The 5 Forms of Racism: A Call to Humility

The Creation of Adam (c. 1512) by Michelangelo

The Creation of Adam (c. 1512) by Michelangelo

What leads an individual to racism? There are likely as many roots to that sickly tree as there are leaves, yet I believe they can be roughly divided into five categories: aesthetic, religious, moral, scientific, and political. To know these causes of racism and their respective cures is to have taken the first step in their abolition.

The first, what I call aesthetic racism, is the grandfather of racism, for by what other means than visual would a person or, indeed, the whole of humanity begin the journey toward racism? I don’t think I would have a difficult time convincing you that, for age-old survival reasons, humans have always relied most heavily on their sense of sight and reacted to difference and change with a sort of psychological anaphylaxis. It should come as no surprise, then, to learn that “racism” in early man was located in the primitive back of the brain (the occipital lobe), unlike the other four causes/classes of racism which arise in the more advanced front (specifically, the prefrontal cortex). That said, please do not here mistake explanation for justification; those who still look down on another race for their physical appearance are on all fours with the rest of the animals that practices intraspecies “racism”. Actually, that’s not entirely fair; man’s unique capacity for narcissism—the proverbial gasoline on the flame of racism—allows him to reach heights of wickedness unattainable by beasts. The solution to the problem of aesthetic racism is one in the same with its lesson: may we never replace God’s design with ourselves as the supreme standard of beauty.

And just like that, we have arrived at religious racism. In philosophy of religion, “evil” is classically defined as a privation or perversion of the “good” such that the greater the good, the more evil its interruption. Not only is human life the greatest good we know, it also comes from Goodness itself. Hatred and abuse of that good is tantamount to hatred and abuse of God, another fitting (albeit narrowly theistic) definition of “evil”. How utterly backward and confused is it, then, that the people purporting to love God, His will, and His creation the most are the very ones doing them the greatest damage? By wielding, or at least citing, “God” in their attack of His own creation, they taint God as henceforth perceived by nearly everyone in their vicinity. Having shown remarkable contempt for their critical faculties, only two resources remain for dealing with the religious racist. First, you might consider appeals to their sacred text. This can be extremely effective in the case of a Christian or Buddhist, though you will only be handing the Mormon, Muslim, and Hindu the stick that beats you with this approach. In such instances of failure, your best recourse is an appeal to their better nature. I believe that sustained belief in the “other”’s inferiority is all but impossible in the face of repeated, long-term exposure to a person of that race. We are too alike to not eventually see ourselves in each other, even (perhaps especially) those we most despise.

Next is moral racism, which happens to be the most easily explained, both conceptually and causally. Moral racism occurs when a person believes that another race is inherently (i.e., instinctually) base from cradle to grave. Jews, for example, have known this racism well, and it certainly goes beyond accusations of thievery, deicide, and well poisoning. The problem is the racists’ insurmountable ignorance, which they mistake for brilliance and which stems from, usually, childhood indoctrination followed by years of confirmation bias, base rate neglect, and overgeneralization. The solution, insofar as any of form of racism has one solution, is a sheer barrage of facts. Though prayers that the information penetrates their suggestively thick skulls couldn’t hurt either.

That actually brings us to scientific racism. This is the racism of Charles Darwin, Thomas Jefferson, Adolf Hitler, Unit 731, and innumerable more. The notion here is that some races are anatomically and physiologically inferior. The problem is twofold. First, much of this “science” is fallacious from the start (due to faulty methodology) or is falsely contrived by those motivated by an alternate form of racism. One need look no further than the phrenology of the 19th century or the “racial hygiene” of the Third Reich or, let’s not forget, the eugenics of Margaret Sanger (founder of Planned Parenthood and human toad) to see what I mean. Second, the data, even the accurate data, is interpreted under a value hierarchy born of a misguided teleology. Meaning, facts such as IQ inequality among the races ought not equate to perceived inferiority or superiority. Intelligence does not determine ultimate worth. Neither does athletic ability. Not even characterological differences are a factor. The only point of consideration is a person’s value in the eyes of their creator, which happens to be infinite. And this because God didn’t create us to refine our intelligence or to master athletics or to perfect our temperament; He created us to love and share Him, with intellect, athleticism, and personality serving as mere means to that end. Thus, not unlike aesthetic racism, deconversion of a scientific racist only comes, or is at least only truly warranted, through a paradigm shift that recalibrates human worth according to a transcendent, omnibenevolent scale (i.e., the God of the Bible).

Finally, there is political racism, which in today’s Western world is most ubiquitous and has reached such levels of camouflage that it often passes for a virtue. On the left, it is identity politics, the abhorrent notion that one’s membership in a particular group takes precedence over his individuality. Never has as great a dehumanizing reduction of personhood been met with such resounding applause. It should make our stomachs churn and the hairs on the back of our necks stand on end to see people segregate themselves as they do today. This game, played under the guise of compassion, is aimed at elevating the historically disadvantaged race and/or overthrowing the historically privileged race (and doing so by virtually any means necessary). No sooner does the notion of meritocracy enter into these covertly and unwittingly racist minds than it is dismissed as, of all things, racism. But, remember, this is merely the most recent reincarnation of political racism. History can bear witness that, whichever ideological fad happens to be in season, such collectivist thinking always leads to tribalism which, in turn, leads to racism which, left unchecked, leads to genocide. Fortunately, attempted genocide is always drastic enough to command global attention and, more importantly, global intervention. Now, the problem is not altogether dissimilar for those on the right. On the right, political racism is about maintaining the economic and social power, and thereby the cultural foothold, that history has afforded the privilege race (to which the racist belongs)—all done under the “virtuous” veil of orthodoxy. Put simply, fear of the unknown (or rather fear of a change to one’s long-beloved traditions and customs) compels the racist to hate the “foreigner”, the intruder, who challenges the status quo. This fear arrests all progress and stultifies the culture, rendering it powerless to the ever-advancing societies that surround it. Eventually, in a fever of poetic justice, irony will strike again as the racists watch their fear of the foreigner become exactly that which enables his successful invasion. These two forms of political racism, liberal and conservative, are, as just explained, self-correcting, yet that does not mean that they are impervious to preventative measures. The answer to political racism lies in democracy. Democracy is the enemy of racism insofar as it values each individual equally (privileged or not, foreign or not) and as their own entity. Though far from resolving the underlying heart-issue, democracy is the best pragmatic antidote we have for political racism.

I’ll leave you with this: aesthetic racism is primitive, religious racism is sacrilegious, moral racism is self-deceiving, scientific racism is maloriented, and political racism is despotic. All their solutions have one thing in common: humility. The aesthetic racist must rid himself of his narcissism. The religious racist must see himself in his “inferior”. The moral racist must dispense with his self-righteous “omniscience”. The scientific racist must trust God’s purpose for mankind over his own. And the political racist must relinquish his tyrannical desire to control the “deserved” fate of others. Wherever you find yourself, struggling with racism or not, let us join John the Baptist in his simple but profound aspiration: “He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30).


To Martin Luther King Jr., the man who taught a nation to dream.

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