Rhetoric runs risk of rationalizing real racists

Opinion section
Valley News - Opinion

Political liberals have the right to free speech, so I won’t contest their right to call me a racist.

I didn’t say that I am a racist; I said that those who disagree with me can use the term “racist” to express our difference of opinion. I don’t get offended easily; to me, Snowflake is a town in eastern Arizona co-founded by an ancestor of former U.S. Sen. Jeff Flake. While I support the right of others to call me a racist based on my sentiments of government rather than my treatment of non-Whites, I must also warn the political left that redefining racism based on political beliefs creates the risk of acceptance of racism and could legitimatize the true White supremacists by linking them with those who support equality for benefiting from limited-government public policy.

The definition of “racist” has transcended from a White supremacist to a limited-government conservative whose ideological views are closer to those of Ben Carson, U.S. secretary of Housing and Urban Development, and Associate Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas than to those of former President Barack Obama. Liberals will call me a racist regardless of how I treat political candidates based on their issues rather than on their skin color. My conservative Black and Hispanic friends know I’m not a racist, but they also know that I’d rather be considered a racist in a free land than an enlightened man in a tyranny. It is thus more important for me to protect my Black and Hispanic friends than to deny being a racist, and I will accept the liberals’ claims that I am a racist contingent upon my ability to fight for Black and Hispanic conservatives.

Several years ago, one of my Democrat friends asked on Facebook what people would be dressing up as for Halloween. I responded that her Democrat friends who associate conservatives with Nazis would have a case with me since the actor who played the neo-Nazi playwright in “The Producers” also provided the voice of King Triton in “The Little Mermaid,” and my older daughter suggested that I dress up as King Triton. I added that my Democrat friend might have to remind me to sing “Under the Sea” rather than “Springtime for Hitler.” The reaction is different when one jokes about being a Nazi rather than denying it.

In a more recent Facebook discussion, somebody posted a video of a Black man who was eating popcorn from a tub. My response was, “If your plan was to classify me as a racist because I can’t tell Black actors apart, it worked. Is that rerun from ‘What’s Happening’ or the unanimated version of ‘Fat Albert?’”

I was informed about the video but not chastised for being a racist.

I am not afraid to be called a racist. I do not consider myself a racist, since I still define a racist as someone who discriminates on the basis of race. If racism is based on political ideology rather than on racial feelings, that definition would make me a racist. But if you call me a racist, prepare for me to accept it rather than deny that accusation.

Adding limited-government conservatives to the list of racists allows the true White supremacists to camouflage themselves among those whose actual opposition is to taxation, regulation and centralized government rather than to people of different ethnicities. More significantly, basing racism on political beliefs could create greater acceptance of racism and normalize racism. The rhetoric accusing political conservatives of racism creates the risk of increased acceptance of actual racists.

Joe Naiman can be reached by email at jnaiman@reedermedia.com.