Prejudice isn’t Partisan

As much as the political Left likes to throw around the words “racist” and “sexist,” it has its own serious problem with racism and sexism.

Let’s start with a working definition of racism:

“A belief that race is the primary determinant of human traits and capacities and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority [read: or inferiority] of a particular race.”

Note that the essential definition has everything to do with a perception of others that agglomerates them on the basis of shallow characteristics over which they have no control or choice. Such belief may lead to action, but action isn’t essential to the belief itself. Discriminatory behavior can be based upon beliefs other than racism and is thus neither specific to–nor necessary for–the definition of racism. Understood this way, racism is a subcategory of prejudice.

The same is true of sexism.

The problem isn’t the common characteristics as such, but is rather the fact of ignoring individuality by grouping people together on the basis of a morally irrelevant common trait and making enduring assumptions or judgments on that basis. Taking an example of sexism, among other things my wife is a Latter-day Saint, a classical liberal, a violinist, a teacher, a Seinfeld fan, and a country girl, but sexism reduces her otherwise complex identity down to her gender. Purely on the basis of her gonads, she’s expected to conform to what a woman “should be,” according to left-of-center identitarians—a pro-choice Democrat who feels victimized by social institutions and the patriarchy—and is censured and ostracized for failing to comply.

Likewise, viewed through the lens of racism Walter Williams is not a father, a husband, an economist, a professor, a syndicated columnist, or a social commentator. Leftist racism strips him of his entire being, leaving only the color of his skin, and as a black man who doesn’t favor affirmative action for minorities or welfare programs for the poor he is to be excommunicated from polite society.

I don’t want to indict an entire side of the political aisle as if the other is without fault, so I should specify here that hashtag-not-all-Democrats are racists or sexists any more than are all Republicans. But the Left, like the Right, does have its warped strain of -isms.

And that’s fundamentally my point: humans can be really good to each other and really bad to each other. Racism and sexism—along with their mother, prejudice—span the political spectrum, and no one has a monopoly on wrongdoing under their auspices. The now fashionable prejudices of the Left should be no more tolerable than the once acceptable prejudices of the Right.

The human brain evolved to be able to distinguish between known individuals (members of the family or group) and unknown individuals (outsiders) in order to protect itself from danger, and that ability is still a useful function—how likely are you to approach the creepy guy following you at night in the wrong part of town, for example—but such knee-jerk evaluations are not final, nor should they be, and individuals should be judged on the basis of enduring behaviors and attitudes, not momentary, instinctual responses.