The Essence of Racism
Anti-Semitism, the contempt for and hatred of the Jewish people, is absolutely, unequivocally and categorically wrong. It is, quite simply, evil. The most recent example of anti-Semitism is the desecration of a Jewish cemetery in Northeast Philadelphia. The hatred toward Jewish people is based on a false belief, without any foundation in fact, that Jews are an inferior race.
Rev. James Lawson, one of the early Civil Rights leaders, explains the essence of racism, saying, “At the heart of racism, is the idea that a man is not a man.” In other words, racism is a denial of the fact that a human being is fully human. And when a particular group of humans is not considered fully human by racists, then they may think they are justified in “treating inferior races as things, exploiting them, enslaving them, even killing them.”1
The Essential Equality of All Human Beings
That racism has occurred and still occurs in America is difficult to comprehend, because the United States is founded on the political philosophy, enshrined in the Declaration of Independence, that “all men are created equal.” Philosopher Mortimer Adler asks, “Is there then any respect in which all human beings, without a single exception, can be declared equal?”1 Then he proceeds to answer the question:
“It is that they are all human, all members of one species, called homo sapiens, and all having the same natural and thereby the same specific attributes that differentiate them from the members of all other species.”2
Elsewhere, Adler, following in the philosophical tradition of Aristotle, says that a human being is a “rational animal,” that is, a creature who has the capacity to reason in a way that is unlike any other creature.3 Finally, for Adler, being human is, at the same time, being a person, someone who has rights. As Adler says,
“[A]ll the rights and liberties we demand for human beings, their natural and legal rights, their natural and legal liberties, these belong to human beings as persons. They do not belong to things.”4
For example, being equally human, all human beings have a right to be treated with respect and a right to protest for human rights.
One Human Race
Therefore, philosophically, there is no such thing as an “inferior” race; nor is there a “superior” race. There is only one race, namely, the human race. In other words, all humans are equal in being, that is, equally human. There is, then, nothing in a Jewish human being that makes him or her inferior, of less value, to any other human being.
On a final note, it is also wrong to make sweeping generalizations about Muslims, demonizing and vilifying them. Right now, they are helping the Jewish people, even raising money, to repair the damaged tombstones. It is, indeed, beautiful and heartening to see human beings from different religions and ethnicities cooperating with each other to humanize the world, making it more civilized and peaceful and, thereby, making it a safer place to inhabit, for both the present and future generations.
1. Mortimer J. Adler, The Great Ideas: From the Great Books of Western Civilization, ed. Max Weismann (Chicago and La Salle, IL.: Open Court Publishing Company, 2000, 5th printing 2002), p. 95.
2. ———–, We Hold These Truths: Understanding the Ideas and Ideals of the Constitution (New York, N.Y.: Macmillan Publishing Company, 1987), p. 42.
3. ———-, The Great Ideas: From the Great Books of Western Civilization, pp. 62-65.
4. Ibid., pp. 94-95.