The Dictionary Definition of Racism
In almost every conversation in regards to race, I always see white people bring up this:
Followed by choruses of “See? Anyone one can be racist!” While that may be true, racism towards white people just does not exist and if you are using a dictionary definition as the sole basis of your argument, I am automatically going to assume that you are not very knowledgeable on the subject of race. Let’s start by establishing that I am very wary of dictionary definitions. They barely scratch the surface of the true meaning of a word and with so many dictionaries out there how can one determine which interpretation is more accurate than the other. I have seen essays, even papers, written on word interpretation that include cultural and situational context, so to use definitions as a basis for an argument is a little…irresponsible? Only because it shows that you would rather jump into a debate with the most shallow of evidence than to do some actual in depth research. Using a word without context gives the word no real meaning at all. When someone uses this in their argument, I always respond like this:
Dictionaries are an inconstant reflection of society. Words are being added, revised, and updated all the time to keep up with modern terminology. To use it as your core argument, shows how little you care about the subject.
This is because when using such a vague source, you are going to always get the answer you want. As Clarence L. Barnhart said in Problems in Editing Commercial Monolingual Dictionaries, “It is the function of a popular dictionary to answer the questions that the user of the dictionary asks…” He also goes on to say that dictionaries will give an amount of information that is proportionate to the extent of information wanted by its users. So what does that say about dictionaries in a society that is socially and economically dominated by one race?
Originally published at darkberryblues.tumblr.com.