Garcia Definition Racism and other Definitions

Although many definitions of racism point out to the ideology that one race is superior to the other, Garcia (1996) notes that such explanations fail to put into account political and moral contexts; two spheres that are increasingly capturing the integral context of racism. Garcia’s (1996) definition of racism is not necessarily based on races but rather people’s ability to make differentiations within their hearts regarding racial classifications. Garcia (1996) coins the term ‘White racists’ whom he terms exhibit hatred against those who express love for people of color.

White racists are also characterized by little or no human feelings at all and are deterrent to efforts aimed at combating segregation. Such an account shares similarity with various examples of intergroup animosity. For instance, the foundation of anti-Semitism is the hatred expressed against Jews. Therefore, activists who advocate for the interests of Israel consider anti-Semites as ‘Jewish haters’. Additionally, the doctrines attributed to scientists on race anthropology and biology are not factually wrong but encouraged and rationalized antipathy.

Racism also shares similarities with homophobia (malice against homosexuals) and xenophobia. Notably, xenophobia not only includes irrational beliefs concerning foreigners but also encompasses disregard and pure hatred against them. Garcia (1996) reiterates that racism is predominantly based on intolerant attitudes in the society.

Garcia (1996) also creates a link with other dominant definitions of racism; attached importance on superiority and interracial antagonism. The two elements are integral components in various manifestations of racism. True racists therefore thrive on interracial antagonism which justifies belief in superiority. However, it should be noted that belief in superiority is not always a necessary component for racism; in fact, in most cases it cannot be treated as a psychological necessity.

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Therefore, when interracial antagonism is caused by belief in superiority; that can be treated as a real manifestation of racism. In this context, it is also clear that Garcia’s (1996) definition of racism is based on immorality in all situations. Expression of disregard for other groups in whichever form is immoral. Therefore, it means that racists are always against the principles of justice and benevolence. Unlike dominant definitions of the term, Garcia (1996) notes that moral insufficiency value of racism culminates into the urge to harm people assigned to different race.

Although racism is not necessarily a moral doctrine, it can be classified as a moral evil beyond reasonable doubt. Garcia (1996)’s proposal is that we perceive racism as a form of vicious disregard for people assigned to a different race. In this context, Garcia (1996) then coins the true definition of racism, ‘ill will and hatred subjected to a person (s) based on their race’. From this perspective, it is also clear that racism is not based on rationality or irrationality of society’s beliefs as previous definitions have implied; it stems from our likes, intentions and dislikes. Garcia’s (1996) definition also resonates with some of the examples given; for instance when a white person decides to cross a street in a move to avoid meeting black persons on the same side of the street. Although, the white person may justify his/her racial fear, there is no doubt that his/her actions are based on dislikes, ill will and prejudice against people assigned to a different race.

Individual Versus Institutional Racism

Garcia’s (1996) account of racism therefore brings a whole new dimension which can allow existence of institutional and individual racism. Furthermore, the definition also enables us to understand the relationship between the two forms of racism. Garcia (1996) disputes the notion that institutions can be deemed racist when their structures are based on racial category. He also challenges the simple belief among many people that individual beliefs can be considered to be racist when they are used in justifying racial superiority. The similarity between individual and institutional racism is that they both promote violation of human dignity. Garcia (1996) attaches more importance to the individual level of racism because it provides more insight to the concept than institutional. In the individual category, Garcia (1996) notes that racism is not determined by actions or beliefs but rather the vice stems from intentions, wishes and desires of individuals. In many ethical systems, actions are considered to be immoral if they are based on arrogance, greed, lust and contempt. As previously noted, racism is based purely on vicious attitudes towards other people; that is the heart of the vice. Afterwards, it compromises the moral values of people who then transfer such prejudice to institutions. The systemic operations of institutions are thus affected by those vicious attitudes leading to institutional racism.

Therefore, there is link between institutional racism and the individual basis of the concept. Personal racism stems from racist plans, desires and aims; which then determine one’s conduct at the individual level. In a similar way, institutional racism is also caused by the same factor at that level. Therefore, when individual racism becomes institutionalized, it is referred to as institutional racism. The contamination of institutional operations can therefore be attributed to racist attitudes. However, Garcia (1996) considers individual level as the major explanatory tool of racism than institutional category. Individual racism also provides a clear angle when inter-linked with moral concepts. Under the individual level, racism is likely to take the form of self-hate; in fact that is almost always the scenario in many cases. Morality can never be equated to politics because issues that are of great moral importance cannot conform to political urgency. Sometimes, racism is not determined by prejudice or one makes judgments. For instance, a certain individual may have prejudices a certain race but in actual terms turn out not to be racist.

Examples Under Garcia’s Definition

A perfect example of racism when we consider Garcia’s (1996) perception is that of Judith Lichtenberg offers a common life situation. In cases where White people avoid Black persons because they consider them to be threats, some think it’s not racist because it based on the safety of those who consider themselves to be at risk. Garcia (1996) agrees with Lichtenberg that the scenario cannot necessarily be treated as racist because White people may also avoid walking in streets where White teenagers may present a threat to their safety. The example therefore, declassifies what many definitions consider to be racist. However, in a different case, the same White person may run out of justification for her racial bias when a Black teenager files a job application in his/her office and is not shortlisted for an interview. Let us say, for instance, a Black teenager who had applied for a job in a company where the same White lady is the Human Resources Officer, sought to use income from the job to support her sick mum. Here we encounter a sense of instability because personal and official conduct biases are related and connected to Garcia (1996)’s perception on morality.

Objections to Garcia’s Definition

According to Anthony Skillen racism possesses an institutional feature; a statement that presents a strong objection to Garcia (1996)’s views that it is individuals who have intentions, goals and not institutions. Skillen then emphasizes that if we go by Garcia’s (1996) definition, then it means that institutions cannot operate without individuals; and therefore individual intentions are determined by institutions. Individuals determined by institutions include; teaching and going home.

Antony Flew also objects Garcia’s (1996) definition of racism who emphasizes on the role played by regulative practices in individual and institutional racism. Racism in institutions is predominantly constitutive based on identity. Institutions should not therefore be a major concern when it comes to defining racism but we should consider various regulative practices while classifying racial actions. Such regulative practices include; entry requirements, tests and employment practices which usually lead to discrimination of people assigned to certain races because they can only obtain poor outcomes from such practices. Therefore, there is no way that institutions can be considered to be racist. Similarly, we can also not attach a connection between institutions and vicious attitudes. Based on undesirable effects of some institutional processes, we cannot therefore rush to concluding that certain institutions are racist.

Although Garcia (1996) agrees with some of the concepts presented by his peers, he strongly rejects some examples. Garcia (1996) supports Skillen’s view that institutional operations can be racist and Flew’s perception that the way an institution is constituted can lead to racism. However, Garcia (1996) rejects Skillen’s point that undesirable effects can be used to justify racism.

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