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Racism?

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Tyler Zimmer

on 11 October 2018

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Transcript of Racism?

Racism?
What is
Dr. Tyler J. Zimmer
Word association...
What words or concepts or practices or illustrative examples do we typically associate with the words
racist
or
racism
?

Related phenomena...
Hatred.
Prejudice.
Xenophobia.
Nationalism. Ethnocentrism.
Religious discrimination.
Cultural discrimination.
Class exploitation.
Sexism.
How is racism different?
"Kwame Anthony Appiah rightly complains that although people frequently voice their abhorrence of racism, "rarely does anyone stop to say what it is, or what is wrong with it."
Garcia, p.6
"Ordinary use of [the word racism] is vague and inconsistent... Nowadays the term "racism" is so haphazardly thrown about that it is no longer clear that we all mean, even roughly, the same thing by it. Some even complain that the term is fast becoming a mere epithet, with strong emotive force but little or no clear content."
Shelby, p.412
Garcia and Shelby disagree deeply and sharply over what racism is (i.e. over what the correct definition of the concept "racism" ought to be).
How will we know which (if either of them) is correct? How do we test and evaluate their competing theories of what racism is?
Shelby and Garcia agree on almost nothing.
Garcia = racism is in the heart.

Shelby = racism is an ideology.
Important philosophical questions about
racism:

What
is
it exactly?
What are its origins? When and where in history did it emerge?
How and why does it spread and take root?
How does it reproduce itself over time?
What is the current social function of racism?
What would it mean to get rid of it?
Why bother with philosophical analysis of racism?
Wealth and Race
Employment
Official U-6 Unemployment Rate (January 2017)
10.1%
African Americans
Latinos
Whites
16.0%
13.2%
9.2%
BLS data. Note that government statistics tend to underestimate unemployment figures (for political reasons). Gallup, for example, puts total unemployment at 14% for Jan 2017.
Education
Incareration
Cultural Representations and Aesthetics
From the film "Pelo Malo"
We could list many other statistics...
Housing, health, social mobility, access to fair justice in the courts, rights, etc.
But at a certain point, we need some sort of
theory or explanatory framework
to make sense of these stats. They don't explain themselves; we need some way of interpreting them.
Jorge L. García
Racism is in the heart.
Jorge García, Boston College
"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
not
something that essentially involves our beliefs... but our wants, intentions, likes, and dislikes and their distance from the moral virtues."
Garcia, p.6
Garcia's Definition
Racism = Racially-based dislike.
More precisely, it is
negative feelings
a person holds toward a group because of that group's assigned race (and nothing else).
Implications of Garcia's Definition...
Negative feelings are a
necessary condition.
Where there are no negative feelings, there can be no racism.
Racism is a
vice
,
a character flaw (like avarice or gluttony). A person who exhibits racist feelings is, to that extent, a person with a flawed moral character.
Where
do we look to find and study racism?
IF GARCIA IS CORRECT...
How
is racism transmitted and acquired by persons?
Garcia's approach recommends that we look into the "hearts" of individuals to see what their feelings/attitudes/fears/aversions/desires are.
Garcia's view emphasizes
psychology.
An "INFECTION MODEL" of Transmission
For Garcia, racism is like a virus that gets transmitted by way of infection -- if you have racist feelings and I spend a lot of time around you, I'm liable to get infected by you and become racist myself.
Beliefs
vs.
Feelings/Attitudes
BELIEFS
Representational mental states.
To believe X is to think that X is true.
FEELINGS/ATTITUDES
A pro or con stance toward something or someone.
Mental states that express
how we feel
about something or someone.
Not representational, not true or false.

