Mainstream Racism in 3 Easy Steps!

You know it’s hard out here for a racism pimp. If racial bigotry and hatred is your stock-in-trade, it’s a tough sell nowadays. A generation or two ago, you could count on the conservative or right-wing parties to welcome you or at least wink at you. Now, they shun you. The old standbys–“Some of my best friends are you-know-whats!” “You-know-whats are my best customers/ employees!”–just make you sound more racist.

But there is hope. For a decade now, discredited companies have been using the magic of re-branding. Blackwater renamed itself twice in three years! Now, that might not work for you as an individual, since you would lose all your Instagram followers. Instead, you need to re-brand your racism. All it takes is 3 easy steps:

1. Defining discrimination down: engage in definitional sophistry. 

This first step has three approaches:

A) X’s comments can’t be racist, because racism is an ideology, and X is no ideologue.

It is indeed surprising that this one fools people, as it is the exact opposite of the truth. Racism is prejudice–as in judging BEFORE you have evidence or data. The ideology only comes later. Think of the folks siccing dogs and firing hoses on black people trying to vote or go to school. Did they all have 100,000-word manifestos at home? Most racists aren’t ideologues; most humans aren’t ideologues. However, because the most prominent racists try to justify themselves in (bad) writing, speaking & broadcasting, this one fools a lot of allegedly intelligent people.

B) Race is just a social construct, so it’s meaningless.

You’ve got to be audacious to pull this one off, but the payoff is huge. See, if race isn’t real, how can racism be real? This one is a half-truth, because race is indeed a social construct, but of course racism is a social ill. The black family in Queens denied housing by a slumlord may be the victims of a fabricated social construct, but it’s meaningful as hell for them.

C) It’s not racism, because we’re talking about a group based on ethnicity/ religion/ national origin.

This is the flip-side of B): arguing that racism does indeed exist, but limiting it so drastically that you’re let off the hook. What, did you say Mexicans or Muslims should be judged by their background, not their actions? Neither one is a race, so we’re all good! Some think that it’s discrimination which is the problem, not which biographical factor you’re basing it on, but hey, that’s why we need to keep them down, right?

OK, that’s Step 1. Your statement/ idea/ action is not racist. But what is it then?

2. Alchemical dependency: transmute your racism with pseudo-synonyms

There are many synonyms for racism: discrimination, bigotry, prejudice, etc. None of those will help your case. However, pseudo-synonyms are extremely useful: terms that seem to be equivalent but are not, e.g. offensive, insensitive, off-color, inappropriate, polarizing, divisive, controversial. Those terms may appear to be negative, but they subtly shift the onus from the speaker to the subject. Did he find that offensive? Maybe he’s easily offended. Did she find that insensitive? Maybe she’s hypersensitive. Did they find that polarizing or divisive? Maybe they shouldn’t take such an extreme stand in opposition.

OK, you’re almost there. You’re no longer a racist, but you still seem like a jerk. How can you go from zero to hero?

3. Despicable gallantry medal: make yourself a social-justice war hero.

Try this sample script. Make sure to punctuate it with head-shakes and looks of consternation.

It’s really a shame that in today’s politically correct society, we can no longer honestly discuss issues of major consequence. We’re so afraid of overrunning people’s safe spaces with micro-aggressions that we stifle the free exchange of ideas. Well, I say no! This country was built on freedom of speech, and I will not be cowed. Maybe this isn’t politically correct, but I believe that the truth is still something worth fighting for!

Stirring, no? In three easy steps, you’ve gone from Andrew Jackson c. 2015 to Andrew Dice Clay to Andrew Jackson c. 1815! Huzzah!

Sure, you’re still a racist, but now you and your supporters don’t have to feel guilty about it. And isn’t that the point?

About the Author
Yoseif Bloch is a rabbi who has taught at Yeshivat HaKotel, Yeshivat Har Etzion and Yeshivat Shvilei Hatorah and served as a congregational rabbi in Canada. He currently works as an editor, translator and publisher. As a blogger and podcaster, he is known as Rabbi Joe in Jerusalem.