There is nothing more scurrilous in a blog post than using a dictionary to make an argument. After all, despite our recourse to etymology and official definitions, meaning is derived from convention. That’s the beautiful thing about language. It evolves.
It can also devolve, often for political ends. Today, Landscrona, the largest Zenit St. Petersburg fan group, released a statement called the “Selection 12 manifesto” on the club’s transfer policy that read, in part:
“We’re not racists but we see the absence of black players at Zenit as an important tradition.
“It would allow Zenit to maintain the national identity of the club, which is the symbol of St Petersburg. We only want players from other brotherly Slav nations, such as Ukraine and Belarus as well as from the Baltic states and Scandinavia. We have the same mentality and historical and cultural background as these nations.”
The letter also goes on to call for a ban on “sexual minorities” at the club as well. The Guardian gives some helpful background on how the club is the only one in Russia never to sign an African player.
One could simplify this statement as, “We’re not racists, and we support an inherently racist transfer policy.” Many in the press are currently gawking at the absurd and offensive meaninglessness of the caveat. After all, most dictionary definitions of the term involve reference to the belief that one race is superior than another, something directly reflected in Landscrona’s policy on non-white players.
Yet it was in 2012 when many players, managers, TV pundits and newspaper writers defended an assortment of players who allegedly used racial epithets on the field of play as ” definitely not racist,” adamantly, and repeatedly, ahead of the admission and consideration of evidence which might have contradicted that claim.
The word “racist” is being further cordoned off and sanitized, reserved for violent thugs and sheet-wearing Klan members, rather than many of the otherwise normal and respectable people who, in some cases unwittingly, harbour deeply racist views. If it’s to have any meaning left, it should be baldly and liberally applied to the supporters who support this transfer policy, and to anyone who practices racial abuse, whether on a football pitch, in an office, or in a newspaper column.