Imagine if you were suffering from a form of terminal cancer. Testicular cancer. Breast cancer. Take your pick.
What if you had the ability to select from two radically different doctors?
- Doctor has dictionary knowledge of the issue at hand.
- Doctor has encyclopedic knowledge of the issue at hand.
Which doctor would you choose? The first doctor will see to your problem, pop open a dictionary, look up “testicular (or breast)”, and then look up “cancer”, and work on your issue from there. You know, apply that good old dictionary knowledge! To your cancer! And if you’re lucky, he’ll just simply look for the dictionary definition of “medicine” and help you out with that too!
The second doctor will explicitly look up testicular or breast cancer. After intricate research, this doctor will apply their encyclopedic knowledge of medicine to treat, maybe even cure your cancer.
Which one would you choose?
White People Love Dictionary Definitions to a Fault
If you ask me, white people would choose the dictionary guy. You see, according to white people, dictionary definitions can solve all problems. Dictionary definitions of complex concepts, just totally rock, if you ask white people.
If this sounds silly, don’t blame me; blame white people. White people ALWAYS place dictionary definitions over encyclopedic knowledge concerning racism, so why stop there? How come white people love to bring up dictionary definitions as if the dictionary is the end-all-be-all of understanding things? If dictionary definitions are so great for understanding what racism is, then how come this logic isn’t applied to everything else in life? Why even go to college? Why even make attempts at a doctorate? Why even go to law school? All you need to understand gun law, for example, is look up both words “gun” and “law” in the dictionary and you’re good, correct?
What if you had a child who had a five page report to write on George Washington, first president of the United States. What if you had a teenager in High School who had to write on the American Civil War. Anyone breaking their necks to pop open that dictionary for them?
Dictionaries vs. Encyclopedias
The utility of a dictionary, if you are old enough to have your wisdom teeth pulled, is grounded more on spelling, than greater understanding of concepts and ideas. In reality, no one is checking for Dictionary Bob when Encyclopedia Brown is in the house. You’re not going to task your child to look up George Washington in the dictionary for that school project. You’re not going to forgo law school, or medical school, because you got a good dictionary handy. There’s no reason to suggest that a dictionary is more superior in knowledge of complex subjects and ideas, than an encyclopedia.
It can also be argued that there’s various types of encyclopedias. A medical journal, especially in psychology, can serve as special type of encyclopedia. Tutorials are also a part of the encyclopedia family. Even textbooks on all educational levels have more in common with encyclopedias than they do with dictionaries.
Dictionaries have very few branch-offs; glossaries and thesauruses comes to mind. Still, the dictionary family doesn’t hold a candle to the encyclopedia family. To choose a dictionary over an encyclopedia, is like choosing a 4th grade education over a doctorate. Choosing a dictionary over the wealth of knowledge and understanding that goes over and beyond, is foolhardy. To choose dictionary knowledge over encyclopedic knowledge, is to actively choose stupid. It’s a form of willful ignorance.
Why do whites keep choosing willful ignorance?
Earlier I wanted you to imagine having cancer, which is a very serious condition. Cancer is definitely something that our scientists, surgeons, and medical experts continue to fight every day. The reason why I used cancer as an analog is because cancer, is a PROBLEM to be solved. You don’t solve complex, sociological, economic problems with dictionaries. Racism, cannot be solved or understood by a dictionary.
White people choose to obfuscate the problem of racism because it’s a system that they benefit from, and even if they aren’t cognizant of that, they certainly are cognizant of the fact that there’s no real negative effects to their livelihood. White people will continue to play stupid and go by dictionary definitions of racism because they honestly do not want to end racism.
What can be done?
In order to fix this problem, white people will have to simply quit playing. White people will have to quit bullshitting black people, and all other racialized people when racism is the topic. Racism is a psycho-sociological phenomenon that has economic effects on people. Laws are constructed in certain ways because of racism. Racism isn’t simply “hurt feelings”, it’s an institutionally empowered form of oppression, so no, whites cannot suffer from racism in America. Stop attempting the obfuscate the matter.
In the analogy given earlier, we discussed solving the problem of cancer. People need to understand racism is a cancer of a society. Honestly, is someone only sought a dictionary definition of cancer in the face of solving the cancer problem, one can only conclude that that person does not want to seriously solve the problem. The same applies here; people who wrap themselves around the dictionary definition of “racism” are not people who are actively seeking to dismantle racism. As a person of color, this can be a litmus test to identify who is serious about solving the problem and who is not.
Overall, I hope people understand that racism is a problem that needs encyclopedic levels of understanding, not a mere shallow definition which doesn’t do anyone any good.