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Tyler Zimmer

on 27 October 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
Jorge Garcia on Racism
"Racism is in the Heart"
"My proposal is that we conceive of racism as fundamentally a

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."
Major Indicators:
Is Race Significant Today?
What is "Race"?
Is race biological? Is it natural?
Has there always been "race"?
Is "race" something human beings created?
What is Race?
Shelby's Alternative
What is Racism?
Major Indicators
Who constructed race? Why?
Northeastern Illinois University
Dr. 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
(Cognitive ability, behavioral traits, psychology, cultural practices, moral character, athletic prowess, etc.)
strong biological correlation
The Traditional View
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 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 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
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.
Enlightenment Values
Universal freedom, equality
Oppressive Practices
Colonial conquest, enslavement, expropriation, extermination, etc.
Freedom/Equality applies only to
Therefore, if someone is not a
full person
in the proper sense, freedom/equality does not apply.
Race = certain groups are inherently, naturally inferior
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
Racism as Mechanism for Social Control of Labor Force
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.
Racism Today
Facts and Figures
Wealth and Income
Rates of Incarceration
Liability to Suffer Violence
Cultural Representations (Film, TV, etc.)
Representation in Positions of Power
Wealth and Income
infant mortality
environmental racism
petcoke piles on south side
Mortgage crisis
"Sundown towns"
Employment Figures
Official Unemployment Figure for June 2014
White Unemployment
Black Unemployment
Native Americans, Asian Americans
no data
source: U-6, bureau of labor statistics
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?
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
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
Racism is a set of false ideas that serves to justify subordination and inequality.
Racism is not always vicious.
Well-meaning racism is possible.
Paternalistic Racism?
Slavery, colonial conquest and exploitation were often justified in paternalistic terms.
: 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.
Imagine a person has just recently become single and has decided to date using an online platform like Tinder or OK Cupid.
The person has a strong aversion to going on any dates with members of a certain race.
They make this preference clear on the platform to dissuade members of this race from attempting to ask them out.
health coverage
The Irish were colonized by the British. They were dominated by the British empire -- they were denied self-rule and were lorded over by British-appointed colonial admininstrators.
The architechts of British colonialism in Ireland believed that the Irish were biologically different from and inferior to the English.
Here's an English politician from the time: "[The Irish] hate our order, our civilization, our enterprising industry, our pure religion. This wild, reckless, indolent, uncertain and superstitious race have no sympathy with the English character. Their ideal of human felicity is an alternation of clannish broils and coarse idolatry. Their history describes an unbroken circle of bigotry and blood."
Is there racism going on this case? If so, why? If not, why not?
What is race?
Traditional answer given by Europeans in the 18th, 19th and early 20th Centuries.
Dominant answer since the end of WWII.
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 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.
Renisha McBride
Raul and Brisenia Flores
Sikh Temple Shooting
Jorge Garcia
Tommie Shelby
Racism isn't
Sometimes well-meaning people can intend to do good and, nonetheless, still do and think racist things.
Other examples of "ideologies"?
Why do Racist Ideologies Grip People?
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
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.
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
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
Resentment and Ill-will
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?
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
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.
Percentage of racial group that falls below poverty line
"The race element was emphasized in order that property holders could get the support of the majority of white laborers and make it more possible to exploit Negro labor. But the race philosophy came as a new and terrible thing to make labor unity or labor class-consciousness impossible. So long as the Southern white laborers could be induced to prefer poverty to equality with the Negro, just so long was a labor movement in the South made impossible."
W.E.B. Du Bois, Black Reconstruction (1934)
It was a useful way of furthering the elite projects of colonial expansion, conquest, enslavement, etc.
Every industrial and commercial center in England possesses a working class divided into two hostile camps, English proletarians and Irish proletarians. The ordinary English worker hates the Irish worker as a competitor who lowers his standard of life. In relation to the Irish worker he feels himself a member of the ruling nation and so turns himself into a tool of the aristocrats and capitalists of his country against Ireland, thus strengthening their domination over himself. He cherishes religious, social and national prejudices against the Irish worker...This antagonism is artificially kept alive and intensified by the press, the pulpit, the comic papers, in short by all the means at the disposal of the ruling classes. This antagonism is the secret of the impotence of the English working class, despite its organization. It is the secret by which the capitalist maintains its power. And that class is fully aware of it.
Karl Marx, Correspondence
All white people (at all times and places) are bad.

Most white people (at this time and place) are bad.
White people (at all times/places) are bad because of their intrinsic nature.
White people (at this time/place) tend to be bad because of their racist socialization.
White people should be made to suffer (indiscriminately).
White people guilty of racist crimes should be punished.
Racist atrocities in history...
Imagine a Native American in the Caribbean or Mexico or Peru who has seen 95% of his community witped out by the Spanish through disease, outright massacre, accompanied by torture, dismemberment, infanticide, burnings, etc.

Imagine a black slave on a New World plantation being worked to death since its more economical that way

Imagine Congolese native whose family have all died as a result of King Leopold's quest for rubber, which resulted in an estimated 10 million deaths in Congo at the beginning of the 20th century.
To what extent is it reasonable to feel ill-will toward the people who did this to you?
Which (if any) of these are racist? What does Garcia's theory say? Shelby's? What are your thoughts?
For Garcia, they seem to all be racist. But is that right?
There seems to be a big difference between the even numbers and the odd numbers on the list.
Immigration and Racism?
Imagine the following argument for restricting immigration:
The U.S. has traditionally had a Western, Christian culture.
This cultural heritage should be preserved.
Allowing people from non-European, non-Christian countries to immigrate to the U.S. undermines the culture of the U.S.
Hence, would-be immigrants from these countries should be blocked from settling in the U.S.
Is this racist? What does Garcia say? What about Shelby? What's your opinion?
Is this racist? Does it matter the race of the person in question and which races they don't want to date? Do their motivations and beliefs matter? What does Garcia say? Shelby?
Association, Shared Space and Race
In June 2009, 65 children aged six to twelve, most of them black and latinx, bounced out of their bus and ran toward the pool of Valley Club, Huntington Valley (near Philly). Their day camp, Creative Steps, had a contract with the club for swimming one afternoon a week. At first sight of the children, the club members at the pool rose and flew like startled birds. They made for the exits and pulled their children out of the pool. The next day, the club banned all summer camps from the pool.
Racist? Garcia vs. Shelby?
The Irish and Racism?
Racism? Why or why not? Garcia? Shelby?
Compare to sexism.
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