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WHAT IS RACISM?

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Tyler Zimmer

on 30 March 2016

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Transcript of WHAT IS RACISM?

Tommie Shelby's Critique
Who's Right?
Racism is not inherently vicious.
Sometimes it is, sometimes not.
Sometimes racism can come from generally virtuous people who genuinely mean well.
Structural Analysis Needed
Need less psychology and more sociology, economics and history.
Need to look more closely at the structure of society, how this shapes our ideas/beliefs.
Beliefs are a necessary component of racism.

Feelings are important, but it is essential that we examine people's beliefs too.
Racism often has more to do with our beliefs, ideas, concepts, etc. than our attitudes.
Tommie Shelby's Critique
TEST CASES
Jorge Garcia on Racism
"Racism is in the Heart"
"My proposal is that we conceive of racism as fundamentally a
vicious

kind kind of racially based disregard for the welfare of certain people
. In its central and most vicious form, it is a
hatred, ill-will, directed against a person or persons on account of their assigned race
. In a derivative form, one is a racist when one does not care at all or does not care enough or does not care in the right ways about people of a certain race...
Racism is something that essentially involves not our beliefs... but our wants, intentions, likes, and dislikes
and their distance from the moral virtues."
JLA GARCIA ON RACISM
Major Indicators:
Is Race Significant Today?
WHAT IS RACE? WHY WAS IT CONSTRUCTED? BY WHOM?
Is race biological? Is it natural?
Has there always been "race"?
Is "race" something human beings created?
What is Race?
Shelby's Alternative
GARCIA: RACISM IS IN THE HEART
What is Racism?
Major Indicators
Who constructed race? Why?
WHAT IS RACISM?
NEIU | SPRING 2015
Instructor: Tyler Zimmer

Plan for this week...
1. A Test Case?
2. Racism today?
3. Garcia: "The heart of racism"
4. Shelby: "Racism is not in the heart"
5. Debate: Garcia vs. Shelby
The Traditional Answer
(Also known as: racial naturalism, biological racism, scientific racism)

