09 April, 2006
At the end of Ms Marrin's piece, however, there is a jarring note:
Racism is, of course, a real evil but the current guilt-ridden obsession with it, so clearly expressed in this case, only serves to inflame it and actually to further the cause of racist politics — the reverse of what the politically correct protagonists intended.(My emphasis.) This irritating qualifying usage is becoming quite common among writers who are otherwise brave enough to be critical of the politically correct orthodoxy.
Whatever racism is, it is not "evil". Questionable, unhelpful, counterproductive, unpleasant, destructive, damaging, unacceptable. Any of those perhaps. But "evil"? To call racism evil devalues the latter term and obfuscates the former.
Murdering a schoolgirl then disposing of the body by chopping it up and selling the meat to your customers in kebabs. That is evil. A prejudice against someone purely or substantially because of their membership of an ethnic group different from your own may be many things, but "evil" does not fit the bill.
Is this important? Well, in effect the usage is little more than a less clichéed literary variant of "I'm not racist but..." or "I've got nuffink against you jungle bunnies as such, I mean, like, some of my best friends are nignogs, but...". The usage is a concession to the hyperbolic language of the politically correct, it is a cringing conciliatory nod in their direction which seems to be saying, "Look, I know I disagree with everything you stand for, and, despite what I say, in my heart of hearts I accept that you are right, but, please, I'm not a bad person, really. Honest!" The use of this kind of apologetic language concedes the argument by default to the bullies of political correctness.
Have the courage of your convictions, Minette. If you really believe racism is "evil", then fair enough. If you just think it's a destructive or damaging force in society that we could do without, like double parking or cash for peerages, then say that instead.