On Racism & Indifference

The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference.

Elie Wiesel

Back while I was on Facebook sabbatical last month, CNN ran an opinion piece by John Blake that struck me. I wasn’t posting then so I’ll catch up now… When we talk about racism, it’s usually about the overt acts of prejudice, hostility and violence that people commit. But that’s just part of the problem. Racism is enabled by the quiet indifference of too many to its effects. Blake quotes Elie Wiesel in his article. “The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference.” If someone feels another is of no consequence, Wiesel says, “their hidden or even visible anguish is of no interest. Indifference reduces the Other to an abstraction.”

None of us are personally responsible for racism. We didn’t create it. Racism is rooted in slavery where skin color was used as justification, and is perpetuated today in class-divided society to keep workers divided and fighting amongst ourselves. The function of racism under capitalism is to prevent us from uniting as one to fight collectively for better wages, living conditions, health care, education and more.

We didn’t create racism, but we do have a social responsibility to recognize, acknowledge and care about it, and to resist it however we can. This includes working with others through our unions, community organizations, schools and churches, or by joining in peaceful non-violent protest. Contributing financially to an organization fighting racism or its effects is another way. Concessions can be won and are vital, but unfortunately racism can’t be eradicated entirely under capitalism. It’s too integral to the system. Social and economic divisions are as essential to capitalism as oxygen is to us. Socialism is required to ultimately end racism — and it is possible to achieve.

All comments are welcome. I only ask that we remain civil and respectful of one another. If you clicked over from Facebook, please comment here rather than back there.

2 thoughts on “On Racism & Indifference

  1. Sorry, but Socialism is not the answer to racism. Socialism isn’t the answer to anything really. Just look at the racism of China. Million+ ethnic Muslims is slavery, not just segregated or discriminated against.

    Just look at academia in the US. For decades the leftists of academia have discriminated against Asian students for being to successful and lowered their admittance to have fewer Asians. But all of a sudden there is an Anti Violence movement to support Asians. But none have changed their policies to remove racist admission standards.

    Racism will not be legislated away. More government sponsored reverse racism, like Critical Race Theory, will not change racism. Moving the prejudice to another is not fixing racism.

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    1. I’ve written elsewhere about the merits of socialism. China is not a socialist, communist or Marxist country. Its system is Stalinist in character. The issue of oppression in China against Uyghur Muslims and other minorities is not connected to socialism.

      The claim that universities discriminate against Asian-Americans is open to dispute. The courts, including SCOTUS, have largely upheld Affirmative Action policies which exist expressly for the purpose of redressing historic racial discrimination. With rather suspect timing, the Justice Department under Trump accused Yale of discrimination against Asian-Americans just a month before the 2020 election. DOJ later dropped its lawsuit against Yale in February. In addition to past court rulings, a look at admissions data doesn’t seem to support a charge of discrimination. While Asian-Americans comprise 6% of the U.S. population, they comprise 27% of Harvard’s admissions and 26% of MIT’s. I can’t find much on Yale’s admissions except one report placing it at 7%. In any event, stay tuned regarding Yale because a private group representing Asian-American students has filed a new lawsuit.

      I agree with you that moving prejudice to another is not fixing racism, but I would dispute that Affirmative Action constitutes racism. Yes, it takes race into consideration, but that was happening before — only then based on animus against everyone in certain groups. Affirmative Acton at least purports to ensure access by all groups to a limited number of available slots. It’s a band-aid, albeit imperfect. What we should be creating is a guarantee that everyone can access the highest level of education they can master. And this circles us back to socialism, so I’ll stop here!

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