(June 11) The philologists and etymologists at Merriam-Webster are succumbing to the mob, and it’s a piteous sight.

Now they are changing the definition of the word “racism” to reflect politically correct nonsense that makes a muddle of a concept that once was clear. This is Orwellian doublespeak, serving the goal of “destroying words — scores of them, hundreds of them, every day.”

The original, simple definition of racism merely involved an attribution, usually negative, of certain characteristics to an individual based solely on their racial identity, usually combined with negative assumptions of the individual’s worth because of it. Or, simply, “racial prejudice.” Webster’s long ago slightly expanded that to include “systemic” factors involving “a doctrine or political program … designed to execute” racist principles.

For decades, though, that hasn’t been enough for hard leftists. The radicals have been trying to change the definition so that power relationships, an entirely different concept, are part and parcel of racism. The explicit goal was to say that only white people can be racist because white people enjoy all the systemic power, and racism can flow only from the powerful against the powerless.

Thus, racial hatred from black people toward white people would no longer be racism, and thus not denounceable — and perhaps even justifiable. This is, of course, an outlandish moral position, but it serves the radical, subversive agenda in ways too multiple to list here….

Here’s the problem with that. Existing words already allow for great specificity when discussing issues related to prejudice. Prejudice with a racial connotation is racism. Racism, combined with some action made on its basis, is racial discrimination. Racism involving a system is systemic racism. Racism involving a system of, and nefarious use of, power disparities is systemic racial discrimination. Policy based on any racial assumptions, with or without regard to whether those assumptions are negative, positive, or neutral, is racialism.

In sum, just as with most other words, the basic word “racism” can be used in different circumstances depending on what other words are used to modify it. That’s how language usually works….

[The rest of this column is here.]


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