Paul R. Lehman, The use of race-based phrases like “race card,” “race baiting,” “race hustling,” “race profiling,” is absurd

April 22, 2012 at 12:04 pm | Posted in American Bigotry, American Racism, blacks, equality, Ethnicity in America, justice, Prejudice, whites | 1 Comment
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As early as 1942 scientists from around the world agreed that the social use of the word race created too much confusion to continue it use. One scientist, an American named Ashley Montague, recommended that the words ethnic group or ethnicity be used instead of race for social purposes; the group agreed.  Obviously, many people simply ignored the recommendation and continued to use the word race to today in reference to social concerns. And, just as was the case in the 1940s, the use of race relative to social concerns along with its absurdity shows, ignorance, stupidity, and bias.

Let us take, for example, the phrase “race baiting.” Since the word race has not been defined outside of science, how does one interpret the phrase? The word baiting is simple enough to suggest a lure or something used to entrap, tempt, attract and other such words. The point of the baiting is to place someone in a position that must be defended from some claims that tend to cast aspersions on him or her. So, when the phrase “race baiting” is used, it is generally by someone directed at someone for the purpose of challenging that person’s character or reputation. The suggestion accompanying the use of that phrase is that something is wrong, unfair, unjust or illegal about race. In other words, when someone is accused of “race baiting” the suggestion is that the use of race will give that person an unfair advantage over some other person or idea. What is missing from the use of the term is the symbolic history associated with the word race. So, depending on who is using the phrase and the context in which it is being used, no one knows who benefits from it. So using the phrase shows ignorance.

Another phrase that creates confusion is “race hustling.” Again, the word race does not carry a standard definition, so one must assume that the idea in the user’s mind has to do with human beings. The word hustling, however, introduces an element of something illegal, criminal, or shady. One former U.S. Representative, an African American from Oklahoma, J. C. Watts, once referred to some noted civil rights activists as “race-hustling poverty pimps.” The suggestion was that people involved in “race hustling” were using the history and current record of social injustice against some ethnic Americans as a con game in order to reap some unmerited reward. The irony and stupidity in the use of this phrase is that the accuser is more at fault than the accused because the accuser creates shady expectation for something that might be legitimate and honorable. Since Watts is an African American and his comments were directed at African Americans, the term racist does not fit. The words absurd, biased and stupid do apply here but reflect on the user because that is where the image is created.

One of the more popular phrases is the “race card.” The metaphor of a card game is the key to understanding this phrase. The “race card” is thought to serve as a game changer for either the user or the person accused of using it. For example, if someone is arguing a point based on merit and his opponent accuses him of playing the “race card” in order to win the point, the entire argument is thrown into a quandary. As in the case of the other phrases, the benefit can go either way.  The purpose for someone using the “race card” is to gain sympathy for his or her side in that the idea of using race gives the other person and unfair advantage. Generally, if the “race card” is used, history and facts can be used to substantiate claims of injustice and bigotry. So, the phrase is generally used by people who want to use race as an emotional weapon to combat history and facts.

The word race when used as a social term does two things simultaneously, it unites and divides. The idea of multiple biological races underscores the use of the term, so those races that are similar unite and those races that are seen as different, divide. Of course, we know that only one race of human beings exists, so the idea is just that, an idea. The fact that we are all members of the human family makes racism impossible, but not bigotry, prejudice, and biases. So, when the phrase “racial profile” is used the concepts of ignorance, stupidity, and bigotry comes with it. The word racial is an adjective taken from the word race. Used in the context of the phrase “racial profile,” it suggests that multiple biological races exist and that each one is different to the degree that one can be distinguished from the other. Not true. Another suggestion from the use of the phrase is that distinct features relative to each race are so unique that a profile can be created identifying each race. How does that work with Asian Americans or Mexicans and America Indians? This concept is simply ridiculous and illogical.

The fact of the matter is that society wants to view race in America as two-fold, black and white. Unfortunately, America is a diverse society with ethnic groups inter-marrying and procreating blurring the so-called “racial” lines. The fact that diversity will increase in the future makes the need to discontinue the use of race as a social term that much more necessary.  We have come to the point where not only is the word race no longer accurate or useful but also the words black and white used as identity. If we listen carefully the next time we hear any of the so-called “racial” phrases used we will also hear someone who is ignorant, stupid, biased or absurd or any combination thereof. Bank on it.

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  1. It seems so simple, but the construct of race is so deeply rooted. I like using music as a simple test. The US has tried very hard to overlay the racial construct on to music. But it doesn’t work. Elvis didn’t do “white” music. He was the King of Rock and Roll. Michael Jackson didn’t do “black” music. He was the King of Pop. And the “blues” are the “blues” no matter whose singing it. It won’t work with music because it simply isn’t true.


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