Garner On “Racism” vs. “Racialism” Is Off

In my post immediately below, R.I.P.  M.T.C., on the lamentable demise of Minding The Campus, I had high praise for Bryan Garner’s Garner’s Modern English Usage, even going so far as to put it on the same pedestal as The Chicago Manual of Style. For reasons that will become clear if you follow my instruction, read that post now, before proceeding, if you have not done so.

Even though it occupies the singular honor of place on the pedestal alongside Chicago, Bryan Garner’s masterpiece is not infallible. See, e.g., the entry on racism; *racialism (p. 764), which unfortunately treats the terms as synonyms, with the former being preferred. (The asterisk before racialism is Garner’s way of labeling it incorrect.)

In Racism, Racialism, Racial Essentialism:Does Race By Any Other Name Smell Just As Sour? (December 5, 2018), I argue at great length, and if I do say so even depth, that the modern conflation of racism and racialism is mistaken, that there can be essential differences between them that are definitely worth preserving. For reasons elucidated in that post, those who propose and defend racial preferences, for example, are racialists but generally not racists.

That is not to say that Garner is wrong. Racialism is indeed at risk of falling into disuse, of being subsumed under racism. Now, my second instruction: read that December 2018 post now (even if you read it then you’ve probably forgotten it). In it I mentioned a “debate of sorts with good friends” who gave me grief for insisting on the very distinction between the two terms that Garner failed to defend. I said my friendly critics were “good friends,” but in fact they weren’t a they at all. It was Jackie Leo at Minding The Campus, whose superb editing (except for this example), along with her husband John’s, was the subject of my post below.


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