Racism Is an Ideology

A while ago, some asshole with a blog noted:

For a lot of white people, racism is a powerful organizing principle through which they organize how they think about the world (that makes it no less reprehensible). But there are racists who overcome that perspective–the progressive deplorables. I think they do so because they use a different framework, one that places the blame on other economic actors, such as corporations. As the polling data I raised earlier indicates, there are a lot of bigots who vote in opposition to and in spite of their bigotry.

While a lot of people will use colloquially phrase like ‘racists are crazy’, racism, like cruelty, is not a psychopathology. It is a powerful ideology, if inconsistent and ignorant at times, that provides meaning. Instead, viewing it as mental illness absolves people of the hard work necessary to combat that pernicious ideology. Richard Friedman on the El Paso Massacre (boldface mine):

We can’t know for sure whether the suspect in the El Paso killings, Patrick Crusius, 21, was mentally ill without detailed knowledge of his personal and medical history. But his online writing suggests we should not be so fast to assume that he is.

In a manifesto attributed to him, Mr. Crusius railed against immigration, described a plan to separate America into racially distinct areas and warned that white people were being replaced by foreigners. He said that “this attack is a response to the Hispanic invasion of Texas.”

To me, the statement appeared logical, coherent and not particularly rambling or delusional. Strikingly, the manifesto seemed to echo what Mr. Trump has been saying all along about immigrants. For example, at a recent Florida rally the president said, “You look at what is marching up, that is an invasion!”

Seen from this perspective, it is entirely plausible that the El Paso killer is a rational person who happens to be inspired by a hateful racist ideology.

The scary truth is that ordinary human hatred and aggression are far more dangerous than any psychiatric illness.

We must recognize that racism, as most ideologies do, provides real, tangible benefits (material and psychological) to its proponents: racism is a powerful organizing principle through which they organize how they think about the world. The saving grace in this pile of misery, however, is that some racists actually manage to get past their racism and vote for Democrats and candidates who oppose racism. Figure out why and then convince them to do more of that.

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