The Language of Race...
When I read J. Douglas Allen-TaylorÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s front-page piece about how Bill BennettÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s comments were dumb, but not racist, my first thought was: Ã¢â‚¬Ëœwell thatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s no way to run a Vast Left-wing Conspiracy.Ã¢â‚¬â„¢
IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ll believe AlternetÃ¢â‚¬â„¢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, thatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s a bad analogy because Bennett is obviously a dirty, racist, hypocritical bastard and Moore doesnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t really hate America.
Anyway, If youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re interested in digging deeper into Allen-TaylorÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s thesis about the language of race, I highly recommend Lawrence BlumÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Ã¢â‚¬Å“IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢m Not a Racist But..Ã¢â‚¬Â: The Moral Quandary of Race (Cornell University Press, 2001).
Like Allen-Taylor, Blum Ã¢â‚¬â€œ a professor of Philosophy at U-Mass Ã¢â‚¬â€œ 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 Ã¢â‚¬Å“racistÃ¢â‚¬Â 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.
ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s academic, but well worth a read. Maybe IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ll send a copy to Bill Bennett.