Definition of Neo-racism

I recently finished reading the Autobiography of Malcolm X for the first time. It was certainly an experience. It contains various discussion-worthy topics, but for this post I want to focus on something that X briefly brought up: neo-racism.

X’s definition of neo-racism can be gleaned by looking at two of his statements:

“…ultra-liberal New York has more integration problems than Mississippi.”

” ‘Conservatism’ in America’s politics means “Let’s keep the niggers in their place.’ And ‘liberalism’ means ‘Let’s keep the knee-grows in their place – but tell them we’ll treat them a little better; let’s fool them more, with more promises.’ ”

Basically, X saw liberalism as a charade. For him, [white] liberals and conservatives had the same views of blacks and on black issues, but liberals were more deceptive about it. Rather than calling blacks “niggers,” they called them, “Negroes.” Although the former is ostensibly more offensive, because both terms are used with the same negative sentiment, the latter is also offensive, making liberals and conservatives equally racist. This troubled X because many blacks were allured by hypocritical liberal rhetoric. If we exchange “Democrat” for “liberal” (which is basically what X meant when he said “liberal”), even today that is still a reality.

Nevertheless, that is a discussion for another day. The point of this post is to define neo-racism. According to X, neo-racism is essentially an angler fish. It is just as malevolent as blatant racism, but its danger is not immediately recognizable and is even alluring. I like this definition. It makes me think of things like black people being called Canadians and the Tea Party people protesting against Obama. In both instances, because the racism is not blatant,  people deny its presence. It’s definitely there though. Definitely.

Okay, you’re still probably thinking, “What is the point of this post?” Again, as I said earlier, the point of this post is to define neo-racism. After finishing the book, expecting to find a myriad of discussions on the topic, I googled neo-racism. My expectations were not met. Moreover, the pages and articles that actually did discuss neo-racism did not use the term very well.

For example, this article asserts that neo-racism is ethnocentrism.

“Beyond traditional racism, neo-racism justifies discrimination on the basis of cultural difference or national origin rather than by physical characteristics alone and appeals to “natural” tendencies to preserve group cultural identity—in this case the dominant group. Underlying neo-racism are notions of cultural or national superiority and an increasing rationale for marginalizing or assimilating groups in a globalizing world.”

Ethnocentrism is already defined. It doesn’t need a synonym. Also, ethnocentrism has been around for ages. Slavery, conquest, colonialism and exoticism can be traced back pretty far. Thus, even if the idea ethnocentrism was not already defined, it would still not be a “new racism.”

Another article asserts that neo-racism is racism against people of Middle Eastern descent. Even without Malcolm x’s definition in my mind, I don’t see how this is neo-racism. This is just regular old racism merely directed toward a new group of people. This understanding of the term is also observable in this article. Incidentally, this use of the term reminds me of  the phrase “reverse racism.” Racism is racism. “Reverse” is not necessary at all.

In all three instances,the authors predicated their use of the term on the literal meaning of neo-racism as “new racism.” Because none of the authors actually used it in the way they intended, I propose that we adopt Malcolm X’s definition. His understanding of neo-racism actually denoted a new type of racism. Furthermore, I think neo-racism is the most prevalent type of racism in our society. No one is blatantly racist anymore. Some people claim that this lack of blatant racism is evidence that we are post racial.

“The name may change, but the game remains the same.”

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4 thoughts on “Definition of Neo-racism

    • Hey!Thanks for reading! I wrote this post a while ago, but I’m glad it’s still relevant. Neo-racism is definitely a term that isn’t defined very consistently.

  1. hello, I don’t mean to be a nag, however I still can’t quite grasp Malcolm’s idea of neo-racism. I’d appreciate it if you replied back to this beginning so ”Neo-racism is…” thanks

    • For Malcolm X, neo-racism denotes instances where a racist belief is veiled and therefore not immediately discernible. He contrasts neo-racism with being called a racial slur. A neo-racist slur might be an insult that initially feels like a compliment or a harmless observation. Basically, neo-racism has a very unalarming veneer, but when you look closer it has the same vitriol you’d expect from typical, open racism.

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