(Physical Appearance, e.g. skin, hair texture, facial features, etc.)
Non-Morphological Traits
Morphology
(Cognitive ability, behavioral traits, psychology, cultural practices, moral character, athletic prowess, etc.)
strong biological correlation
Is Race Biological?
Races refer to separate, fixed, internally coherent sub-species of human beings.
You can know about a person's "deep" traits by observing their "superficial" traits.
Different racial groups have different psychology, cognitive abilities, behavioral traits, moral character, athletic ability, etc.
Race has always existed.
The Alternative View
Race is a
social construction
.
"Racial membership" is a
social/political status
, like citizen/non-citizen, or "lord/serf", "master/slave", etc.
"Race" involves sorting human populations into different social/political status groups based on superficial (morphological) traits.
Race involves human decisions to assign meaning to certain physical traits and not others.
Race is a product of modernity.
Constructivism
Race is a social and political status that was constructed by certain groups at a certain point in history for a specific purpose.
Who constructed race?
Why did they construct it?
What was their motivation?
Charles Mills on Constructivism
do races exist?
The Traditional Answer in Practice
Eugenics
A pseudo-science devoted to "improving" humanity by preserving the racial purity (in the realist sense) of so-called "superior" races and weeding out "undesirables" that might contaminate or reduce purity.
Eugenics and Public Policy: Forced Sterilization
The United States was the first country to concertedly undertake compulsory sterilization programs for the purpose of eugenics.
Over 65,000 people in 33 states were sterilized, often without their knowledge or consent.
Native American, Black and Latina women were the primary groups targeted.
US declared Puerto Rico was "overpopulated" and instituted compulsory sterilization programs that affected tens of thousands of women.
THE CONTRADICTION
Enlightenment Values
Universal freedom, equality
Oppressive Practices
Colonial conquest, enslavement, expropriation, extermination, etc.
Freedom/Equality applies only to
persons
.
Therefore, if someone is not a
full person
in the proper sense, freedom/equality does not apply.
Race = certain groups are inherently, naturally inferior
sub-persons
.
Superior races are justified in ruling over inferior races because they are not "full persons", they are not fully human.
How the contradiction was resolved
Racialized Slavery
Idea of "race" used to justify chattel slavery of Africans.
Planter class feared another Bacon's Rebellion in which white indentured servants and African slaves united to overthrow them.
"Race" proved to be a useful divide-and-conquer tactic that pried apart "black" and poor "whites."
Colonial Conquest, Expropriation
European elites who profit from colonialism justify their enterprise by claiming that colonized people are members of a separate, inferior "race", not "full persons", not fully rational, developed, etc.
Therefore colonial rule is justified, perhaps even necessary given the inability of inferior "races" to self-govern.
Race and Modern Foreign Policy
The Vietnam War
"Kill anything that moves," body-count data.
My Lai Massacre, etc.
30 billion lbs of munitions spent. 70 million L of Agent Orange sprayed. 21 million bomb craters created in the South. 400,000 tons of napalm dropped.
How does one justify this? How do you prevent soldiers from having the thought that the people harmed by these actions are just like their own friends, family, loved ones?
"They're different, they're not full persons"
Dehumanization via "race", etc.
Race is a Product of Modernity
The idea of "race" is created in the context of a clash between enlightenment values (freedom, equality) and new, oppressive practices such as colonial expansion by European powers, the Atlantic slave trade, and so on.
Before this, there was no such thing as race.
The idea of "race" gains a foothold because it supplied a useful justification for these practices.
Racism Today
Facts and Figures
Wealth and Income
Health
Housing
Employment
Education
Rates of Incarceration
Liability to Suffer Violence
Cultural Representations (Film, TV, etc.)
Representation in Positions of Power
Wealth and Income
infant mortality
Health
environmental racism
petcoke piles on south side
Housing
"Redlining"
Segregation
Mortgage crisis
"Sundown towns"
Employment Figures
Official Unemployment Figure for June 2014
12.4%
White Unemployment
Black Unemployment
Latin@s
21.1%
10.9%
17.6%
Native Americans, Asian Americans
no data
source: U-6, bureau of labor statistics
Education
In Chicago...
50 schools closed. All in majority Black and Latino neighborhoods.
Many schools on South and West Side have large class sizes (50+), lack adequate heating/cooling, lack basic necessities (e.g. toilet paper).
Incarceration Rates
Oscar Grant
Emmett Till
Rekiya Boyd
Stephon Watts
Liability to Suffer Violence
Eric Garner
Cultural Representations
Black people?
Latinos/as?
Asian-Americans?
Native Americans?
Film, TV, Literature, Advertisements, Cartoons, etc.
Representation in Positions of Power
p.6, "The Heart of Racism"
Garcia on Racism
GARCIA: Racism is in the heart
A "non-doxastic" account
An "Infection Model"
Racism is like a virus that "infects" people's moral character.
Institutions, laws, etc. are not themselves racist. The persons in them are racist and may therefore "contaminate" the institution.
Racism is ill-will toward people because of their race.

