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Reading Notes

PHIL 455

Table of contents
  1. Week 1: The (His-)Story of Race
    1. Race: The Power of an Illusion, “The Difference Between Us”
    2. Race: The Power of an Illusion, “The Story We Tell”
  2. Week 2: The Concept of ``Race’’
    1. “The Conservation of Races”, W.E.B. Du Bois (1897)
    2. “Why There Are No Races”, K. Anthony Appiah (1999)
    3. “The Uncompleted Argument: Du Bois and the Illusion of Race”, K. Anthony Appiah (1985)
  3. Week 3: Racial Eliminativism and Racial Formation Theory
    1. “Philosophical aspects of the AAA statement on race”, Naomi Zack (2001)
    2. “The Theory of Racial Formation” from Racial Formation in the United States, Michael Omi & Howard Winant (2015)
  4. Week 4: The Normative Dimension of Race
    1. “A Social Constructionist Analysis of Race”, Sally Haslanger
    2. ‘Race’: Normative, Not Metaphysical or Semantic, Ron Mallon
  5. Week 5: A Return to Racial Naturalism
    1. “A Radical Solution to the Race Problem”, Quayshawn Spencer
  6. Week 6: Racial Deflationism
    1. “Deflating Race”, Lionel McPherson
  7. Week 7: …
    1. “Current Conceptions of Racism: A Critical Examination of Some Recent Philosophy”, J. L. A. Garcia
  8. Week 8: Responses to Volitional and Institutional Accounts
    1. “Heart Attack: A Critique of Jorge Garcia’s Volitional Conception of Racism”
    2. “Is Racism in the Heart?”, Tommie Shelby
  9. Week 9: Narrow-Scope “Racism”
    1. “I’m not a Racist, But…”: The Moral Quandary of Race, Lawrence Blum

Week 1: The (His-)Story of Race

When and were has race emerged? Race is largely a product of the 19th century.

Race: The Power of an Illusion, “The Difference Between Us”

  • Race is not based on biology but an idea we ascribe to biology
  • Race in sports – “there are genetic bases for athletic activity”
  • Can populations be bundled into “races”? How many races are there?
  • The measured genetic variation among people is really very small. We are genetically among one of the most similar of all species.
  • Performance and behavior are attributed to race often
  • Scientists have searched for 200 years for a biological basis for race. Some measured facial angles or skull size sizes, eye shape, hair form, brain color.
  • Scientists are part of their social context – they are not merely driven by an objective scientific ideal, these ideals are socially situated.
  • Extinction thesis: some races have naturally higher or lower mortality, so the races with lower mortality will eventually become extinct.
    • Becomes a basis for eugenics and social policy
  • A single drop of “black blood” makes you black
  • White racial purity and eugenics – arises from simple Mendelian genetics, biological and moral features emerging from mother and father
  • The “whin tribe” – Black, white, and Indian ancestry, passing for white but genetically “tainted”; Virginian “mongrols”
  • Nazi eugenics come from American eugenics and race science
  • Hitler’s Aryan race – at the top of nature’s hierarchy
  • Jesse Owens breaks the Aryan myth at the 1936 Olympics
  • But how to handle this? Grant physical superiority but deny intellectual superiority
    • Objection! Okay… but, in ‘reality’, why did African-Americans do better?
  • Racial scientists: mark physical prowess as a sign of intellectual inferiority and closeness to nature.
  • What is your measurement device? Skin color, hair texture, etc.
    • Objection! Sure, but surely in our collective phenomenal appearance we independently determine / assign individual races. What is the basis?
  • Dark melanin blocks UV radiation, so it’s an advantage in the tropics – one hypothesis, sunlight is essential for having enough vitamin D. So you need to have enough sunlight to have enough vitamin D, but not too much sunlight to get skin cancer.
    • Objection! So this is a sort of biological determination…
  • One idea, populations vary by distance – so they are continuous distributions rather than discrete ones.
    • Objection! What if social conditions reify themselves so that continuous distributions do form? Isn’t it a contingency rather than a necessity that so called ‘mixing’ happens? What if our beliefs reflect back into reality?
    • Objection! We can cluster, we don’t have to be discrete… e.g. with political beliefs
  • Jewish teams dominated basketball in the 1930s
    • There are strong cultural reasons why people choose and train in certain sports over others
    • By 1992, most of the NBA was African-American
    • By 2000s, 20% of NBA starters are foreign-born
  • Is race deeper than skin? But most human variation is non-correlative, e.g. with height or weight (Objection! really?)
  • Objection! Are we fetishizing biology? Why are genetics the fundamental basis of individuals? Why do we even give them significance?
  • Statistical issues and difficulties – now you’re neglecting culture.
  • There can be accumulations of genes in one part of the group and not others – it’s better understood in terms of geography
  • All humans are products of a second migration out of Africa; the first migration led to species which died out
  • Human variation does not map onto “race”
  • There is huge genetic diversity in Africa
  • Objection! Looking towards genetics is a sort of appeal to the noumenal realm
  • “We’re all mongrels, we’ve always been mixing”
  • Race is “real” even though it is not biological.
  • Race as a social construct has a lot to do with an individual’s outcome.
  • Capitalism sets up a system of racial reification.
    • Capital is inherited
  • We can unmake race

