How do you define racism ?

For no particular reason, racism crossed my mind this morning.
What is racism if not personal discrimination.

When you look at it that simply, it comes down to personal preferences; personal preferences that are not always logical. We have our choice of brands, our choice of holiday destinations, our choice of fruits…the list goes on. How many of these preferences are logical. More importantly, how many of these are subject to moral or ethical arguments ?

When you say that such and such a business establishment discriminates against such and such ethnicity, I believe you are only projecting a moral point. To take the concerned establishment to court based solely on this point is stretching things a little too far. I would go to the extent of saying that this is a violation of the freedom of the establishment. They have the right to exercise their personal preferences. (Whether these preferences contradict the interests of the stakeholders is a matter that needs to be looked at through a different lens)

Consider an uptown bar which does not allow blacks (in an imaginary country where such discrimination is still going on). Now, if you were to pass a law that such discrimination is illegal, you are preventing the bar from exercising its fundamental business right viz to be able to decide the profile of its clientele. Does this business practice leave a bad taste in the mouth ? maybe. Is this ethically wrong ? maybe..depending on what your ethical upbringing was like. Does it violate any freedoms ? not so sure.

Let me clarify myself. If it so happens that the government owns this bar and they have decided to discriminate against me based on my color, I have a legal point. Since the government collects taxes from me, it is legally obligated to discontinue this practice of discrimination towards me. Also, I have a way of putting pressure on the government till it discontinues its policies (the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa being a prime example of such pressure). I have a similar way of putting pressure on the afore-mentioned private-owned bar to discontinue its discrimination. There are ways of applying this pressure (subtle as in spreading a message of boycotting the bar across ethnic lines; or not so subtle as in organizing protests in front of the bar). But the judiciary or the government has no right to put pressure on the bar.

Unless I hold a regular job, no bank has an obligation to lend me money. Of course, I will overlook temporarily the fact that the bank has a business reason for not lending me money. Should I be allowed to go to court saying that the bank is discriminating against un-employed youth ? Can I term this racism ?

I am groping in the dark here. The more I think of it, the more unclear it is. The government has an obligation to treat all its citizens as equals since it taxes them all without discrimination and it gets votes from all without discrimination (a government by the people, for the people and so forth). That much is correct.
But to stretch that point further and say that all privately-owned business establishments should also treat all citizens equally, does not hold water. It may be an ethical or moral argument. In the end, it may even be a lousy business practice (very few businesses can depend on a clientele coming from a limited profile). However, there ought to be no legal point here.

I know we have laws, though. I am reminded of the famous case of Mahatma Gandhi being thrown out of a train in South Africa. There is a legal point here in so many ways. Number one: the railways was state-owned and the state owed Gandhi some privileges as a law-abiding citizen (or whatever his immigrant-status in SA was at that point in time). Number two: he had paid for his ticket and the railways was reneging on a business contract by denying him the services he had already paid for.
When courts look at racism, that is the point they should focus on: did the accused party renege on a contract with the accuser ? If yes, put the accused in jail. If no, please do not dig up a sentimental argument about all men being equal. It does not suit the supposed-to-be-objective judiciary.

Help me here….I so want my argument to be wrong..its in my flesh and upbringing. But my gut says that the above argument is correct.
Where am I wrong ? what do you feel ?

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