Racism does not have to do with our beliefs
about others, but our attitudes, feelings, likes/dislikes, aversions/desires, hopes/fears, etc.
The Mind of a Racist?
Imagine that a young, dark-skinned man gets on the bus and a white person on board begins to feel slightly on edge, perhaps a touch threatened or resentful of this person. Perhaps they clinch their belongings in fear. They may not understand why, or perhaps they are conscious of this and identify with these feelings.
A person sees an interracial couple and feels hostile, perhaps incensed that these two are together. Without consciously summoning it up, they experience feelings of ill-will toward the person of color in the relationship.
A person is driving on a highway and sees a family having car trouble and waves for help. Once they get closer they see them and, because of their race, feel indifferent toward their plight and keep driving.
A man is at the hospital, waiting to see a doctor. A woman of color comes in and introduces herself as the doctor. The man feels skeptical of her advice and diagnosis. He feels uncomfortable seeing her in this role and feels resentful of her authority over him. When she speaks, without noticing, the patient begins to tune out. Although he doesn't say anything, he'd feel a lot more trusting of an older, white male doctor.
We can't ignore beliefs
Imagine Stephen (a white person), who dislikes Andre (a black person). We don't yet know if this dislike is racist.
To settle that, we need to know
why
Stephen dislikes Andre.
How do we know that? Garcia says determine whether the dislike is "racially based." But how do we know?
Can we know without examining Stephen's beliefs about black people?
Shelby on Racism
However, suppose Stephen's dislike is rooted in a belief that black people are inherently inferior. This is clearly racist.
Shelby argues that unless we examine Stephen's beliefs, we will have no way of knowing whether or not his dislike is racist.
According to Shelby, Garcia's theory is of no use here because it deliberately sets aside our beliefs.
Shelby's point: we must examine beliefs.
A Counter Example?
Imagine Peter X, a white but pro-black radical, who has contempt toward Andre (a black man) because Peter believes that no self-respecting black man who is part of the black freedom struggle would be romantically involved with a white woman. Is this racist?
Shelby says "no." Peter's contempt is racially-based, but his reason for being contemptuous is not racist, because it does not involve the belief that black people are inherently inferior.
Peter X may be wrong, but he's not racist.
He's not objecting to the relationship on the basis of racist beliefs, but on the basis of anti-racist beliefs.
Garcia would have to say "yes this is racist". Correct?
Shelby's Critique of Garcia
"I would suggest we view racism as an ideology. Put briefly... ideologies are widely accepted illusory systems of belief that function to establish or reinforce structures of social oppression."
"Racial ideologies emerged with the African slave trade and European imperialist domination of "darker" peoples. These peoples were "racialized" in an effort to legitimize their subjugation and exploitation: the idea of biological "race", the linchpin of this ideology, was used to impute an inherent and unchangeable set of physically based characteristics to the subordinate Other, an "essential nature" which supposedly set them apart from and explained why they were appropriately exploited by the dominant group. This ideology served (and still serves) to legitimize the subordination and exploitation of non-white people."
What came first? Ill-will or racist beliefs?
Racism didn't originate in hatred or ill-will. That is a symptom, not the root cause.
"The primary goal of American slavery was not the production of white supremacy, but the production of cotton, sugar, rice and tobacco -- slave owners were out to get rich."
Racist ideologies were constructed to justify these projects. When the success of these projects gave elites a reason to have ill-will, racism took off like never before.
Over time, racist ideas become the "conventional wisdom" among those not directly harmed by them.
Racism is an
ideology.
Racism is a set of ideas that serves to justify inequality.
Racism is not always vicious.
Well-meaning racism is possible.
Racism = racially prejudiced ideas combined with power, relatively dominant social status.
Paternalistic Racism?
Slavery, colonial conquest and exploitation were often justified in paternalistic terms.
COLONIALISM
: Often, theft and violent conquest was justified on the grounds that colonized people were inherently inferior, in need of "civilizing" guidance of Europeans, incapable of making "efficient" use of the lands they occupied, and so forth.
How does Garcia analyze these cases? Shelby? Which analysis is more convincing?
The Well-Meaning Philanthropist
Imagine a wealthy white person who spends a lot of time doing philanthropy and charity work in black and latino neighborhoods in Chicago.
This person genuinely wants to help these communities and sincerely devotes countless hours of her/his time to trying to make these communities better off.
Suppose, however, that this person believes that black and latino people are mired by inferior cultures that hold them back. Suppose she/he believes that only the guidance of an enlightened, educated white people can save them from themselves.
