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Bob Dickson: 'Racist' just doesn't pack the same punch

Right Here, Right Now

Posted: April 30, 2009 9:55 p.m.
Updated: May 1, 2009 4:55 a.m.
Racist. Is there a more explosive word in the English language?

It conjures some of the darkest images from human history. One hears it and is reminded of genocide and slavery. One thinks of an irrational, virulent hatred. One sees fools wearing swastikas or fools in white sheets.

People fear the word because they know it can sink the unsinkable and break the unbreakable. Careers have crashed and burned over it. Reputations have been ruined. Businesses have failed. Governments have been toppled.

Racist is a word we all despise and we are right to despise it. It has earned every bit of its bad reputation. The ideology it represents and the history behind it are despicable.

The word may be losing a bit of its edge, however. It suffers from the kind of overuse and generalizing that has rendered the word "love" so impotent in today's vernacular.

Last month, erstwhile comedian/actor Janeane Garofalo claimed on MSNBC's Countdown with Keith Olbermann that the April 15 tax protests were driven more by race than revenue.

Her comments:

"Let's be very honest about what this is about: It's not about bashing Democrats, it's not about taxes, they have no idea what the Boston Tea Party was about, they don't know their history at all," Garofalo said. "This was about hating a black man in the White House. This is racism straight up. That is nothing but a bunch of tea-bagging rednecks and there is no way around that."

These days, it seems just about anyone can pass for a racist. You just have to take a position that's contrary to the prevailing liberal view.

Here's the new racist paradigm. Where do you fit?

n Disagree with our President's policies? You are a racist because you are just angry that a black man is President.

n Oppose illegal immigration? You are a racist because you hate Latinos.

n Oppose socialized medicine? You are a racist because you hate the poor, most of whom happen to be (you can fill in whatever race you want here; it doesn't really matter what's true).

n Oppose gay marriage? You are a homophobe, which is considered in some circles the same as a racist.

n Support school prayer? You are a racist because Christians hate everyone who isn't a Christian.

n Oppose abortion? You hate women. Your "racism" extends to half the world's population.

n Oppose higher taxes on the rich to support a growing welfare state? You are an elitist, a.k.a. racist.

n Oppose a panic-button reaction to supposed man-made climate change? Here's a new word: You are a "planetist." You hate the entire planet. You even hate children (born and unborn) because it's their planet you're trashing.

I can see why those on the left are so eager to sling the "R" word and its various synonyms so indiscriminately. When you're in a fight, it's only natural to haul out the biggest club in your arsenal.

And let's face it, racist is a heavy, heavy club. The mere threat of it is enough to silence most would-be dissenters. Just knowing the word can be wielded at even the slightest provocation puts conservatives on the defensive.

Before we yield any more ground, however, we must ask ourselves if racist, as it is defined by today's loose standards, is still a word we should fear. The left has defaulted to that weapon of choice for a couple of decades. It has been a favorite battering ram.

But the very ingredient that made racists such a powerful word - it's distinct and deplorable definition - is the very ingredient it has lost through all this overuse.

Twenty years ago, I would have crossed the Sahara on foot to prove to someone I was no racist. Based on how we're defining it today, I'm wondering if I ought to embrace it.

Racist used to be a strong word, definable word, but that was before the left ripped it from its social and historical moorings and dragged it into the political arena. Along the way, it lost some of its teeth. It doesn't mean what it used to.

Its new definition is nothing to be afraid of.

Bob Dickson, a 12-year Santa Clarita resident, is an award-winning journalist and former sports writer for The Signal. His column reflects his own views and not necessarily those of The Signal. "Right Here, Right Now" appears Fridays in The Signal and rotates among local Republican writers.


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