Diana Barshaw
Rise and walk the land, it's length and breadth
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I’m a racist, or the perversion of language

If these days it's racist to think a white person has as much right as a black person to quote Martin Luther King Jr., then that's a label I'll wear with pride
Overhead view of an anti-police brutality Black Lives Matter protest rally on Third Avenue on June 2, 2020, in New York City. (Evan Agostini/Invision/AP)
Overhead view of an anti-police brutality Black Lives Matter protest rally on Third Avenue on June 2, 2020, in New York City. (Evan Agostini/Invision/AP)
  • I believe fervently that people should be judged by what they do. Does that make me a racist?
  • I think an idea should be argued on its merits and not by the looks of the person who had the idea (or who is arguing the idea). Does that make me a racist?
  • I believe a person should be chosen for a job solely on their qualifications for the work. Does that make me a racist?
  • I am against people being treated differently based on what group they belong to. Does that make me a racist?

While all just societies must strive to provide an equal chance for each person to succeed, inevitably bad things can happen. There will always be a child who has a difficult upbringing for no fault of their own. 

  • I believe that extra resources should be given to individuals who need to surmount difficulties not of their own making regardless of what group they belong to. Does that make me a racist?

I’m 65 years old, and certainly when I was young the answer to my repeated question would have been, “No! of course not, quite the opposite.” The words “racism” and “racist” were defined by Webster’s Dictionary in 1993 as 1) a belief that race is the primary determinant of human traits and capacities, and that racial differences produce inherent superiority of a particular race. 2) Racial prejudice or discrimination.

English words, however, change their meanings: sometimes organically, as in the word “nice,” which meant stupid or foolish in the 14th century and then went through several iterations to become the rather banal positive word it is today. These days, it seems words are being manipulated and are changing at an accelerated rate and with political purpose. For example, a word in transition is “gender,” which recently meant an XX person or an XY person, but now is often taken to mean the way a person feels about their sexuality. Many of the arguments I’ve heard about gender are actually confusion about the word and not much else. Eventually to protect women’s sports competitions, a different word will be needed. Perhaps “2Xer”? It would be hard to confuse that.

In a similar way the word “racist” is transitioning to a new opposite meaning from what it was in Webster in 1993. Today, you are a racist if you object to higher standards imposed on Asians applying to universities to ensure room for other races. Today, you’re considered racist if you think a white person has as much right to quote Martin Luther King as a black person. Today, you’re considered racist if you think an Arab person, or a black person who hates Jews is just as bad as a white person who hates Jews. Today, if a black person is guided by their conscience to dissent from the majority view they are considered traitors, and those who support them are “racists.”

 While words change their meaning, right and wrong is absolute. Morality doesn’t change. And so by the new definition, I am indeed a racist because I won’t accept judging people by their race. I am proud of that.

About the Author
Diana Barshaw was a research scientist and professor in the field of behavior and ecology from 1988 to 2004. Starting in 2005 she spent two years writing a novel while working for Berlitz and the Berlitz Virtual Classroom as an English teacher and as the supervisor and trainer of English teachers. She also wrote a monthly column for the Jerusalem Post called ‘Wild Israel’. Currently Diana explores the wild parts of Israel and guides hikers. She has her own website (www.DianaBarshaw.com) where she describes the Israel National Trail, writes articles about Israeli wildlife, and where she is compiling a guide to hiking the trails of the Carmel Mountains.
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