Oppositional Nationalism?
Imagine a young black woman who joins a Black Nationalist organization in the mid 1960s after enduring racial oppression and white supremacist terrorism growing up in Mississippi. Suppose her only interactions with whites were saturated with anti-black racism.
The doctrine of the organization of which she is a member holds that white people are inherently "devils", liable to oppress, subordinate, etc. She believes people of color are superior to whites.
Accordingly, she harbors resentment and ill-will toward most whites and feels a strong sense of solidarity with other black folks. Is this racist?
Racist? Garcia vs. Shelby? Better analysis?
Racist Against Oneself?
Imagine a non-white person living in a white-supremacist society in which non-white people are seen as inferior, are encouraged to dislike the color of their skin, their own hair texture, facial features, culture, etc.
Suppose this person comes to believe that some of these things to be true and tries as much as possible to dissociate her/himself from people of color.
Racist? Yes/No? Why/Why not? Shelby v Garcia? Better analysis?
The Child of a KKK Member
Suppose you are a white child who has been raised in an isolated, rural family headed by leading KKK members.
Naturally, you are brought up to have all sorts of racist beliefs.
At age 18 you run away, but still have most of the beliefs given that nobody has ever challenged or questioned them.
Are you a morally bad person? Are you morally blameworthy?
Are you a racist? Garcia/Shelby?
Who has the better analysis?
health coverage
Institutional Racism?
A lawsuit claims the funding inequity "has amounted to a pattern of racial discrimination that has negatively impacted African Americans and Latinos in Chicago for more than 26 years."
Since 1983, CTA operating funding has decreased from 71% of overall RTA operating funding to 59%, even though the CTA accounts for 82% of all transit trips.
Critics argue that "tax dollars from those living in the CTA service area have been, in effect, subsidizing the transportation of the residents of the collar counties," which are predominantly white.
More than 70% of Metra riders are white, while more than 60% of CTA riders are African American or Latino.
CTA cuts overwhelmingly hurt people of color.
Is there racism going on this case? If so, why? If not, why not?
A TEST CASE
What is race?
Traditional answer given by Europeans in the 18th, 19th and early 20th Centuries.
Dominant answer since the end of WWII.
RACE REFERS TO A NATURAL, FIXED "RACIAL ESSENCE"
RACE IS A SOCIAL CONSTRUCTION
PROBLEMS FOR THE TRADITIONAL VIEW
Not consistent with scientific evidence
Race doesn't travel.
Problem of arbitrariness
Race didn't exist before modernity
Scientifically, there is no correlation between morphology and "deep" character traits.
Since breakthroughs in genetics in the 1960s, we now know that members of the same "race" are less likely to be genetically similar than are members of different races.
The traditional racist view that only europeans are properly evolved human beings is false. Human beings all evolved from common origins in Africa.
There are no "sub-species" of homo sapiens. Our species simply isn't old enough for that to have happened.
The very idea of "race" is a modern artifact.
"Race" didn't exist before modernity. People were not separated into separate "racial groups", they did not think of themselves as being "raced."
Race is a relatively recent invention. Before Europe began expanding and colonizing the "darker" peoples of the world, it was not a significant idea.
The traditional view tells us that there is a fixed number of totally separate races who have little in common.
There should, then, be a bright line between different racial groups... But there isn't.
Morphological traits occur naturally on a spectrum. Where we draw the dividing line is not natural, but an arbitrary decision not based on anything biological.
?
Who constructed race?
Powerful groups in Europe who invested great amounts of money into the project of colonial expansion, conquest, enslavement, etc.
Why?
Renisha McBride
Raul and Brisenia Flores
Sikh Temple Shooting
Jorge Garcia
Tommie Shelby
Racism isn't
always
vicious.
Sometimes well-meaning people can intend to do good and, nonetheless, still do and think racist things.
RACISM IS AN IDEOLOGY
Other examples of "ideologies"?
Why do Racist Ideologies Grip People?
FROM ABOVE
FROM BELOW
Elites have sometimes found it useful to invoke racism in order to
divide and conquer
(e.g. Bacon's Rebellion, using black workers as strikebreakers, etc.)
Colonial powers often justify foreign conquest that benefits them in racist terms that paints "darker" peoples as threatening, inferior, incapable of self-governance.
Unless there is a mechanism for workers to cooperate together and face down employers in a united fashion... there is intense individual competition for jobs, housing, etc.
This can lead to narrow, short-sighted strategies by relatively 'privileged' workers to exclude competitors.
Shelby's Analysis of the Origins of Racism
Race is hierarchial
R1
R2
R3
Power, wealth, advantage, status, authority, etc.