"Thinking of racism as thus rood in the heart fits common sense and ordinary usage in a number of ways. It is instructive that contemptuous White racists have sometimes called certain of their enemies 'N----- lovers.' When we seek to uncover the implied contrast term for this epithet, it surely suggests that enemies of those who 'love' Black people, as manifested in their efforts to combat segregation, and so forth, are those who hate Black people or who have little or no human feelings toward us at all. This is surely born out by the behavior and rhetoric of paradigmatic White racists."
Garcia, p.8
Key Point
Garcia's definition of racism
makes no mention of beliefs.
It follows that the presence or absence of certain beliefs has
nothing
essentially to do with the presence or absence of racism.
For racism to be present, we need only two things:
Negative attitudes
that are...
Racially-based
.
A "NON-DOXASTIC" THEORY OF RACISM
Garcia's Account is
INDIVIDUALIST
"Racism within individual persons is of prime moral and explanatory import, and institutional racism occurs and matters only because
racist attitudes
(desires, aims, hopes, fears, plans)
infect
the reasoning, decision-making, and actions of individuals not only in their private behavior, but also when they make and execute the policies of those institutions in which they operate."
Garcia, p.11
Some questions to test your comprehension...
Does Garcia think that racism is natural and inevitable?
What about a person who is
indifferent
toward a certain group because of their race? Is that racism, using his definition? Why or why not?
In order to be racist within Garcia's theory, do you have to
act
on your racist feelings?
For Garcia, does a racist person have to
be aware
of her racist attitudes in order to count as racist? Does she have to
identify
with them?
Can cultural products, laws, and institutions be racist, according to Garcia?
Tommie Shelby
Racism is an
ideology.

Tommie Shelby,
Harvard University
SHELBY'S CRITIQUE OF GARCIA
Racism is not always a matter of dislike.
Sometimes it is, sometimes not.
Sometimes racism can come from generally virtuous people who genuinely mean well.
Structural analysis deeded
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.
Racism is an
ideology.
SHELBY'S DEFINITION
What is an
ideology?

Ideologies are false belief systems that function to
support
some form of inequality or oppression.
Wherever there is oppression, there is likely to be ideology supporting it.
Test Cases...
Class inequality
(e.g. as under serfdom).

