Tom Wier wrote:

> John Cowan wrote:
> > Because "racism" is not synonymous with "discrimination" or "race
> > it refers specifically to a pattern of *institutionalized* denigration
> > and degredation of dark-skinned people.  (This point is not
> > well understood or explained in general, and a non-native speaker
> > can certainly be excused for not being aware of it.)
> Eh... I would ammend that only to say that it is the institutionalized
> denigration of other people on the basis of skin color.  There can
> be black racists, too. (Given the history of African peoples, however,
> my suspicion is that there are fewer of them.)

You both seem to be taking a very prescriptivist stance towards this
word...  Surely you're better linguists than that! :)

I think that most people would say that "racism" is thinking of
someone badly because of their race, and/or treating them badly
because of that.

("Race" here is taken as a primitive but is of course in fact a
thoroughly modern and culturally constructed notion, which deserves an
analysis of its own.)

The example of "racism" par excellance has been American whites' bad
treatment of American blacks (going back to the way those blacks ended
up in America in the first place).  This is what people immediately
think of when they hear the word "racism" so it has to be included in
the definition of the word as a sort of "textbook example."

(I've tried to take this definition down towards a Wierzbickally low
level, though I haven't actually used her primitives.)

How's that for a non-technical, descriptivist definition that tries
to capture what people generally mean when they use the term, as
opposed to what each of us thinks would be the best technical
definition of the term?

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