I was listening to Neal Boortz while on the treadmill the other day and the talkmaster was answering a caller’s question about the difference between racism and bigotry.

Racism is belief in the superiority of once race over another.  A racist may actually like another person but still feel they are inferior in some way.  A white person may be friendly and work with blacks but may feel that they are not qualified or capable to be president.  Such an attitude would be racist.  Nazis believed in their inherent racial superiority to almost every ethnic group but their own. They were the supreme racists.

A bigot may or may not believe in a racial or ethnic group’s inferiority but may just not like them.  If a white person believes Blacks are their genetic equal but just does not like them because of their culture or behavior then that person would be more accurately called a bigot than a racist.

Boortz introduced the concept of a “culturalist”, one who believes their culture is superior. A belief in God, family, modesty and a work ethic may make some feel their belief is superior to a culture with less emphasis on those values.

I like the word “ethnocentric” to describe many American’s “culturalist” bias.  An ethnocentric tends to see through only from their cultural perspective and is largely ignorant of other cultures.  American Christians may have a difficult time understanding non Christian beliefs, and  being largely a majority often find it difficult to understand minority ethnic groups in their midst or the behavior of other ethnic groups in the parts of the world where they are not a minority.

The ethnocentric tend to be less conscious of their bias than the bigots or racists. It is more a disease of ignorance than malice.  Travel and education can overcome ethnocentricity.  As many immigrants work their way up the American economic ladder their neighbors become less ethnocentric.

“Kenyans of the Kalenjin speaking Nandi people of the Great Rift Valley hold the top sixty world times in the three-thousand-meter steeplechase.  Yes, that’s right – all sixty.”*  While we can acknowledge racial differences, even superiority in specific skill sets, that does not mean that they should be treated any more or less equal as moral human beings and citizens. (I am not certain that this athletic edge is absolutely racially induced, but that is an amazing statistic.)

*From Jewcentricity by Adam Garfinkle