Gender inequality
(e.g. before women had the right to vote).
These inequalities weren't maintained through force alone.
Ideologies
supported them, too.
To say that racism is a form of ideology, is to say first of all that
racism = a set of
beliefs
.
Important Features of Ideologies
Ideologies are often embedded in broader worldviews.
Ideologies often seem to those who hold them to have a great deal of explanatory power.
Ideologies are often deeply entrenched in the minds of those who hold them.
Ideologies are not always consciously held; sometimes we're not aware that we're in their grip.
Ideologies have a profound impact on our social interactions, on politics and economics, etc.
People in the grip of ideology usually have "mixed and uneven consciousness" -- they hold ideas that contradict the ideology that they're gripped by.
Racist ideology:
A set of false ideas that supports racial hierarchy.
"Anti-black ideology wrongly claims that blacks are by their very nature inferior and therefore incapable of being equal to whites in intellect and moral character... this ideology has often represented blacks as less than fully human, as either animal-like, demonic, or as mere "things" to be manipulated, discarded, or exchanged like ordinary commodities. "Classic" racist ideology fallaciously concluded that whites, in light of their alleged superiority, should have a higher social and political status than blacks; that so-called "white culture" is the highest level of creative attainment so far acheived, while black cultural expression has lesser, or no aesthetic worth; and that Blacks are themselves, objectively speaking, physically unattractive or even repulsive."
Shelby, "Ideology, Racism" p. 169
How and why are ideologies created?
How do they come to be widely held?
What social function do they perform?
Why do some people cling to them?
Some questions about ideology...
Our topic isn't ideology in general, however, but
racist ideology.
"We sometimes believe things because to do so would, say, bolster our self-esteem, give us consolation, lessen anxiety, reduce cognitive dissonance, increase our confidence, provide cathartic relief, give us hope, or silence a guilty conscience."
How does this help explain why people are gripped by racist ideologies?
Where did racist ideology come from?
"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."
For Shelby, racist ideologies were constructed by elites to support projects of oppression such as the slave trade, colonial conquest, imperialism and so forth.
These were stories elites told to help advance their project.
They support oppression by making it appear legitimate, or natural (unchangeable), or ordained by God.
"The slaveholding aristocracy of the American South obviously had an interest in
maintaining their right to own and exploit the labor of African slaves and their descendants.
Thus it is not surprising that many from that class were led to believe that blacks were less than fully human..."
"Sometimes the oppressed, too, are susceptible to these ideologies, but with different consequences for their material interests."
"Some white workers use racism to console themselves in their subordinate social position, feeling "blessed" that they were born with the "natural" virtue that "whiteness" bestows."
Who gets gripped by racist ideology? How? Why?
"Consider the case where racist ideology is advanced to justify economic exploitation, as was the case with American slavery. Here, as many historians would maintain, the motive was financial profit, not hatred -- as the historian Barbara Fields argues, the primary goal of American slavery was not the production of "white supremacy" but the production of cotton, sugar, rice and tobacco. This exploitative practice is racist because racist ideology is invoked to conceal the injustice, particularly from the exploiters themselves."
But
how
do racist ideologies help advance this project of oppression?
Racism and Divide-and-Conquer
"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 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
(1938)
The Origins of Racism?
Why not simply say that racism is a natural response to difference?
Why not explain racist illusions as the inevitable result of groups with different appearances coming into contact for the first time?
Notice that Shelby thinks neither of these explanations are sound.
"Every industrial and commercial center in England possesses a working class divided into two hostile camps, English workers and Irish workers. 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... 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 class maintains its power. And that class is fully aware of it."
Karl Marx, correspondence
Who benefits from racist ideology?
TEST CASES
Fear and Racism?
Imagine the following scenario. A non-white man boards a CTA bus and this causes a white passenger on the bus to suddenly feel uncomfortable, ill at ease, perhaps a bit resentful, suspicious or afraid of this person. The white passenger wishes the man had never gotten on board in the first place.
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:
Imbued with ancient wisdom.
Exotic, mysterious, magical.
Sexualized, seductive.
Should this count as racist? What does Garcia say? Shelby? What do you think?
Is this racist? What does Garcia say? What does Shelby say? What do you think?
Racism and Public Space
Racist? What does Garcia say? Shelby? What do you think?
Racism and Policing
A young black Ph.D student at Northwestern is in his chemistry lab doing regular research and running experiments. Someone sees the student in the lab and calls campus security. Campus security arrives and begins to question the student and demand that they show I.D. to prove they are permitted to be in the lab. Unable to produce the I.D., campus security cuffs the student and takes him to be held in a cell until his Ph.D supervisor calls and confirms that he is, in fact, a student doing scholarly research.
Racist? Garcia? Shelby? What do you think?
A summer camp run in the Bronx is attended by mostly Black and Puerto Rican kids aged 7-10.
The organizers of the camp call a private country club north of the Bronx in a majority-white suburb and book a field trip so that the kids can use the pool to play.
Once the kids arrive, however, the white members of the country club are instantly uncomfortable and grab their kids out of the pool and leave. Later that day they call the country club and complain and demand that the club cancel their deal with the summer camp.
Racism and Social Roles
In 1940s Charleston, a black grandmother regularly takes her infant granddaughter for a walk around a lake in the middle of town in baby carriage.
Usually, black people are forbidden to inhabit this public space, but exceptions are made for black servants tending to white children.
A white police officer frequently sees the grandmother and often waves to her and smiles.
One day, however, the officer notices something he never noticed before: the baby the grandmother is pushing in the carriage is black, whereas he thought the baby was white.
His demeanor quickly changes from friendly to aggressive. "Where did you get that carriage?" he asks. He barks at her to leave the park at once.
An Interracial Couple
A man is sitting on a public bench at a park reading the newspaper and drinking coffee.
He looks up and, to his surprise, he sees a young interracial couple walk by holding hands.
Though he doesn't say or do anything, he is unsettled by the sight of these two together. Perhaps he finds it disgusting or improper or immoral. We can imagine a lot of different forms that the anxiety might take.
Is this a genuine instance of racism? What does Garcia's theory imply? Shelby's? What is your own view?
"When Mexico sends its people, they're not sending their best... They're bringing drugs. They're bringing crime. They're rapists. And some, I assume, are good people."
Immigrants and Criminality
"You have people come in and I'm not just saying Mexicans, I'm talking about people that are from all over, that are killers and rapists and they're coming to this country."
“I can never apologize for the truth. I said tremendous crime is coming across. Everybody knows that’s true. And it’s happening all the time. So, why, when I mention, all of a sudden I’m a racist. I’m not a racist. I don’t have a racist bone in my body.”
In June 2015, Donald Trump kicked off his Presidential campaign with a series of public statements on the record alleging that Mexican immigrants living in the United States are prone to criminality and violence:
What does Garcia's theory imply about these statements? Shelby's theory? What do you think?
“What can be simpler or more accurately stated? The Mexican Government is forcing their most unwanted people into the United States. They are, in many cases, criminals, drug dealers, rapists, etc.”
Racism and Paternalism
Colonial conquest was often justified by elites as being to the benefit of the colonized. The French Empire spoke of a mission civilisatrice (a “civilizing mission”) and the British imperialist writer Rudyard Kipling spoke of colonization as being part of the “white man’s burden” to take care of and better non-Europeans who, in his view, were incapable of caring for themselves.
Here’s French imperial theorist Jules Harmand:
“The European conqueror brings order, foresight, and security to a human society which, though ardently aspiring for these fundamental human values without which no community can make progress, still lacks the aptitude to achieve them from within itself.”

