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World Association of International Studies

Post Thoughts on Anti-Semitism, Racism; from Gary Moore
Created by John Eipper on 03/30/16 2:04 AM

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Thoughts on Anti-Semitism, Racism; from Gary Moore (John Eipper, USA, 03/30/16 2:04 am)

Gary Moore writes:

Luciano Dondero's March 29 discussion of anti-Semitism is a valiant thrust at a difficult subject, where, as he points out, the definition itself leads into subjective constructions (which are the problem in the first place).

In 1984, Joel Williamson looked at race relations and provided the following definition of another elusive "ism," racism:

“Racism is, in its essence [is] a psychological--even a psychiatric—phenomenon. Racists need devils, or they need gods, and often they need both. They need these manifested in tangible human forms that can be maneuvered so as to make their own lives seem legitimate….Racists use other people as tools, and thus racism is tied directly to power and the lack thereof. Racists have power, and they use that power to enforce onto other persons an appearance that is not real….Racism is essentially a mental condition, a disorder of the mind in which internal problems are projected upon external persons.”

Williamson's formulation magnificently summarizes some of the dynamics, and yet still can't get around the basic difficulty: If it is "a mental condition, a disorder of the mind," why is it not in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of the American Psychiatric Association? Where does it lie on a grid or spectrum with schizophrenia, bipolar disorder or borderline personality disorder? The obvious, nuts-and-bolts negativity of ethnic psychological projection is outflanked by our much larger flaccidity in definitions (as we wait for present psychological definitions--perhaps next week?--to go the way of cupping-and-bleeding and the four humours).

JE comments:  I would also question Williamson's assumption that racists have power.  It's often exactly the opposite, especially in the case of racist "acting out."  The disempowered seek devils for scapegoating.  Think of the KKK, which arose in the defeated American South, or Nazi anti-Semitism in the wake Germany's humiliation at Versailles.  Even Trump supporters have been characterized as disenfranchised Whites for whom the American Dream of yore has disappeared.

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