Sunday, May 21, 2006

Don't Tar My Nationalism with the Racism Brush

I cannot resist sharing the comment that I just added to McQ's post about racism, over at QandO. McQ began by offering a couple of brief definitions of racism, both of which I found inadequate. He then managed to imply that tribalism and nationalism are merely forms of racism. And so I wrote that

I prefer this rather more complex definition:

Racism is the hatred of persons of a different race, simply because they are of that race. The hatred may be rationalized, and the rationalization may even have some factual basis (e.g., persistent differences in the distribution of IQ as measured by standardized tests), but the hatred precedes the rationalization. The hatred may arise because it helps the hater compensate (psychologically) for his own felt inadequacies, or because it "excuses" the hater’s behavior toward members of the hated race.

Racial hatred — along with its rationalizations and expressions of racial superiority — also may be learned, as one seeks solidarity with and approval by one’s kinsmen, peers, and acknowledged superiors.

But racism, at bottom, rests on hatred and the psychological needs served by that hatred.

That covers white-hating blacks, black-hating whites, etc. And it puts the horse of hatred before the cart of (compensatory) claims of superiority.

Tribalism and nationalism may have origins similar to those of racism. But that need not be the case, for tribalism and nationalism can be motivated by and serve positive ends. I believe, as do many (but not all) Americans, that the United States is superior to other nations in its promise of liberty, as given in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. The basis for my nationalism (and that of many Americans) is the belief that it is necessary for Americans to defend mutually that promise of liberty against its enemies, foreign and domestic.