“Racism” is one of cultural Marxism’s favorite boogeymen. The accusation is thrown about so loosely that it has effectively lost most of its meaning. It now signifies little more than something or someone cultural Marxism does not like.

But it is nonetheless worthy of some exploration, because there is both a false and a true racism. To understand the difference, we must first grasp what cultural Marxists mean with all their “ism” words. To take a word such as race or sex and add an “ism” to it is to say that the thing itself is a construct, a castle in the air with no foundation in fact. Thus, according to the cultural Marxists, differences between races or between the sexes are not real. Either they do not exist, or they exist only because they are “socially determined,” i.e. created by psychological conditioning. In the Rousseauian state of nature all leftist ideologues believe in, there are no differences between sexes, races, or ethnic groups.

Here we again see one of the defining characteristics of all ideologies, namely their demand that certain aspects of reality be ignored. As everyone knows from personal observation, differences between races and ethnic groups within races are real, when speaking of groups as wholes. Does anyone pretend there are no differences between, say, Swedes and Italians, or Irishmen and Russians? How many people, looking for a good time on a Saturday night, go to a Russian bar? Similarly, does anyone who knows West Africa suggest there are no differences between Hausas and Ibos? When differences among ethnic groups within races are so plain, how can anyone grounded in reality think there are no differences between races? Again, our own observations, and the observations of many generations before our own, make differences clear when speaking of races or ethnic groups as wholes.

Thus we see that cultural Marxism’s charge or “racism” is inherently wrong. By definition, something cannot be simultaneously a fact and a construct. The two are opposite in nature. Since differences between races and ethnic groups are facts, the statement that they are constructs, which is what the word “racism” itself says, is false.

There is, however, a real racism, one that is contrary to fact. Real racism is believing that all members of a race or ethnic group must share the characteristics of the group. Why is this counter-factual? Because individual variation is wider than group norms.

Here is a quick example. Let us say you have two tasks to be performed. You need someone to cook a dinner, and you also need someone to drive a train. You have two people, one for each task. One is a Swede, the other an Italian. That is all you know about them. Which person will you assign to which task? Anyone, including cultural Marxists, who know anything about either Swedish cooking or Italian trains knows the obvious answer. The Swede drives the train and the Italian cooks the dinner. This offers the greatest chance of arriving at your destination safely, on time, and without indigestion.

However, we all also know that there are fine Swedish cooks and safe, responsible Italian locomotive engineers. As we come to know more about our two choices as individuals, we may find ourselves choosing this particular Swede to cook dinner and this particular Italian to drive our train. In other words, we recognize that individual variation is wider than group norms.

If we want to avoid real racism, we will want to do our best to judge people as individuals rather than as members of this or that group. Often, this is not possible. Self-preservation may dictate we act on the basis of group behavior. But when and where we can, we should desire to know more about someone than just their race or ethnic group before we make judgments about them.

The irony here is that cultural Marxism, at the same time it squawks “racism” like the parrot says “Polly want a cracker,” demands we consider people not as individuals but as members of groups—race, ethnic group, sex, etc. Cultural Marxism is all about “privileging” one ethnic group over another—blacks over whites, women over men, gays over straights, and so on. It has no room for individual differences.

Conservatism does, because conservatism is based on observation of reality over time, not on ideology. As Russell Kirk wrote, conservatism is the negation of ideology. Unlike Marcuse, we embrace the reality principle, we don’t reject it. Reality says differences among races are real. It also says we should be wary about giving them more importance than facts warrant.