Race: The Power of an Illusion, “The Story We Tell”

  • “all men are created equal”
  • It’s never about how you look, but how you give meaning to how you look
  • Race has a history and is constructed by a soceity to further certain political and economic goals.
  • Jefferson, Notes on the State of Virginia
  • Arguably Jefferson articulates the first theory of race in the United States. If in so we are all equal, then how can he own so many slaves?
  • How can you promote liberty, freedom, democracy; but also slavery and exploitation at the same time? By essentializing biology. Unalienable rights only apply to certain people.
  • Universality is always partial
  • Initially, blackness and whiteness were not yet clear categories of identities. They were more likely to distinguish between Christians and heathens than white or non-white. Status was more fundamental to who they were than their color.
  • Indians are not much different than Euoropean minds
  • The problem with the Indians was not race but culture, but they ‘could be civilized’
  • Jefferson, introduced by European Enlightenment ideals
  • Those crossing over to the West thought that the Indians were savages who were preventing westwards expansion.
  • 1820s: a Cherokee alphabet created, establishing a government and Constitution patterneda fter the United States.
  • What whites saw as greater representation and democracy was for the Indians greater agency to infringe upon their land.
  • Andrew Jackson, the ‘common man’
  • The rise of the nation, the idea of shared governance based on common features. In opposition to Englightenment ideal of united humanity.
  • What is the “nature” of Indians?
    • Philosophically, the move here is from Cartesian self-doubt towards radical naive objectivism: to claim to know the noumena, the true thing-in-itself of race
  • Now told to embrace themselves – preserve themselves as distant Indians, no longer to become like whites
  • 19th century, lots of public lectures on the nature of men, people are avidly interested in natural sciences.
  • Samuel Morton – Crania Americana, purely scientific methods to investigate carnial capacity and structure, which has implications for brain size
    • Finds blacks at the bottom and white men at the top
    • The reflection – a metaphysical argument of oneself as reflected in the noumena
  • God never established equality of the races – why should it be so? – interesting to think about how justification must always spill over into a measure of faith
  • From Jefferson to the 1850s: there are deep, irrevokable gulfs between the races
  • America’s new role abroad
  • Race cuts across class
  • Poor white people – you may be poor, you may have miserable lives, but you are white
  • Indians and blacks are used as representations of Filipinos
  • There is not a gap between the “ordinary man’s” conception of race and the scientist’s concpetion
  • The highway of human progress
  • 1904 world’s fair

Week 2: The Concept of ``Race’’

“The Conservation of Races”, W.E.B. Du Bois (1897)

  • The “American Negro” has been led to minimize race distinctions towards a monogenetic origin. Liberal human brotherhood and whatnot…
  • Yet, we must acknowledge that humans are divided into races, and the US is the synthesis of the most “extreme types”
  • We must take the question of race holistically: what is the real meaning of race?
  • What is the criteria of racial differences?
  • Frustratingly for scientists, the criteria of race are very intermingled, or independent of each other.
  • The “final word of science” two or three great families of human beings
  • The scientific doctrine of human brotherhood: we have more likenesses than weaknesses
  • Physical differences do not matter too much with regards to the role groups of men have played in human progress, but there are definitely differences. Perhaps it transcends the scientific definition.
  • The history of the world is the history, not of individuals, but of groups, not of nations, but of races.

