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Tuesday, June 17, 2014

On Language h/t William Saffire

Recently, after being called racist, once again, on something that had nothing to do with race, I do as I usually do, I go back to the word and I break it down.  Like a rap song.

According to



1. a person who believes in racism, the doctrine that a certain human race is superior to any or all others.
2. of or like racists or racism: racist policies; racist attitudes.
race2  (n.) + -ist

an·ti·ra·cist, noun, adjective
 Now that looks like the people are using the word in exactly the correct way, except... They're not.  If you're against Barack Obama you're automagically racist, even though his ineptitude has nothing to do with race, unless you are willing to admit that only half-white, half-black people are all this inept.  In which case, who is really the racist?

Then we have the ever-popular "if you're against homosexuals you are racist".  What the hell does homosexuality have to do with racism.  Homosexual is NOT a race.  If you are against homosexuals you may have a religious reason for that.  Again, not racism.  If you just hate all homosexuals because you're afraid, then you're a bigot, not a racist.  They are different words meaning different things are not interchangeable.

Now, to me, the origin of the word race + ist means you believe in race.

Race: an arbitrary classification of modern humans, sometimes, especially formerly, based on any or a combination of various physical characteristics, as skin color, facial form, or eye shape, and now frequently based on such genetic markers as blood groups.
 -ist: a suffix of nouns, often corresponding to verbs ending in -ize  or nouns ending in -ism,  that denote a person who practices or is concerned with something, or holds certain principles, doctrines, etc.: apologist; dramatist; machinist; novelist; realist; socialist; Thomist.
 So technically racism means a belief in race.  I don't know how the superiority of the human race ever came into it, but if you want to be technically correct, I guess I am a racist, because I do believe we have different races with homo sapiens.  If you want to say I think I am superior to the other races in the homo sapiens genus and species, then you would correctly call me a bigot.

Words have exact meanings. We should always consider the meaning of our words upon the people listening to them.  Aristotle believed that a strong knowledge of language would help anyone trying to win a logical, reasoned debate because knowledge of what things really are always helps.
a person who is utterly intolerant of any differing creed, belief, or opinion.
Origin:   1590–1600;  < Middle French  ( Old French:  derogatory name applied by the French to the Normans), perhaps < Old English God  by God
 However, if you look at the meaning of the word bigot, it really does not fit either.  Not really.  I am not intolerant of any differences between other people and myself.  In fact, I think those differences make the human race interesting rather than homogeneous and thus, boring.

I am currently looking for the word, in the English language that reflects intolerance based on the stupidity of others.  Any day now...

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