The Language of Race...

News & Politics

When I read J. Douglas Allen-Taylor’s front-page piece about how Bill Bennett’s comments were dumb, but not racist, my first thought was: ‘well that’s no way to run a Vast Left-wing Conspiracy.’

I’ll believe Alternet’s space should be used to defend rightwing, culture-war jackasses like Bennett from charges of racism when the National Review starts putting nuanced arguments out there in defense of Michael Moore.

Of course, that’s a bad analogy because Bennett is obviously a dirty, racist, hypocritical bastard and Moore doesn’t really hate America.

Anyway, If you’re interested in digging deeper into Allen-Taylor’s thesis about the language of race, I highly recommend Lawrence Blum’s “I’m Not a Racist But..�: The Moral Quandary of Race (Cornell University Press, 2001).

Like Allen-Taylor, Blum – a professor of Philosophy at U-Mass – argues that the language that exists to discuss racial issues is in itself a barrier to true and open discourse between different groups. Blum questions the idea of trying to abolish our concepts of race altogether, arguing that they represent important historic and group-identity values. He argues for a new vocabulary with which racial dialogues can occur in the personal, public and media spheres.

Blum argues that the very word “racist� is being so overused as to lose its shameful meaning. He discusses how this and other words have been co-opted and diluted, and that the effect is to detract from open and honest discourse. Blum calls for a more varied vocabulary that allows us to distinguish between--and place different moral rankings on--malicious racism and less harmful attitudes that differentiate according to race.

It’s academic, but well worth a read. Maybe I’ll send a copy to Bill Bennett.

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