By Dyske September 8th, 2010
The first problem of racism is that many people don’t actually understand what racism is and how it works. They think that if they denounce “racism”, they are not racist. Case in point: The latest controversy from the singer Morrissey where he described the Chinese people as a “subspecies” because of the way they treat animals. In response to the outrage, he says, “I abhor racism and oppression or cruelty of any kind and will not let this pass without being absolutely clear and emphatic … Racism is beyond common sense and has no place in our society.” I’m not sure how these two statements reconcile one another in his head.
We are all racist. Denying it makes the problem worse because we stop questioning our own prejudice, and prejudice is something that creeps out when we least expect it. People like Morrissey don’t think about what racism actually means because they have ruled themselves out of the possibility of being racist. People who are the least self-critical are the most likely to be prejudiced.
What is interesting about Morrissey’s response is that he denounces racism because it’s “beyond common sense,” which would mean that anything beyond common sense has “no place in our society.” He is one of those people I call “common sense” Nazis who believe that they are the masters of “common sense” and that anyone who deviates from their ideas of “common sense” are simply wrong. “Common sense” is their sacred cow and is unquestionable and transcendental. If you ask them to define what “common sense” is, they’ll roll their eyes on you. It’s a form of fundamentalism and supremacism where superiority is defined without reason. If anyone is a subspecies, it’s the people like Morrissey who never seem to have evolved since the times of blatant racial injustice and ignorance. Sure, there are many of these “subspecies” in China too, but obviously there are still plenty of them in England also.
A commentator on a different post raised the question of why this is racism but not my own criticisms of Japan and other nations. Good question, so I’d like to clarify.
There is nothing wrong with criticizing a culture or a nation; it’s policies, customs, philosophies, etc.. As a matter of fact, in countries with long histories, sometimes it is very hard to reverse certain traditions that almost everyone actually dislikes because they carry a certain momentum. So, criticism of such traditions can be quite positive for these cultures also.
There is nothing wrong with criticizing certain aspects of the Chinese culture, like human and animal rights. Morrissey is certainly entitled to have his opinions and criticisms of the Chinese culture. And, I think the Chinese can also benefit from constructive discussions on those issues. However, Morrissey suggested that their behavior stems from their biology. Such argument has no basis in reason and is not constructive in any sense of the word. It’s a pure insult. This is how the white people justified black slavery; they considered blacks as biologically inferior to them, an inferior species of human race. Whites in fact thought that about Asians and all other races too. It was a perfectly acceptable idea at the time. This is why all sorts of racial injustice took place. Morrissey’s way of attributing the cause of a certain behavior to biology comes from that ugly tradition. That’s racism pure and simple.