“He who ignores or seeks to override the race idea in human history ignores and overrides the central thought of all history.”

  • A race is a family of human beings, of common “blood” and language, history, traditions.
  • The race idea is the “most ingenious invention of human progress”
  • There are no great individuals of society; they are merely expressions of vast races.
  • We also may believe that America is some sort of racial melting pot
  • There are eight races: Slavs, Teutons, English, Romance, Negroes, Semitic, Hindoos, Mongolians.
  • What is the real distinction between nations?
    • Physical differences play an important part
    • There are deeper differences: “spirital, psychial” – based on the physical, but infinitely transcending.
    • Teutons are bound by a common history, common laws and religion, similar habits of thought
  • Differnt cities and groups abide by different ideals of life.
  • Political boundaries broadening: from the family to the city to the nation. Races kind of coalesce into broader shared groups. (Why won’t they keep on coalescing?)
  • Nations begin political splits: the English, constitutional liberty & commercial freedom; German nation, science and philosophy; Romance, literature and art; etc. Guiding towards a perfection of human life.
  • What is the function of race differences in the future? The Negro race has not yet given civilization its full spiritual message. How should it be delivered? By the development of race groups, not as individuals, but as races.
    • Is this a kind of bad multiculturalism?

We cannot reverse history; we are subject to the same natural laws as other races, and if the Negro is ever to be a factor in the world’s history–if among the gaily-colored banners that deck the broad ramparts of civilizations is to hang one uncompromising black, then it must be placed there by black hands, fashioned by black heads and hallowed by the travail of 200,000,000 black hearts beating in one glad song of jubilee.

  • The destiny of Negro people is not absorption by white Americans. It should not be evolution into a single “individual”.
  • A friction of races – “race prejudice”
  • No “Negro” has failed to eventually ask himself: “Am I American or Negro?”
  • Combined race action is stifled under individualism.
  • Race predjucie is historically “nothing” but friction between groups of people. If there are basic agreements on laws, language, and religion, and economic life is good, then different national ideas can certainly thrive and develop. (So Dubois is not a strict separationist.)
  • We are Americans by our political ideals, language, religion. No more Americanism past there… there, we are Negroes. A “historic” race form the “African fatherland”.
  • We need race organizations for the products of the Negro mind to emerge. The one refuge for the American Negro is themselves. But his refuge must be genuine and strict: towards the self-advancement of the race.
  • The American Negro Academy must be representative, impartial, firm.
  • “The Negro people must do it for themselves” – what to make of this sentiment?
  • “Justify our existence”
  • Much work is left to do in sociology: bravely face the truth with no apologies.

“Why There Are No Races”, K. Anthony Appiah (1999)

  • Two competing notions of what meaning is.
  • Ideational: words are an idea. Different races are distinguished by “criteria beliefs” which define the concept
    • One way of understanding the race concept (empirical/statistical/abductive): explore what people believe about “races” and see how they must be structured
    • People act on their believes, whether they are true or not.
    • Ideational view: explores contemporary thought about race, but can produce a confusing picture, because our current discussions of race can reproduce “residue” of what they are studying
  • Referential: words identify the things which it signals/refers to.
    • What is the “thing out there” which is picked out?
    • Whatever best explains that thing that people talk about is race
    • Race is a scientific and scholarly term – there is semantic deference. Taking a historical look at intellectual and political beliefs highlights the core.

A Historical View

  • Thomas Jefferson’s autobiography: the two races cannot live under the same government, thi sis common sense. Race is invoked to explain cultural and social phenomena.
  • Notes on the State of Virginia: emancipation is inevitable and right, but once emancipated, black shsould be sent elsewhere.
  • The poltiical significance of race begins and ends with color. Biolgoical differences: physiology, moral & cognitive psychology, etc. – distinctions that nature has made. The difference then is significant in its biology.
  • It should be noted that biology seems to separate out different aspects of the human body, but Jefferson’s “hodgepodge” is more holistic across the body.
  • Jefferson writes with a fondness towards Indians.
  • “Racialism” – division of humans into a small number of groups which share certain fundamental characteristics with each other.
  • Matthew Arnold, On the Study of Celtic Literature
  • Arnold: racial essence is more than physical details: there are moral and literary endowments (e.g. Du Bois)
    • Every race has excellences and defects
  • There is much structure to racialist thinking: distinguishing, separation, joining. Characteristics, independence.
    • How do races survive trhough generations?
    • What is racialism’s prediction for racial hybrids?
    • The new science of “race’ benefits from its association of prestige with the natural sciences.
  • Darwin, The Origin of Species – might throw light on the origin of man and its history – earlier forms
  • Races might not be species, but they may move in that direction
  • Characteristics on different chromosomes are independently assorted (from Mendelian genetics).
  • As a biological concept, race at best picks out a few easily visible physical characteristics. Yet they become associated with moral, literary, psychological characters.
  • The population concept of race can be employed in population genetics – there is in fact locality which structures clusters of features under reproduction under a global sphere. But this doesn’t happen in humans.
  • These groups of features defined by skin color hair, morpholy, etc. corresponding to dominant patterns of characteristics will not provide a central biological notion, and will not correlate with characteristics important for moral/social life.

