Thursday, July 10, 2008

Defining Racism

Since the Idaho State Journal redesigned not only the print edition, but the online edition of the paper, I have not been a regular reader. However, every now and again I will take a look at the ISJ blogs to see who is commenting. The ISJ blogs are not blogs in the typical sense, they are mostly editorials that ran in the print edition and are now running online in categorized sections (ISU, Community, Ian Fennell, and Politics). It isn't the best setup, but at least they are making an effort to understand blogging and to reach that particular demographic.

Earlier in the week as I was perusing the comments, I noticed a particularly scary op-ed not written by the reigning king of scary op-eds in the Idaho State Journal. For at least one day, Mark Balzer, a former chairman of the Oneida County Republican Party, became the scariest of opinion writers in the Idaho State Journal. For anyone familiar with the ravings of one Richard Larsen, this is big. To be the scariest among the scary is truly a feat.

"What is Racism?" is one of the opinion pieces you cringe at before even reading. You know that either the author is defending himself against attacks of being a racist or he is trying to define for those who think they know what racism is that they are unequivocally wrong. Never a good approach to an op-ed--telling your audience that they are stupid.

Balzer's assertion cannot be wrapped up in what I am assuming is his thesis: "The same people who define patriotism to be whatever they want it to be define racism the same way."

Fortunately, Mr. Balzer does not stick with his thesis and his opinion does not turn into a comparison of racism and patriotism. In fact, Balzer doesn't seem to mention patriotism at all past his introductory assertion. The mere mention of patriotism made me wonder if Balzer believes that to be racist AND patriotic makes the first excusable, but that is beyond the scope for which I mention this particular op-ed.

The reason I mention this piece is because it seems there are a lot of people taking to a soapbox lately claiming racism to be defined as certain things in an attempt to protect themselves from accusations that they are indeed racist. Balzer outlines the two types of racists: Overt and covert. Additionally, he defines racism with the help of "Webster" and dictionary.com. Seriously, I'm not even going to start the diatribe that immediately ensues when I read someone quoting "Webster" or dictionary.com... Who falls into his categories of overt and covert racists? Barack Obama for classifying a group of people as "typical white people" (covert?); all who support affirmative action (covert); and, white supremacists (overt). In both cases, covert and overt, Balzer simply refers to these individuals as "stupid people."

Lack of logic makes my head spin and Balzer appears to have missed the memo that told us all that an op-ed is supposed to convey an argument, for or against.

His arguments seem to contradict themselves--for example, he states that "no one in this country is limited by who they are; they are only limited by what they do and how they face adversity." Okay? So those who naturally will face adversity because of the color of their skin, their race, their standing in society, their sexual orientation, or their religious beliefs are not limited in what they can achieve as long as they are successful in facing adversity? Come again?

He's defending himself against attacks of racism (the background for this I am uncertain of) and in doing so has made himself look like an unintelligent blowhard. Seems to be the outcome of every instance of these guys taking to their soapboxes to claim they are emphatically not racist...

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