Let’s be clear on who’s a racist

By PAT WATSON

Racism is larger than any one individual who shows a negative attitude towards another person because of that other person’s race. The term ‘racist’ becomes ridiculous when thrown at a person from an oppressed racial group. It belies the definition of racism, which is the system that rests on the belief in the inherent superiority of one so-called race of people. That operating system creates advantages for one identifiable group over another in broad societal terms, in income, education, housing, healthcare and quality of life. This is why generally throwing the term at any random individual can be inaccurate.

A person who is habitually abusive to another person because of that other person’s skin colour is a race-hater.

In a world where negativity is such a powerful force, some people are not race-haters particularly; they are just haters who will choose the easiest target. And if an issue of race makes it convenient for them to vent their hate – really their fear – then they will use that as their avenue.

Toronto police report that there were 174 “hate occurrences” recorded in 2009, a 13.7% increase over the 153 recorded in 2008. Importantly, the report notes the number “may not” be a true reflection of actions of hate in this society since there “may” be a lack of reporting.

During this summer in the United States, there was a tempest in a teapot that showed how the insanity of racism and race-hate could get out of hand. It was the case of African American Shirley Sherrod, whose boss in a rush to judgment asked her to resign from her job as the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Georgia State Rural Development Director, a position she had carried out with outstanding professionalism.

Sherrod’s name quickly caught on fire in the U.S. media after a conservative website blogger named Andrew Breitbart posted a portion of a speech to an NAACP audience in which Sherrod spoke of not offering her full help to a White farmer. Breitbart’s blog indicated the incident Sherrod mentioned occurred when she worked for the agriculture department. As the saying goes, the video went ‘viral’. But just as was the case with Chicago Rev. Jeremiah Wright’s edited video where he famously (or infamously) chastised America, Breitbart’s video clip had stopped short of the rest of Sherrod’s speech in which she went on to explain how racially biased thinking must be overcome. Not only that, but the incident she described in her speech occurred years before she joined the USDA. Moreover, the farmer Sherrod mentioned told reporters that she helped him save his farm.

But before all of this was sorted through, Sherrod was labeled a ‘racist’ and her boss, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, who is White, asked for her resignation. Vilsack has since apologized to Sherrod and offered her her previous position, which she has not accepted.

But what of Breitbart who on the one hand committed the sin of omission and on the other mislead his readers by providing false information? He corrected the information on his blog, but there is no report of an apology. Looking at the Sherrod/Vilsack/Breitbart incident it becomes clear just where the influence of racism really is evident.

Sherrod plans to sue Breitbart.

The day that people of African descent truly become racists in North America will be the day that we witness a complete reversal of the current social order. Until then if you really want to go there, you may be a race-hater, a xenophobe or just plain negative.

A note on Toronto’s upcoming City Council elections…

It’s now past the deadline for anyone who had hoped to take a run for a seat on City Council this year, or for anyone you hoped would get into the campaign. John Tory really meant it when he said he wasn’t going to enter the race. And outgoing mayor David Miller also really meant it when he said he wasn’t going to run again. Some voters are already convinced of whom to vote for but, for the rest of the electorate, it’s still a wide-open race. And there are 40 days left to decide.

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