Do you know anyone who is a racist? Or, better yet, do you know anyone who would claim to be a racist? Do you know anyone who would not object heartily if he were called a racist and refuse to accept that he was such?
A word devoid of meaning
It seems to me that the word “racist” and the meaning it conveys has become so much a cultural caricature that the word has lost currency. No one is a racist, because the caricature of racism is so unbelievable that it does not resonate with anyone.
Caricature is critique that has lost its power
When a critique becomes a caricature it ceases to wield power to convict. This is what has happened with the term racism. It has no power. Yet the prejudices that surround the concept of racism persist, and perhaps are even expanding. But what are we to call this ever expanding milieu of prejudice? How do we communicate with those who are such (and with ourselves if it be found that we are as well) that they are it without causing them to close their ears to our critique by the use of the word “racism/t?”
We need a new word. I propose this: Culturism. Whereas racism assumes an essential biology, culturism reveals that the source of our prejudice is the culture–the way of speaking and acting that is meaningful–is the real source of our ire. When we are culturists when we exhibit behavior and attitudes that denigrate the normative behavior of another and find in that behavior something threatening or offensive.
The depth of prejudice
Additionally, culturism reveals that prejudice is not necessarily defined by skin color and place of birth, but is actually much less selective than that. Culturism is prejudice of action, behavior, and meaning, and this is what we actually do. So the next time you catch yourself thinking that some other group is stupid or bad, realize that what you are thinking is racist-but call it culturist so that you can still be convicted of your prejudice.
We’re not racists–we’re culturists.