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The ADL’s Definition of “Racism” Isn’t Inclusive

The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) has a new definition for racism: “oppression of people of color through systems that privilege White people.” It seems that–yet again–the organization has caved to ideology from the far-left in an attempt to appease them and be liked, despite the far-left regularly labeling the ADL as a “right-wing and racist organization.” Naturally, the ADL has generated outrage with this new definition. It is true that much of the racism in the Western World (and the West’s former colonies) is steeped in White Supremacy and radical Christianity. It is also true that some who dislike the new definition are radical right-wingers who whitewash this history. But the root of the problem of the ADL’s new definition is that it isn’t inclusive enough.

The ADL’s new definition of racism is Western-focused, American-oriented, and overly-complicated. I will explain this in more detail, step-by-step. Firstly, because the definition is more simple. Racism simply means believing that one’s own ethno-racial group–or any particular ethno-racial group–is superior to another. To claim that racism is only based in White Supremacy is–as the Left likes to say nowadays–“centering Whiteness.” If one wanted to discuss racism against Latin Americans, Native Americans, Black people, and Asians (including those from the Near East) in an American, Canadian, Australian, New Zealander, or western European context–yes, this definition would largely apply. But the issue of the definition is that it ignores racism between minority communities in the Western World, while also ignoring racism and supremacist structures in the non-Western World.

Remember two years ago, when the Left was worried about Donald Trump’s anti-immigrant campaign ads pitting Black people against Latin Americans? Well this wouldn’t be considered racism now, according to this Neo-Left logic. What about before Trump, when Black people known as “Buffalo Soldiers” carried out massacres of Native Americans and conquered their lands? When certain Native American tribes held Black slaves of their own? When Korean storeowners profiled Black shoppers in their own neighborhoods? How about the spate of anti-Asian and antisemitic beatings and attacks, largely by Black, Hispanic, or Arab people? Racist interactions between minorities in the Western World is a very real and unfortunate problem, but this is ignored or belittled by “centering Whiteness” in the ADL’s definition of racism.

Equally–if not more–disturbing is how this definition makes it impossible for numerous ethnic hatreds, rivalries, and crimes against humanity in a non-Western context to be classified as racism. According to the ADL definition of the word, the following list of atrocities cannot be considered as being the consequences of racism:

  • The 1915 genocide by the Ottoman Turks of millions of Armenians, Greeks, and Assyrians. (Perhaps this shouldn’t come as a surprise; the ADL lobbied against congressional recognition of this as a genocide for many years.)
  • The Istanbul Pogrom of 1955 by Turks against Armenian, Greek, and Jewish minorities.
  • The Burning of Smyrna’s Greek and Armenian Quarters by Turkish Nationalists in 1922.
  • The 1994 Rwanda Genocide of Twa & Tutsis by Hutus.
  • The 1980s Al-Anfal Campaign of Genocide against Kurds by Saddam Hussein’s Arab Supremacist regime.
  • The Khojaly Massacre of Azerbaijanis by Armenian forces.
  • The Baku Pogrom of Armenians in the Azerbaijani capital.
  • The “Rape of Nanking” by the Japanese Empire. Or, for that matter, the mass rape of Korean “comfort women” by Japanese imperial troops. Both were made through systems that privileged one ethnic group over another, but since the perpetrators are Japanese and not White, this cannot be racism, according to the ADL.
  • The Farhud and Hebron pogroms of the early 20th Century by Arab Nationalists against Jews.
  • The 2000s Darfur Genocide in Sudan by Arab Nationalists against indigenous, Black African communities.

Given that the ADL is supposed to be an international organization that promotes anti-racist work around the world, one would think that such insensitive, ignorant, Western-centric ideas and definitions of racism would never be given such a stamp of approval. Yet the ADL has been rather disappointing as of late. Rather than adapting to the current waves and ideologies of hate faced by new, tech-savvy generations, the ADL continues to be bogged down in the battles of yesteryear. At the same time, it continues to do the equivalent of getting down on its knees and begging for approval from a cadre of extreme activists who loathe the organization. This strategy–or lack thereof–isn’t doing any favors for the ADL. Rather, it is disrespecting those whom it claims to be fighting for; excluding the trauma and struggles of millions of people worldwide; hemming itself in within the borders of North America (or at best, the West); and ignoring up-and-coming activists who could be the next generation of allies. That this should happen at the intersection (pardon the pun) of International Holocaust Remembrance Day, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, and Black History Month is either a clumsy misstep or an embarrassing disgrace.

What a shonda.

About the Author
Dmitri Shufutinsky is a graduate of Arcadia University's Masters program in International Peace & Conflict Resolution. He made aliyah to Kibbutz Erez through Garin Tzabar in 2019. Dmitri is an ardent Zionist and a supporter of indigenous rights, autonomy, solidarity, and sovereignty. He currently lives in Hadera, and is a veteran of the IDF.
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