Charles Brown CharlesB at CNCL.ci.detroit.mi.us
Wed Apr 28 14:55:25 PDT 1999

>>> Wojtek Sokolowski <sokol at jhu.edu> 04/28/99 05:28PM >>>
At 01:22 PM 4/28/99 -0400, Charles wrote:
>I'm not sure what declarations, but "racism" has an empirically defined
meaning. And it is falsifiable.

If somoene claims that everything that happens is marred with racism, then racism is used as an empirical term because by definition he makes it impossible to find an instance that does fit the concept.


Chas.: I take your last sentence as "does NOT", correct. This is Carrol's analysis. I'm not sure if I would formulate it exactly as Carrol does. The pervasiveness of racism is empirically , not definitionally established. After many years of empirical observation, we conclude that racism is extremely widespread in the U.S.


>The notion that the term "racism" is meaningless or that it is

"Meaningless" and "without empirical meaning" are two different things. "Witch" has a rather well-defined meaning, but that meaning happened not to be empirical - that is, no empirically observable characteristics exist that would allow to separate people who do from those wo do not belong the "witch' category. As a result, every woman can be labeled as a "witch" and there is no way to show that she is not.

Chas> this is sort of chopped off, but the answer is the same. Racism is not a supernatural attribution. It is in objective reality. It is known from empirical observation. Calling someone racist is based on evidence of their conduct. This is all a, b, c. (((((((((((((((((9

>"epistemologically" defective is just another dimension of the denial of
>racism syndrome. It is a "left" method of denying racism, wrapped in faulty

I do not know of a better way of "denying racism" or for that matter, trivializing any term, than implying that every instance or situation fits it. Psychoanalysts tried that and that is why psychoanalysis today is a joke, except perhaps in literary criticism.

Chas.: As I say, I don't formulate it the way Carrol does. Every social occurrence is not significantly an expression of racism. The most obvious example would be many interactions between members of oppressed racial groups. But lots of things members of oppressing racial groups do are not significantly or at all expressions of racism. An obvious example would be a white person falling in love with a black person. The significance of that is not an expression of racism but of anti-racism. Rather simple.

>theory of knowledge language. In this case, Wojtek seems to be going for a
>Popperian "lack of falsifiability" approach. But Wojtek's analysis fails.

To be more specific, Popperian "lack of falisifiability" approach pertains to statements rather than concepts. If I say "X is a racist" that statement is either true or false, depending if X possesses empirical characteristics that distinguish racists from non-racists. If I say "Everyone is a racist" that statement is either patently false if the term "racist" is taken as an empirically defined concept, or true by definition - in which case the trick lies in changing the meaning of the term "racist" from emprical to non-empirical (all-embracing). That trick may be accomplished in many different ways, for example, by implying very lax and fluid criteria that virtually everyone meets.

In any case, my quarrel is not with "racism" but with a ceratin use of language and discourse - which I define as 'religious' or 'metaphysical' and I do not find particiularly useful to explain social phenomena, such as Colorado shootings. Labeling it as "racist" or "evil" may express the speaker's emotions, but is not a very useful explanation of what happened - unless you can show that racists beliefs were the leading motive of the killings (as, for example, it was the case of Mr. King in Texas). Equating the motives of Littleton shooters with those of King is a good way of making the term racism void of empirical meaning.

Chas.: Based on the evidence , the facts adduced so far ( the empirical aspect) racism/nazism is very important in understanding the social significance of the Colorado shootings. Let me put it this way, the main interest we have in the Colorado tragedy is trying to prevent it from happening again. In that regard, if you were going to look around the country for signs that some other highschool students were going to do this would you look for high schoolers who hated jocks ? Or would you look for highschoolers with a Hitler/racist fetish ? The obvious answer is the latter. The most likely "but for" or necessary causal link to the MASS MURDER dimension of the episode is the Nazi/racist fetish,not the anti-jockism or geekism. But for, or absent the Nazi/racist fetish the Littleton Two probably would have hacked a sports institution computer or some other geek prank. This is the most likely causal connection based on the EMPIRICAL evidence we have so far.

Racism is more widespread than this type of fascistic racism, but the broader racism nurtures this rare extreme racisms. That is the connection to wider racism. But "racism is widespread in America" is an empirical conclusion ,not a metaphysical a priori assumption. It is a fact, not an imagining like witches.

Charles Brown

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