What is not racism?

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Back in the early 80's, there was an article in the Cal. State Fullerton School Newspaper with a student complaining about racism. He was asian, and complained that while walking down the pathway (not paying attention), he bumped into another guy and knocked the other guys books and papers out of his hands (by accident), and made a mess. As he went to appologize, the guy yelled back, "Maybe if you opened your slant-eyes you wouldn't have run into me".

The Asian kid was shocked and complained about the racism inherent at school. So I penned an unpopular reply that explained that assuming it was racist might be more bigoted than the slur itself.

Look, there's no doubt the response was a racially insensitive, offensive, over-reaction by someone with anger issues. But that's not synonymous with racism, that's synonymous with asshole (and those are not the same thing).

Racism (in common use) is when someone (or an institution) believes that:

  • (a) races are fundamentally different
  • (b) some are superior to others (usually their own)
  • (c) and thus making generalizations about individuals or group, based on their race, is acceptable behavior
  • (d) and for it to have any teeth, the believer has to have some power/influence, or be able to commit some action that causes harm to the other person. (This isn't required, but is what society usually has the biggest problem with: institutional abuse of power and persecution).

Q: What do we know from the incident?
A: That someone was pissed off because they had their stuff scattered (an unprovoked attack on their space, even if accidental) -- and their response was a counter-attack at the first thing they saw.

That's a douchey over-reaction to a provocation, and more so to be racially insensitive about it: you should always give another human the benefit of the doubt that bumping into you was accidental. We really have little evidence the person was a racist (and that he thought ALL asians were blind because of their "slanty eye's" -- though he was playing to old stereotypes).

If we use our brains and hypothesize, "what would he have done 'if'", and imagine a black, women, obese person, gay-looking, tall/short, or other obviously distinguishing characteristic had done the same thing? I think the obvious answer is that douchebag would have yelled some equally offensive slur at them about, "black, bitch, fat, tall, fag" or other thing that let the person know, that he was displeased and took the attack on his space and time, very personally (and was reciprocating in kind). Which goes to show he's an asshole, not a racist. Assuming he was a racist, by ignoring all context of his attack, is kind-of as racist (or at least narcissistic/myopic) as the slur itself.