The bottom line is this: you can’t get much of a race concept, ideationally speaking, from any of these traditions; you can get various possible candidates from the referential notion of meaning, but none of them will be much good for explaining social or psychological life, and none of them corresponds to the social groups we call “races “ in America.

“The Uncompleted Argument: Du Bois and the Illusion of Race”, K. Anthony Appiah (1985)


  • Science does not have a clear answer on the existence of race
  • But statistics of genetic measures can be made to make differences large and small, whatever you want.
  • Objection! The question is if the genetic basis matters – so if there indeed were a genetic basis for differences across races, does race exist?
  • Language, moral affections, aesthetic attitudes, etc. are not biological determinned “to any significant degree” (??)
  • Confusion between two questions:
    • Does biological difference account for our differences?
    • Does biological similarity account for our similarities?
  • W.E.B. Du Bois – life story is “an autobiography of a race concept”
    • Importantly, we must “assimilate the unbiological nature of races”
    • Du Bois – not just concerned with the meaning of race, but the truth about it
  • Is our understanding of intellectual development of people a movement towards turth? Du Bois represents such an engagement with truth.

“The Conservation of Races”

  • Du Bois’ extended discussion of race in “The Conservation of Races” (1897)
  • The “American Negro” minimizes race discussions because its assumptions were wrong. Yet, human being are divided into races, even if we can’t find exactly how.
    • Appeal to science: two-three “great families” of human beings
    • Yet unsatisfaction with century: what matter are not mere physical differences, but rather more elusive / “silent” differences.
    • Du Bois: the history of the world is the history of races
    • Movement from a scientific to a sociohistorical notion of race; there are 8 races (as they appear in our phenomena) – Slavs, Teutons, English, Negroes, Romance race, Semites, Hindus, Mongolians.
  • What is the real distinction between races? Physical differences are part of it, but the deeper differences are spiritual, but transcendent of the physical.
  • Each of the races strives to develop its particular message for civilization
  • The problem for the Negro is the discovery of the message of their race.
  • Du Bois’ argument treats race as a sociohistroical concept
  • Du Bois marks the antithesis in the dialectic of reaction to prejudice. Du Bois accepts difference (‘multiculturalism’?)
  • Du Bois requires not the transcendence of the scientific conception of race, but a revaluation of the Negro race in face of racial sciences.
  • Du Bois has not transcended the scientific notion. Why does he talk so much about blood then? Clearly, a biological / scientific notion lies dormant in Du Bois.
  • **In order to recognize two events at different times as part of the history of a single individual, we have to have a criterion for identity of the indiviudal at each of those times, independent of his or her participation in the two events.
  • Sharing a common group history cannot be a criterion for identifying members of the same group, becuase we need to identify its group in order to identify its history.
  • “Impulses” are discovered after the fact.
  • We are left back with the scientific conception.
  • The criterion Du Bois actually uses is: people are members of the same race if the share features by virtue of being descended from people of roughly the same region.
  • Du Bois does not hcallenge race / racial distinctions itself. Rather, he challenges its associations.

“Crisis”: August 1911

  • The scientific definition was itslef threatened at the Negro Academy.
  • Du Bois writes that color is a sign of racial essence, but denies inferior cultural capacities
  • Du Bois changes his mind in Crisis: there is no assocaition between mental and physical characteristics. But he gets this from science.
  • Du Bois explicitly rejects biological race as relevant in Crisis.

