On racism vs nationalism


The reptile part of my brain insinuates prejudice against certain groups of people, especially under specific, extenuating circumstances, but I like to think that I’m not a racist – and I use the subject of race interchangeably with genetics for the purposes of this post – when I’m interacting with other human beings on a case-by-case basis. Discriminating against individuals based on race seems particularly pointless to me; not because I think everybody’s the same or because I overestimate blank-slate theory, but because of simple pragmatism: we’re here, we are who we are, now what do we do? There’s no choice or effort involved in belonging to a particular gene pool; it is a lottery, an accident of birth, so to take pride in phenotypic traits or in whatever percentage of intelligence is predicated by one’s genes seems a bit like missing the forest for the trees to me.

On the other hand, there is definite collective will and enterprise involved in forging a civilization under a common religion and family of languages, and the culture that flows from them. As such, this endeavour of the ages lies a few rungs higher on the ladder of cosmic chance on which institutional racism as a practice is based. Liberal platitudes, under their motto of individualism, would take away any remaining vestiges of pride in the accomplishments of one’s people, but people of all groups should rally under the one true spiritual banner that unites them.

Some might argue that the form which a civilization takes itself hinges significantly on the mean genetic constitution of its people, in association with environmental factors, and as such civilizations as a whole can be treated on a racial level, too. This may be so, but it is also an unconducive strain of thought, seeing how it confuses race, and, by inevitable conjunction, racism, with a legitimate pride in one’s heritage i.e. nationalism. It also contains no small dose of irony, in that both liberals and those subscribing to race hierarchy end up creating this equivalence between racism and nationalism, albeit for entirely conflicting reasons. Liberals tend to set up a boogeyman, imagined or otherwise, and then inflate the umbrella under which the boogeyman resides so that it comes to include various other -isms that liberal philosophy disagrees with. So, according to a liberal, racism is the same as fascism is the same as nationalism, and who’s to know, the same as sexism, too. Conservatives, though they resist falling prey to this illusion, unthinkingly, perhaps unavoidably, play into the liberal whitewashing agenda by equating race – and in liberal opinion, racism, too – with civilization and nationalism.

The difference between racism and nationalism is simple enough to understand: racism implicitly involves an inferior other, or a subaltern. Nationalism, however, is an insular, close-looped idea; it is a concept which is often conflated with coarse jingoism, but real nationalism does not concern an other. Rather, it is an awakening to the call of your people’s past, an introspection of who you are and where you come from. Nationalism is self-acting; meaning that unlike racism, which is an instrument of leverage for material gain involving more than one actor, nationalism is solitary, and strives to create a sense of identity and pride in its subjects, and what they have to offer to the world.



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3 Responses to On racism vs nationalism

  1. Anonymous says:

    Or that there are different types of nationalism. Civic nationalism – what Scotland wishes to apply when trying to separate itself from the UK. Ethnic nationalism – what the UK leave voters wished for largely, when trying to brexit? So there is a type of nationalism that is just plain racist, including other forms of violent ‘otherness’? (Please excuse the lazy examples)

    • Can there be a racism without forced assimilation/integration?

      • Anonymous says:

        And conversely, can there be forced assimilation/integration without racism? At some point, in some way, you are creating a sense of ‘otherness’.

        There was a study published recently that found correlation between low cognitive functioning and discriminatory attitudes towards things of low control (skin colour, gender, sexual orientation etc), and correlation between high cognitive functioning and discriminatory attitudes towards things of high control (racism, sexism, casual homophobia etc). Ergo we are all prejudiced, just in different ways.

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