Gladwell on Racism

I often avoid diving into my Malcolm Gladwell RSS feed because I know that I will want to spend some time reading it. In the wake of the moronic comments of Michael Richards, Mel Giboson and Michael Irvin, Malcolm Gladwell , unsurprisingly, takes a measured, analytical crack at defining racism:

These three cases are clearly not equal: the context in which something is said, and the identity of the speaker obviously make a great deal of difference in how we react to the speech. But if there is in fact a hierarchy to hate speech, on what basis should comments be judged? I’m curious to hear the thoughts of others on this. But here’s a try.

I propose three criteria:

1. Content…

2. Intention…

3. Conviction…

I’ve written as much on this subject, over the years, as I have because I think it is a profoundly serious problem in our society–much more profound than we generally acknowledge. But we debase that term when we apply it to comments or actions indiscriminately. There is a distinction between being a racist and simply saying something dumb.

Good stuff in the comments section, too.


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