This is a continuation of a point that I brought up in this thread about the significance of one’s views or actions fitting, or not fitting, a certain label. The responses seemed (to me) to miss the point I was making, and I thought I’d try a new thread, instead of trying to hijacking the other one, which was going along quite nicely on a different tangent.

Here’s my perspective:

Suppose someone believes that all or most Jews are penny-pinching money grubbers. This person has, in his mind, some evidence that he feels has led him to this conclusion - his own experience or that of others, observations about Jewish history and culture etc. What would be proper, suppose this person wanted to debate these issues, would be to assert “I believe that Jews are penny-pinching money grubbers because of X, Y, and Z”. Others could then jump in with why his conclusions do or do not follow from X, Y, and Z, and he could either defend or concede. What I see happening in these instances however, is more along the lines of “does a belief that Jews are etc. constitute racism?”, with the implication that if it did, such views would be disqualified for this reason.

This is not logical. Either the evidence does or does not support such a view. The proper interpretation of this evidence should not depend on whether a particular interpretation will cause the interpreter to fall into a category of people that are currently out of favor.

Where I do see a proper place for such queries is where a person might have exhibited signs of an irrational prejudice that he is not aware of. For instance, a long time observer might have observed that he is apt to judge the same conduct as penny pinching in Jews and as “intelligent bargaining” in others. This might form the basis for a reconsideration. But to say “I would stand by the following actions and opinions, but would like for people weigh in on whether they constitute “racism””, does not seem meaningful to me at all.

The issue is not whether racism is out of favor or not, but that racism has been proven demonstrably false simply because it is not borne out by factual evidence. Why debate the finer points of “Jews are penny-pinchers” if the racist logic has already been satisfactoribly disproven?

A) All Jews are stingy.
B) A is racist.
C) Racism is false.
D) Ergo, A is false.

What exactly is the problem? Do you wish to scrutinize the truth value of racism over and over merely because belief in its invalidity is in fashion?


I see no substantive difference between the two. To me it follows thusly:

Subject person say: Based on the purple people I know, and my dad has told me about, all purple people are lazy, dishonest and criminal.

This is a statement based on the faulty premise that all purple people are similar to those he’s met. There’s also the problem that even his viewpoint may be a failure to reconcile his perception with that of the purple people he’s interacted with.

Now it doesn’t matter that the Tolerant People can demonstate that it’s not true that all purple people are in fact not lazy dishonest and criminal. The problem isn’t with the evidence it’s with the persons thought process which led him to make the faulty conclusion in the first place.

ALL statments of the form “All members of group X have characteristic Y” are racist (or some other sort of -ist) except where the characteristic Y is the defining characteristic of the group X (“All Jews are Jewish”), or some characteristic which is logically forced from the defining characteristic (“All Jews are human”).

It doesn’t matter how many examples of members of group X you can find that have characteristic Y. The problem is the leap of generalization. That leap of illogic is unwarranted, discriminatory, and immoral, and no amount of sophistry can excuse it.

There is no evidence which can possibly support the contention that, e.g., “all Jews are penny-pinching money grubbers”. The proposition is unfounded on its face, at least with respect to a group which can add new members, because no certain prediction can be made about Jews who do not presently exist (or who exist but are not yet Jewish).

It doesn’t.

That’ll be $50, please. :wink:
I see your point, I think. The problem though arises anytime someone levels a charge which winds up stigmatizing an individual based on perceptions (flawed or not) about characteristics of the group in general. The debate should focus first on why the person must dislike/hate the entire group, rather than focusing on a particular target. It seems profitless to wrangle over dopey stereotypes that have no basis in fact.


The problem with your approach is that there is no one single simple concept that has been shown to be false. The very existence of these “am I a racist” type questions is due to the fact that there are many different concepts which may or may not fit under the category. These many concepts have varying degrees of truth to them, and to apply the type of reasoning that you describe is simplistic and illogical.

stuffinb and KellyM

You are describing reasons for the specific hypothesis described to be false. Fine. That’s exactly the type of discussion that I would advocate. What I disagree with is the type that [Maeglin** is calling for; = Racism, Racism = false, A = false".

