What is racism?

It’s time to step back and consider what racism means. The term is getting flung around so much that it has become so generic that its meaning has become lost. The most recent example is the passionate–if not the out-of-control–criticism that has been dumped on Chicago Sun-Times theater critic Hedy Weiss.

Here is how the ADL defines racism:

Racism is the belief that a particular race is superior or inferior to another, that a person’s social and moral traits are predetermined by his or her inborn biological characteristics. Racial separatism is the belief, most of the time based on racism, that different races should remain segregated and apart from one another.

An honest reading of Weiss’ June 13  review of “Pass Over” at Steppenwolf Theatre reveals that the charge of racist being hurled at her is bogus, irrational and mean spirited (if I might use the accusation favored by progressives). Nothing in her review even hints that one race is superior to another, that social and moral traits are predetermined, or that people should be segregated by race.

Her mostly complimentary review of the play included a disagreement with a stereotypical position embraced by the play–that all white cops are racist. Also drawing overheated criticism is her comment that most of Chicago’s violent gang warfare is black on black. The latter, of course, is a matter of fact. It is not racist or “simplistic” to note this fact. It’s a starting point for a further discussion about the deeper and more complicated causes of the violence. Some people are too ready to jump to malevolent motives for making the statement for partisan reasons, a reaction that ends rational  discussion.

To even suggest that some sort of racial animus prompted her to disagree with the assertion that all white policemen are racist is on its face a pile of crap, and needs to be treated as such. To suggest that because she is an “old white lady” explains her criticism is, in itself, ageist, misogynist and racist, equally deserving of condemnation.

So, progressives, get down from you high horse and engage in useful and honest discussion. For a change.




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  • I agree with your basic premise, the term "racist" has become so overused that it has lost most of its meaning. It is especially disturbing that the underlying message is that white people should not comment on the black community except in a purely positive sense.

    On the other hand, there are communications specialists out there whose job it is to devise ways of saying racist things in non-racist language, the so-called "dog whistle" racism.

    Between the one and the other, it's becoming more and more difficult to have a meaningful discussion on race without degenerating into name-calling and mud-slinging. This accounts for the rise in hostility on both sides of the racial divide.

  • In reply to HHH Is My Hero:

    So true.

  • Dennis, you miss the point or you are building a straw man. I don’t know and I don’t care whether Hedy Weiss is a racist. The issue is whether or not people agree with a review she wrote. Weiss reviewed a play written by Antoinette Nwanda. As Weiss put it in her review, “Nwandu’s simplistic, wholly generic characterization of a racist white cop (clearly meant to indict all white cops) is wrong-headed and self-defeating.” She then recounted news accounts of black on black violence in an apparent effort to prove that police racism and violence are not really problems.

    We were reminded yesterday why some believe that Weiss was wrong in condemning Nwanda’s work as “wrong-headed.” A Chicago detective and two patrol officers were indicted by a grand jury for giving false evidence and engaging in a conspiracy in support of the police “code of silence” surrounding the Laquan McDonald killing.

    I can understand your defending a professional colleague, but we should recognize that those who disagree with Weiss’ column may also have a legitimate point.

  • Three cops were indicted yesterday, not all cops. Weiss was objecting to the portrayal of all white cops as racist.

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