Racism, often thought of as a complex and multilayered thing, is actually easy to understand, even by someone as scatterbrained as I.
Forget the twisted rhetoric of David Duke, Louis Farrakhan, Elijah Muhammad and Strom Thurmond for a minute, and let's get down to cases.
People who have nothing else to recommend them invariably resort to the good people-bad people paradigm for a reason, essentially personal insecurity and feelings of helplessness and victimization. They are the good guys, easily identifiable by a bundle of characteristics topped by something ephemeral as skin color, gender, language, religion (or the lack thereof) and/or ethnicity.
So, in the immortal words of Tom Lehrer, "All the Protestants hate the Catholics and the Catholics hate the Protestants and the Hindus hate the Moslems and everybody hates the Jews."
Chapter Two: "White People Are Corny And Whack"
To further break it down, let's consider one prime racist personality type, which I shall label "Type One" and "Type B." We shall conduct our analysis with imagined, but not unimaginable, quotes.
Type One: "I may be a strung-out redneck who spends all my time tweaking on homemade meth, beating my old lady because she doesn't give me - in a timely fashion - her food stamps and cash from the tricks she turns in our trailer, beating my girlfriends because they get on my nerves, beating my kid for much the same reason and dealing tweak at a rate that has caused a localized cluster in the national health abstract of suicides, homicides and fatal overdoses in three counties … but at least I'm not a nigger."
Type B: "I may be a thugged-out pimp (for whom life is hard) who spends all my time snorting blow and smoking crack, beating my old lady because she doesn't give me - in a timely fashion - her food stamps and cash from the tricks she turns in our trailer, beating my girlfriends because they get on my nerves, beating my kid for much the same reason and dealing crack at a rate that has caused a localized cluster in the national health abstract of HIV, crack babies and turf-related drive-by killings in three cities … but at least I'm not a cracker."
The assumption in each case is that no matter how much another person might appear to be superior, the racist easily identifies that person as inferior if his/her skin is not pigmented in the same shade as one's own.
Ayn Rand correctly identified racism in the 1970s as "barnyard collectivism." It removes the necessity of having to consider each person on his/her objective merit and makes visual identification and classification the sole criteria of worth.
"It was impossible to distinguish man from pig, pig from man" indeed!*
Of course, there are the secondary characteristics of racist thought, and they do delve in to some complicated cultural and economic matters. A graffito I recently spotted on a men's room stall declares, "White people are corny and whack. The sooner we start killing them, the better."
Well, as a guy who not only is white but has been for a great number of years, I could only congratulate the young man on his perspicacity. Rather too many of us are corny and whack and he's got our number, fer sure.
But so what? We're also very creative and productive, and (unless we go nuts, as we periodically do, and start killing everyone in sight) on the whole, pretty good folks. We try to rear our children gently, leave them a better world than the one we inherited, care for the poor, the halt, the lame, the blind, and not cause too much of a fuss doing it.
Conversely, some soft-expectations pseudo-Liberal might gloatingly note that there are more young black men behind bars than in college. This (numerically accurate) observation fuels two inner needs: the need to feel superior and the need to blame somebody else for the misfortunes to which flesh is heir.
It's also great grist for a pity-party which combines both inner needs into a single strangled cry of anguish and rage. This process makes one feel even better about one's own precious little super-righteous self.
But how do these persons propose to improve on this thoroughly sick state of affairs? Are these Concerned Citizens out there tutoring young persons of color, teaching them to read for fun so that alternative career paths will not be barred to them?
Those of us who react to the pity-party in such a constructive way are the only ones with any moral authority to ever open our mouths on the subject. The rest are analogous to hypocrites who eat bacon for breakfast, a burger for lunch and a steak for dinner, then chastise hunters for killing little furry critters.
In the old days, it was the no-expectations pseudo-Conservative who thought this way. They cleverly constructed disincentives to all areas of personal improvement, up to and including blowing off your family's front porch some night to remind you that your "place" was not at the voting booth. Softer measures included rigged literacy tests, in which the white voter would be required to spell "cat" and get most of the letters right while a black voter would be expected to explain Newtonian physics, them compare and contrast them to Einstein's theories of special and general relativity. When the black voter failed the test, they said, "See? They're not bright enough to vote."
It was a snide, vicious little game, and it's no wonder so many black people think we're corny and whack. And since we killed barrels full of them when we had it all our own way, I can't really argue with the justice of killing as many of us as possible if and when this young man and his pals take over.
Sauce for the gander, you know.
* Many thanks to Eric Blair.