What is racism? Could we as a society agree upon a definition of the term? If you ask a SJW what their definition is, you could expect them to answer along the lines of “everything, everything related to white people, things that trigger me or things I feel are racist are racist”. To me the essence of racism is the “rac” part of the word. We have other words like sexism, ableism and so on to deal with other issues. Racism then must deal with race, skin color and ethnicity. The “ism” part relates to arbitrary discrimination. We all discriminate inn many different aspects of our lives, and that is perfectly okay. Personally, I wouldn’t want to marry someone into parachute jumping or deep sea diving. You might only become friends with people into bowling. You might only want to date people into a particular kind of music. We all recognize that this isn’t “-ism” in the discriminatory sense.
To elaborate on this concept, discrimination based upon facts isn’t racist. In all of the above examples there is a perfectly good reason for choosing someone over someone else. As an employer, you might “discriminate” against potheads due to your belief that they won’t show up to work on time. The distribution of marijuana use amongst ethnic groups might be vastly different. We can see that any bias by the fictitious employer is due to a reasonable standard set, not arbitrary discrimination based upon skin color or ethnic background. I think that this point is lost in the broader societal debate on racism. Overuse of the term renders it meaningless. When everything is racist, nothing is.
To me a different standard must be found to distinguish racism from its benign cousins. I’ve considered a “lifeboat standard” to be the gold standard of whether or not racism applies. Imagine you’re on the Titanic and there is a limited number of spaces on the lifeboats with many more people needing space than there are seats available. Racism to me would be if the person in charge of allocating who gets to get onto a lifeboat picked people based on skin color. “Only white people gets saved, back off blackie!”. This we can all recognize would be racism. Other standards could be applied such as age and that would be acceptable. If one wanted to save children over old people, most would consider it reasonable. More human life years would be saved. Taking gender into consideration would muddy the waters some. “Women and children first” used to be the standard here. Myself, I wouldn’t use that standard since I consider men and women to have equal human worth.
This brings us to religion. There is currently a civilizational conflict between Islam and the West. The term “islamophobia” is often used to explain away criticism of the ideas within Islam. I think this brings us back to our current discussion on racism and other -isms. Islam is a belief system, it is not a skin color, ethnic origin, race, a sex and so on. Criticism of the belief system is legitimate, when you hear about a terror attack you don’t assume it was perpetrated by a Jew, a Christian, a Buddhist, a Hindu and so on. There are problems only related to Islam, that are different from the problems within all religions. Similar to my point about racism, it isn’t “islamophobia” to point out legitimate criticism of Islam. The term does not further the political debate, it only serves to cloud the field of ideas.
Differentiating between selection based upon fact and reason, compared to arbitrariness is useful. If we lose this distinction the concepts we wish to apply lose their meaning.