Ok let me see if I can make sense of this…

The problem with making these kinds of statements is that historically they have been used against certain groups to label them or cast them in a bad light. Some Jews, perhaps a large portion of the Jewish population, may indeed be excellent at managing their money. There is nothing wrong with this trait unless you are interested in using it to support your bigoted views. Just from personal observation I have noticed that good money managment just like manners and other learned behaviors often runs in families. Several of my friends had fathers and mothers that were excellent money managers and they passed this skill on to their children, instilled it in them really.

I’ve noticed that many older people I’ve met, pre and post depression babies are often very frugal. These people have experienced first hand what is like to actually do without and they compensate by saving and carefully managing their resources. I’ve had three close friends whos mothers are German. These women experienced the poverty and hunger of pre and post war Germany. One of them rode 500 miles on a bicycle to get out of Germany after the war. All three of these ladies, hoarded food. They all had overstocked pantries and freezers. I used to marvel at the packs of frozen meat, canned goods, and staples they keep around. A friend explained that his mother had always been like that, she lived in constant fear of going hungry again.

I realize it sounds like I’m diverging from the subject here, that isn’t what I’m trying to do. In another thread they’ve been talking about “black people’s time” and how there might be a cultural difference in the way certain people value time. In my way of thinking none of these differences should be used to place a value on the behavior of an entire group. Close knit groups will obviously in many ways conform to certain traditions and behaviors that are accepted or even encouraged by their peers. That does not make these behaviors wrong. What is wrong is to use these culturally inspired behaviors to support bigotry. When you do hear people bother to mention these types of things it is almost always in a negative way, even when the behavior itself is not necessarily negative.


No, I am describing reasons why the specific hypothesis and all similiar hypotheses are false. It doesn’t matter what the group and the characteristic are; all such hypotheses are categorically false (except for those which are pleonastic; obviously all Jews are Jewish).

I agree with Maeglin. All racist hypotheses are categorically false; therefore, if a hypothesis amounts to racism, it is categorically false.

Izzy, I don’t think I made myself perfectly clear. For exactly the reasons stuffinb and KellyM posted, racist logic is demonstratably false. When an argument is identified as racist it can be defeated on these grounds regardless of the specific group it targets. The specific hypotheses are basically irrelevant. Whether you are calling Jews niggardly or Puerto Ricans lazy does not make one iota of difference. The fact that you believe that some of these concepts may “have varying degrees of truth to them” is also irrelevant.

It is fallacious to draw conclusions about an open group by its individual members. Bottom line. An argument that does this is inexcusably wrong.

I said exactly the same thing as stuffinb and KellyM. Yet somehow their arguments are precisely the kind of discussion you are looking for? Hmm…let’s take a look.

From stuffinb:

And KellyM:

What they are saying is that if it’s racist, it’s wrong.

So what’s wrong with the above equation then?



stuffinb and KellyM addressed one specific (type of) argument (“ALL X are Y”) based (in stuffinb’s case) on one specific type of reasoning (all the ones I met are). They presented arguments rejecting the reaoning (in stuffinb’s case) and the premise (in kellym’s case). These would suffice to deal with the exact same type of argument based on the exact same type of reasoning. There is no difference (per the KellyM logic) between “all Jews are money grubbers” and “all Puerto Ricans are thieves”. And there’s no difference between “I know this because all the Jews I’ve met etc.” and I know this because all the Puerto Ricans I’ve met etc.”. But what about “a high percentage of Jews are money grubbers”? Does the KellyM logic stand up? Not in the form that he presented it. And what about “I know this based on studies of that reknowned scholar Prof. So-and-So” – does stuffinb’s? Also, a new argument would be required.

The reason there is so much of this “Am I a <<label>>?” going around is because of the very complexity of these issues. I gave the example above as an extreme case in which I still think the issues are more important than the label, but the point is that there is no one “racist logic” which has been refuted. (The thread that I linked to is a more typical example of these labelling issues arising, and I can link to a few others, when I get back to a faster computer).

Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. Barring a definition of “racism” so strict as to make it tautoligical, the statement “racism has been proven demonstrably false” is without any basis. Do you have any cite whatsoever for such a sweeping statement?

If your attitude is “I don’t have to listen to these people’s arguments because I just know that they’re wrong”, then you’re just as bigoted as any racist.

Racism has no truth value. It is a category of positions, not a particular position. Speaking of racism as if it were a monolithic whole makes even less sense as much as speaking of Jewry as if it were a monolithic whole.