“Dusk of Dawn”

  • “An essay towards an autobiography of a race concept”
  • Race is not a scientific concept.
  • But we do not need a scientific definition. “the black man is a person who must ride ‘Jim Crow’ in Georgia”
  • Yet he is committed to a political program which binds this undefinable black race together.
  • What is Africa to me? Countee Cullen. Du Bois’ response:
    • Born (thrown?) into a world with clear and straight racial walls
    • What matters is the social heritage of slavery, the discrimination and insult. This is the unity which binds pan-Africanism.
    • is this right? – that you share an oppressive past, but you must try to transcend that which unites you? A delightful apradox…
  • Du Bois seduces us into an error.
  • His fatherland is not the land of his father or his father’s father.
  • We must substitute a sociohistorical conception for a biological one, but it is maybe through an abstracted lens?
  • How can something Du Bois shares with the whole nonwhite world bind him to only a part of it?
  • Du Bois does not share the insult with the nonwhite world, but the badge of insult; this badge is biological.

Concluding Unscientific Postscript

  • Du Bois died in Ghana. But he never escaped from race.
  • But he has reproduced the biological notion of race, just as gender reproduces the biological notion of sex.
  • Saussurian hegemony: we think of meaning as constituted by purely internal systems of differences. Race is constructed by metaphor, bears difference, etc. Yet “there are no races: there is nothing in the world that can do all we ask ‘race’ to do for us.”
  • What we miss through our obsession with the structure of relations is simply reality.
  • We biologize what is culture / ideology.
  • Challenge the assumption that there can be an axis.
  • Resist horizontal reading

Week 3: Racial Eliminativism and Racial Formation Theory

“Philosophical aspects of the AAA statement on race”, Naomi Zack (2001)

  • The AAA statement on race misses the point that race cannot determine anything because it does not exist


  • Most philosophers writing about race focus on social identities and racisms, but anthropologists try to understand their biological foundations.
  • Race has no foundation in science.
  • No one likes racial essentialism anymore.
  • Aristotlian doctrine about reality: different groups of things exist in nature; Science is the discovery of essences. Essential definitions are necessary and sufficient conditions. Yet we see now in modern sciecne that few things in nature have observable essences or essential properties; rather, the classification becomes a product of the mind imposed on nature.
  • Essences are sometimes biological, or metaphysical and spirital
  • Refuted racism does not mean refuting essentialism

The Logic of Nonessentialism

  • Interpretes past empirical research and influences future research
  • Not all scientists recognize that the idea of race as biologically empty
  • Scientists often turn towards empirical data to determine non/existence. But this can only dis/confirm existence at different levels fo generality. Human race is a very general construct.
  • Basic truths about race:
    1. If there is no human biological racial taxonomy, there is no human biological racial hierarchy
    2. If there is no human biological racial taxonomy, there are no specific biological races.
    3. If there are no biological races, then there are no pure or mixed biological races
    4. If there is no human biological racial taxonomy, then there are no biological causal connections between biological race and culture or psychology.
    5. etc. etc.
  • If these are true, that is, that race does not exist, then there is no scientific finding about race which matters.
  • AAA statement: explanation about how racial difference theories histrocially function to justify cultural domination
  • 1952, Levi-Strauss: cultural differences are the result of history and environment.
  • UNESCO 1965 statements on racism: human culutral achievement is not determined or constrained by biological racial identity.
  • AAA both implies the nonexistence of race and the empirical incongruence between racial difference and cultural difference
  • Not everything that is biological or hereditary qualifies as racial
  • “One-drop rule”, racail essences
  • A biologcail race must have some general factors that all individuals in that race has. This i s not genetic.
    • No one phenotype is shared by everyone in the race
    • Brazil has a one-drop rule for white identity
    • People who se ancestors are born in India migth be considered black in England but white in the US depending on skin shade
  • Biological racial essences have gone the way of phlogiston, but it lingers on in ordinary thinknig, and this is untouched.
  • When scientists do speak of races, they try to highlight that they are talking about statistical / population conceptions, yet they can easilys lide into a racial typology.
  • George Berkeley, “abstract general ideals” – a symbol for all members of a group which characterizes each one of them as a whole entity. Yet there is no reality to which they refer. (ok… but does the mean exist?)

