Just in from an alternate universe that we might call the left wing of the left wing comes a declaration that the three-meal-a-day routine that is the norm of daily life is racist. This deep insight comes courtesy of Kiera Butler, a senior editor at Mother Jones. The rationale goes something like this: Europeans have been following a three meal routine since at least the Middle Ages, but the natives who populated North America before the arrival of the Europeans followed a less regimented routine. Their meal timing and quantity varied with the seasons and with availability. The European settlers were apparently both fascinated and appalled by this flexibility and lack of rigor, and considered the natives’ habits as uncivilized. Therefore, the European settlers were racists, their failure to adopt the natives’ routine was racist, and by magically anthropomorphizing a particular dining schedule, three meals a day is itself racist.

The article moves on from this observation to discuss some history and science, advocates (of course) for breaking from the three meal routine, and never mentions racism again. We are presumably expected to conclude that the attitudes of the Europeans towards the natives has so deeply infused the very premise of a three-meal-a-day routine that a person’s adherence to it makes that person a racist, no matter whether he is utterly ignorant of the purported history and no matter that it could very easily be viewed as a passed-down tradition rather than a deliberate bigotry against the non-Europeans of the day.

Intent to be racist or awareness of asserted racist implications of words or deeds, apparently, don’t matter to Ms. Butler and those who share her belief set. I suppose we get a bye for the lack of awareness, but only if we blindly and wholeheartedly accept the assertion, show contrition for our accidental racism and immediately cease the racist behavior.

Which is ludicrous, of course. One cannot be accidentally racist. Without intent, the concept of racism itself gets diluted down to near-meaninglessness and the word itself change from a social ill to be overcome to a weapon of intimidation and castigation. Racism would no longer originate from individuals, but instead be declared and specified by a self-appointed group of scolds and hall monitors.

If someone uses a word that has racist connotations, but doesn’t do so with racist intent, is he nevertheless a racist? Does society presume to crawl into his head and read his mind? Does society go further and presume that, even without conscious intent or awareness, that there is a subconscious racism that’s just looking for an excuse to “sneak” the word by? Sadly, some will say “yes” to that last idea. They will know that your use of a word, even in a context that lacks any appearance of racism, is a covert rebellion, an aggression and a lack of acknowledgment of your own race’s racist history. Hence the micro-aggression movement. Ask the person sitting next to you in math class if he solved the problem, and if he happens to be asian, you’re presumed to have asked him because asians are stereotypically good at math (not because he just happened to be the person sitting next to you). But, what if you didn’t notice your neighbor’s ethnicity before asking the question? Would it even possible for the question to be considered racist? Or, are you obligated to reconnoiter before speaking, just in case there’s a possibility that your question might be interpreted by the other party (or, more importantly, by third parties) as racist? But wait, would it be racist not to ask him, simply because you are aware that it might be perceived as racist? Isn’t that sort of inaction, rooted in awareness of race and racial stereotypes, racist? It’s a bottomless rabbit hole.

If intent is irrelevant in determining racism, and if what is considered racist is determined by self-appointed solons like the aforementioned editor, how can there ever be hope of achieving a post-racial society? If racism can be accidental or unintentional, we’re all destined to be racists forever.

Peter Venetoklis

About Peter Venetoklis

I am twice-retired, a former rocket engineer and a former small business owner. At the very least, it makes for interesting party conversation. I'm also a life-long libertarian, I engage in an expanse of entertainments, and I squabble for sport.

Nowadays, I spend a good bit of my time arguing politics and editing this website.


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