So, too, was slavery in the U.S. often justified in paternalistic terms. Here’s Supreme Court Chief Justice Roger Taney from the 1857 Dred Scott decision:
“The negroes have for more than a century before been regarded as beings of an inferior order, and altogether unfit to associate with the white race, either in social and political relations; and so far inferior, that they had no rights which the white man was bound to respect; and that the negro might justly and lawfully be reduced to slavery for his benefit… This opinion was at that time fixed and universal in the civilized portion of the white race. It was regarded as an axiom in morals as well as in politics, which no one thought of disputing, or supposed to be open to dispute.”


Dark Ghettos
(2016)
Beliefs = "truth claims" that express how we understand the world and the people in it.

Racist beliefs = false ideas about certain groups that function to justify that group's oppression.
Supreme Court Case:
Dred Scott v. Sanford (1857)
"They had for more than a century before been regarded as beings of an inferior order, and altogether unfit to associate with the white race, either in social or political relations; and so far inferior, that they had no rights which the white man was bound to respect; and that the negro might justly and lawfully be reduced to slavery for his benefit."
Dred Scott Decision (1857)
"The Declaration of Independence says that "all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among them is life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness." The general words above quoted would seem to embrace the whole human family... But it is too clear for dispute, that the enslaved African race were not intended to be included, and formed no part of the people who framed and adopted this declaration; for if the language, as understood in that day, would embrace them, the conduct of the distinguished men who framed the Declaration of Independence would have been utterly and flagrantly inconsistent with the principles they asserted [and if this were true] they would have deserved and received universal rebuke and reprobation. Yet the men who framed this declaration were great men, high in their sense of honor, and incapable of asserting principles inconsistent with those on which they were acting. They perfectly understood the meaning of the language they used, and how it would be understood by others; and they knew that it would
not in any part of the civilized world be supposed to embrace the negro race, which, by common consent, had been excluded from civilized Governments and the family of nations, and doomed to slavery."
Rudyard Kipling's "White Man's Burden"
"The White Man's Burden: The United States and the Philippine Islands" is a 1899 poem by Rudyard Kipling about the Philippine–American War (1899–1902), which invites the U.S. to assume colonial control of that country. The poem was published in
The New York Sun
on 10 February 1899.
The poem coincided with the beginning of the Philippine-American War and U.S. Senate ratification of the treaty that placed Puerto Rico, Guam, Cuba, and the Philippines under American control. Theodore Roosevelt, soon to become vice-president and then president, copied the poem and sent it to his friend, Senator Henry Cabot Lodge, commenting that it was “rather poor poetry, but good sense from the expansion point of view.”
Irish in the United States, 1800's
Racism as "Ideology"
Barbara J. Fields,
from her "Slavery, Race and Ideology in the U.S.A."
"Race is not an element of human biology... but an ideology. It came into existence at a discernable historical moment for rationally understandable historical reasons and is subject to change for similar reasons... Those who favored slavery identified the alleged "racial incapacity" of African Americans as the explanation for enslavement. American racial ideology is as original an invention of the Founders as is the US itself. Those holding liberty to be inalienable, and holding Afro-Americans as slaves, were bound to end by holding race to be a self-evident truth."
Where are you
really
from?
"Where are you from is a question I like answering. "Where are you really from" is a question I really hate answering... for Asian Americans are often afflicted by "the perpetual foreigner syndrome." We are figuratively and even literally returned to Asian and ejected from America."
"Excuse me, I need a refill please."
Pelo Malo
(Bad Hair)
2013 film
Full transcript