism. The true traditional non-changing definition of racism is judging an individual’s humanity by the color of their skin. In other words, an individual who does not have white skin is judged not to be a human being, they are judged as sub-human and to be an inferior species akin to monkeys and apes.

Based on the true definition of racism President Trump walked right up to the line of racism when he tweeted that Congressman Elijah Cummings Baltimore, Maryland district was “rodent and rat infested”. Not having the ability to read President Trump’s mind we don’t know if he was referring to actual rats or the high number of American Blacks that reside in the district. If he was calling the American Blacks that live in the district rodents or rats he would have crossed the line and we could correctly label him guilty of racism. If he was saying American Blacks are unclean like rodents and rats are he was being prejudiced, but since we don’t have mind reading proof prudence dictates he be given the benefit of doubt on the question of racism and we must conclude he is guilty of prejudice thinking.

Joe Biden’s comments about American Black’s parenting skills in the last Democratic debate were wrong and prejudicial but did not question the humanity of American Black parents. Shane Gillis’s jokes about the Asian community are an offensive false stereotype but he does not question whether or not people of Asian descent are human beings.

Surprisingly a person who recently was confirmed as guilty of racism has escaped with hardly any media scrutiny or public outrage. We now have proof-positive evidence that former President Ronald Regan was at one point in his life guilty of racism and therefore a racist. Last month a tape recording was released of Reagan saying to former President Nixon that African delegates to the United Nations were “monkeys who are still uncomfortable wearing shoes.” Regan clearly expressed the view that people of African descent were less than human the very definition of racism. He expressed those racist sentiments in the early 1970s, hopefully by the time he died in 2004 his sentiments had changed and he was no longer a racist.

What President Trump, Joe Biden, and Shane Gillis are guilty of is PREJUDICE, something related to, and can be caused by racism but is different and not equal to racism. The definition of prejudice is (1) a preconceived judgment or opinion (2) an adverse opinion formed or an action taken without just grounds or before sufficient knowledge. The two, racism and prejudice, are commonly thought to be one in the same or synonymous with each other, but they are not the same.

Prejudice is something that all Americans red, yellow, black and white are guilty of. It is the symptom of an American society that was based on legal racial domination, legal racial discrimination, and legal racial oppression of colored people for over 200 years until the 1960’s Civil Rights Movement. As a result, unfortunately, racism and prejudice got blended together as one in the same creating the confusion that now exists. Racism is the designation of sub-human status for non-white individuals. Prejudice is the behavior of the designator after racism is designated.

For example, John is black and an inferior sub-human (racism) so therefore he has infectious diseases and must be kept from socially interacting with white people (prejudice behavior).

200 plus years of American conscious legal racism has left American society with unconscious prejudice behavior that infects all Americans. Studies dating back to the 1940s and current online viral videos show that children of both races at the early stages of intelligence shown a picture of a black person and a white person, and asked to select the good person, all children both black and white select the white person. This is an example of the systemic prejudice that exists in America, hidden systematic bias so ingrained within American society that prejudgment is automatic not relying on any individual to commit the prejudice behavior, the American societal system itself does it.

Acknowledgment of this is important because people are confusing racial prejudice, prejudice sayings, and cultural prejudice as racism coming from people with a racist heart. It’s possible for any of us black or white, homosexual or heterosexual, male or female, Christian, Muslim or atheist, old or young, Republican or Democrat, and American citizen or immigrant to exhibit prejudice behavior and not be a racist. Racial or cultural prejudice behavior is due to ignorance or from the effects of constant exposure to the American systemic prejudice environment we all have evolved in.

The acknowledgement that there is a difference between racism and prejudice does not mean that racism is a bad thing and prejudice is a good thing, it simply means prejudice is a different bad thing than the bad thing of racism. Acknowledging the difference also means that American society has the chance to defeat prejudice like it has defeated racism in the vast majority of Americans. Defeating and overcoming the prejudice that infects America begins with an honest dialogue about prejudice behavior, the honest dialogue can’t happen if the conversation starts with wrongly labeling the prejudice offender as a racist.

It immediately shuts down the prejudice offender to any receptivity to the honest dialogue about how they have wrongly prejudged a person, a culture, a sexual orientation, a political affiliation, one’s religious or atheist affiliation or the race of a person. Racism has been so thoroughly discredited and tainted that no one including the remaining 5-10% of true die-hard racist Americans wants to consider themselves having anything to do with it. A wrongly labeled prejudice offender puts up a defensive wall that prevents enlightenment.

Whenever anyone says something that is offensive or discriminatory before they are accused of racism a test must be applied. The test is asking a simple question, does what the person said question whether or not the person that they are referring to is a human being or an inferior sub-human. If it does not question one’s humanity then what the person has said or done is either prejudice or discrimination, both are wrong so it by no means lets the person off the hook of shame but it does mean they are not guilty of racism.

To now create a new so-called 2018 definition of racism that declares saying and doing prejudice things makes you guilty of racism, means we will never conquer racism! How could it be possible when we would be creating new racist every day based on a negative thing someone said about someone else.

Everyone must be given the benefit of doubt on being guilty of racism when they say or do something that is insulting, discriminatory or prejudice. Unless there actions or words say unequivocally affirmatively yes that the person or those people are genetically inferior to human beings, THEY ARE NOT GUILTY OF RACISM. They are guilty of prejudice behavior, racial prejudice, cultural prejudice, or all 3. Their guilt is most likely due to insensitivity, ignorance, and in the case of President Trump political expedience, but they are not guilty of having a racist heart!🔷

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[This piece was originally published on Isaac Newton Farris Jr.’s blog and re-published in PMP Magazine on 23 September 2019, with the author’s consent. | The author writes in a personal capacity.]

(Cover: Pixabay - Statue of Martin Luther King Jr.)