Racism. Everybody uses the word, but who ever defines it? The mass media uses it to describe nearly anything, the assumption being that it means whatever it means and never mind definitions.
Racism says that a man's character, ability, thoughts, in short, the contents of his mind are determined by his heritage, by the identity of his ancestors. It is demonstratively false. Why, then, is it so popular?
The only psychological motive for racism is pseudo-self-esteem. The racist attempts to gain an automatic self-esteem (i.e., without earning it) by fact of being born of a certain color or within the boundaries of a particular nation. Although the first is more common, there are two forms:
(1) The man who declares that one race is "better" than another and that because he belongs to the superior one, he is superior. Never mind that he is a scoundrel and a crook, at least he isn't a (choose your own obscenity).
(2) The man who assumes that one race is magically "better" than another and that he belongs to the inferior one. He has failed to make anything of his life and has the handy excuse that it wasn't his fault, but "Whitey's".
What are some concrete examples of racism?
When newspapers mention skin color even though that information is objectively useless—this is racism.
When a Negro gets a good job or finds a place in a good school and his neighbors cry, "Uncle Tom" or "whitey"—this is racism.
When civil service job application forms have spaces to indicate race, or, the interviewer makes note of it, even though the only moral criterion for a government job should be ability—this is racism.
When Negro leaders demand racial quotas in government and private industry—this is racism.
When Congress passes Civil Rights bills that force a man to "sell his property to someone because he is of a particular race—this is racism.
When a person balks at mentioning skin color in a situation when it would be logical (to identify someone in a crowd to a bystander) because it might "offend" someone—this is racism.
When Congress passes minimum wage laws, placing millions of unskilled Negroes out of work because their skills aren't worth the minimum wage—this is racism.
When Negro leaders call for classes in "black history" to teach Negro students their heritage, so that they can be "proud" of it—this is racism.
When draft laws place the burden on youth who cannot afford college, and this happens to be the majority of Negro boys—this is racism.
When Urban Renewal programs forcibly evict decent, rent-paying Negroes from the only low cost housing they can obtain—this is racism.
When a man refuses to deal with members of a certain race—this is racism.
If you thought that racism was on the decline, think again. What, for instance, can the spectacle of black pressure groups camping in Washington mean? It means that they want favors—favors consisting of laws—racial laws that take into consideration that a man is black and pay him accordingly. This is the most horrid, ugly form racism can take—legalized, enforced at the point of a gun by a government that is supposed to be colorblind.
How is racism ended?
Persuasion (conversation, letter writing campaigns, boycotts, advertising campaigns, and pickets that do not violate property rights).
And nothing else. Racism is a state of mind, or rather, nonmind. There is only one way to change a mind. Reason. Nothing else is moral; nothing else will work.
One final point must be made: A person has a right to be wrong. He has a right to be a racist, and an long as he does not initiate or threaten to initiate force, he is perfectly within his rights. Racism is immoral, but it is not, and should not be, illegal.
This article originally appeared in print under the headline "Racism—Defining It".