"Race" refers to a social system in which persons are assigned to a racial group on the basis of morphological traits and assigned a corresponding social status in the racial hierarchy.
Race doesn't travel
There are groups now considered white that were not considered white at earlier points in history (e.g. Irish, Italians, Greeks, Jews). These groups "became white."
Different countries and regions have different systems of racial classification. Compare the US with Latin America.
One and the same person could have a different "race" depending on whether they were in one country rather than another.
OR
WHITE SOMATIC NORM
Where is racism?
In the "hearts" of individual persons.
Racism is fundamentally about negative feelings toward people because of their race.
If we want to understand modern racism = look at the psychology of individuals...
Look at their hopes, aversions, desires, fears, likes, dislikes, etc.
Examine what sorts of groups elicit hate, resentment, contempt, etc.
Racism is always immoral, a vice. It's always indicative of bad (vicious) moral character.
Racism is fundamentally about our feelings...it is about ill-will, hatred, contempt, indifference, etc. It is
not
about our beliefs.
The individual, psychological level enjoys explanatory priority over the structural, institutional level.
A virtue-based account.
It's in the heart, not in our heads.
An individualist account.
Ill-will is a necessary condition.
Where there is no ill-will, there is no racism.
Racism is not fundamentally about our beliefs about race. It's about what's in our "heart" not our "head."
He therefore calls his account "non-doxastic," because it says that the core of racism is "bad intentions in one's heart toward others because of their race."
What is a belief?
Beliefs are representational mental states.
Beliefs are descriptions of the world.
They can be true or false.
For instance:
"I believe the cat is on the mat."
"I believe that R1 is superior and that R2 is naturally inferior."
"I believe that today is Wednesday."
Beliefs vs. Feelings/Desires
Our feelings are different kinds of mental states. They are not representational.
They do not describe the way the world is.
They are not the sorts of things that can be true or false.
Feelings/desires express like or dislike, approval or disapproval.
For example:
Booo! Yay! Mmmm. Grrrrr.
Resentment, dislike, contempt, hatred, disapproval, animosity, hostility, ill-will, etc.
Someone can be a racist even if they have no beliefs about the race they despise (e.g. that the race is inferior, etc.)
Someone who has no negative feelings toward a race, even if they have beliefs that R1s are superior to R2s, is not a racist.
Beliefs are of secondary importance.
Garcia thinks the feelings are fundamental and we only adopt certain beliefs about races to rationalize our negative feelings towrad them.
Feelings are primary, beliefs are not.
"...the exploiter's lack of concern for the welfare of his victims need not be because of their "race"; he might just as well have exploited those of his own racial "kind" had this been more expedient and cost-effective... Perhaps he exploits members of another "race" because he would receive less resistance that way and because he and others like him can convince themselves of a silly theory about their own racial superiority in order to legitimize their oppressive conduct at a time when liberty and equality are supposed to be the foundation of their social life... but it is clear that this type of conduct is paradigmatically racist."
p.418, Shelby
Shelby: A Racist Heart is Not Essential
A Culture of Poverty?
People of color have an inferior culture that holds them back. This is evident in their tastes in clothing, music, recreational activities, and so forth.
The figures we examined earlier (e.g. income/wealth inequality, unemployment, health, encarceration, etc.) are the result of this problematic cutulre.
These communities need the enlightened help of cultured, civilized well-to-do whites.
Only then can they properly assimilate and achieve success.
Imagine someone who argued the following...
Is this racist? What would Garcia say? Shelby? Which view is more convincing and why?
Costumes
Case 1: Two white students darken their skin with makeup and dress up as Jay Z and Beyonce. They don't intend to offend and when asked they explain that they simply love the power duo and wanted as "realistic" a costume as possible. Is this racist? Garcia? Shelby?
Case 2: Dave Chappelle dresses up on his show as a white news anchor. Eddie Murphy dresses up as a white person in his "white for a day" skit on SNL. Racist? Garcia? Shelby?
Orientalism
Often, depictions of Middle Eastern, Asian and North African societies in European culture (literature, painting, music, film, etc.) attribute the following characteristics to the peoples of these societies:
Is this racism? Garcia? Shelby?
Imbued with ancient wisdom.
Exotic, mysterious, magical.
Sexualized, seductive.
Sandra Bland
Walter Scott
973
NUMBER OF PEOPLE KILLED BY THE POLICE
IN THE U.S. IN 2015
The majority of those killed have been white (445) whereas 376 of those killed were either black or latino.
You're twice as likely to be killed by police if you're black.
POVERTY RATES
Percentage of racial group that falls below poverty line
WHITE:
11%
BLACK:
26%
NATIVE AMERICAN:
29%
LATINO:
24%
ASIAN:
18%
Full transcript