Let’s start with that. It’s become a “woody” word [that’s word, offending, overworked, died yesterday]. In 2020, it has totally lost any specific meaning.
For more use the DOOR.
“Racist“¹ can mean many things today. When I hear, or see in print, the word used by an Ivy League-educated politician, lawyer, journalist, or man (and woman, of course–since man has lost its generic meaning) on the street–walking or marching, armed or empty-handed, I immediately ignore what follows it, because the word can mean almost anything the user wants it to mean. Here are some possibilities:
(1) You judge people and things by race as a white person.
(2) You, ignorantly, of course, because of its logically possibility, judge people and things as a black person. (This is unacceptable to most people using the term because it’s an unacceptable application despite its logical implication.)
(3) You consider “black” people to be anyone who is 100%, 75%, 50%, 25%, 10%, 5 or 1% black, or who claims to be black. It’s an open term without definition.
(4) You consider “black” people to be inferior to people who consider themselves to be “white.” Or conversely, you consider people who consider themselves “white” to be better than those who are “black.”
(5) You consider people who are brown the same way as blacks (as above).
(6) Similarly, with Native Americans.
(7) Similarly with Latinos.
(8) You have ancestors who were racists (as above).
(9) You’ve worked alongside those who were racists (as above) without challenging them.
(10) You’ve not challenged those who have created works of art that have “pictured” people in ways that are perceived as demeaning to people judged as inferior (as above).
(11) You have done business with people who have had policies that people who have judged as inferior (as above) find offensive.
(12) You, and your ancestors, have been members of organizations that have not included those considered “inferior” (as above).
(13) Many have extended the term to include gender (male/female) distinctions.
(14) Many have extended the term to include transgender individuals.
(15) Many have–without thought of the necessity of specification–to mean “You obviously disagree with me.” Or just “You disagree with me.”
Kill the word. It means nothing today–nothing that’s worth listening to. We have a desperate need to treat all people fairly, and to create laws and well as informal approaches, as we live and share with others.
A tough job? Of course. But it helps to kill sloppy language.
¹ The problem is not unlike the one that faces Christians when they discuss evolution and talk past each other. The first job in such discussions is to define what is meant by “evolution.” There are several definition, by the way.