Nonessentialism and Kennewick Man

  • Leonard Lieberman – the nature of the relevant skeletal reference collection determines how forensic anthropologists classify new skeletal remains
  • Clines; continua
  • Kennewick man: a well-preserved middle-aged man with “caucasoid features”, 9.3k years ago alive. James Chatters: there may have been a European group in the Americas before north Asian groups which are the ancestors of contemporary Native Americans.
  • Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA) – Native American groups have the right to claim remains of their ancestors.
  • Umatilla tribe statement: our ancestor’s appearance can change over time, but through tis change, you have the indigenous people.
  • The Asatru Folk Assembly uses false biological racial essentialism: there is something about Native or white people who persists over time even through biological change.
  • What race is Kennewich Man? The inverse insight is that he has no race.
  • Racialization is essentializing, and that is the issue.
  • Nonessentialist population typology is weak.
    • Traits typified over populations are continuous
    • Geographical origin typology is a matter of decision; there is nothing in nautre to dictate how far back we go to cut off branches
    • These cuts end up probably reproducing existing racial typologies.
    • Metaphors and parallels can be harmful in aiding the reproduction of certain identitarian topologies.
    • Do not even essentialize geogrpahical or osteological typology. It is intelligible to the public only because o fits problematic correspondences.
    • Human racial groups in post-essentialist scientific categories epistemically share a circularity.

Essentialism and Medicine

  • Essentialist racialization of race blocks useful research into causes of disease and illness by implying statistical associations have explanatory foce at a biological level
  • Socially identified race has no medical value when it is linked to disease or illness (really?)
  • Biological / anthropological conception of human diversity in disease:
    1. population-based notion of race. but populations aren’t that useful
    2. association of population typology with disease
  • Population membership is neither sufficient nor necessary for diseases
  • Goodman: should all human medical research be population race-blind? And is all human evolutionary history only understandable through resemblances to essentialist typologies?
  • The problem is not variety. It is the essentialization of variety.

Essentialism and What to Tell the Public

  • AAA failed to thoroughly develop a position against false racialism
  • Members of both dis/&advantaged groups have some sort of libidinal pleasure in self-identification with the racial group
  • Racism is often very real
  • Conflict between nonessetnailism and “liberatory” uses of racial categories
  • There is a social reality of racial typology and real injustice
  • The elimination of essentialist racial ideology is not about changing words; it’s about changing meanings.
  • Mixed race identity recognition makes basic racial categorization difficult.
  • Reification and deconstruction occur simultaneously.

“The Theory of Racial Formation” from Racial Formation in the United States, Michael Omi & Howard Winant (2015)

  • Race is a way of “making up people”
  • Defining racial groups is a fraught process
  • The consequences of racial definitions are dramatic.
  • Race-making is a mode of othering. But there are many ways to do this, e.g. gender, class, sexuality, etc. Othering is a universal phenomena which also classifies the classifiers. Yet the classes themselves are historically specific.

Race as a Master Category

  • Race is a social construction. Sure. But: how is it constructed?
  • In the United States, race is a “master category” – a fundamental concept which has shaped everything.
    • Race is not transcendent, certainly… intersectionality and all that
    • But also… race plays a unique role in the formation of the United States. It has become the template of difference and inequality.
  • Race has shaped the concepts of work/worker, labor/employment, master/servant
  • Race becomes the organizing principle of social stratification
  • Marginalization and stratification shares a pattern of race
  • The sexual vs racial contract – why can/do we assert primality of race / race as master concept?
  • Notably: suffrage broke by racial lines
  • Race was also the main template for resistance to domination. The black movement’s theoretical insights and strategies were adopted by many others.
  • Race-making is racial formation. This is the sociohistorical process by which social identities are created, lived, transformed, and destroyed.


  • Race is seen as a social category which is either objective or illusory
    • Objectively, race is biological differences and other genomic variations
    • As an illusion, race is an ideological construct masking a more fundamental material distinction
  • Race objectively is understood as an essence, fixed and concrete.
  • Race as unreal, product of false consciousness; race is an irrational distractionf rom pure market relations, race is a way to prevent a unified working-class movement.
  • Omi & Wannant critique both positions. Race is real as a social category with definite social consequences.

“It is not important whether or not the interpretation is correct – if men define situations as real, they are real in their consequences.”

  • Thomas and Thomas, 1928

  • Race is an unstable and decentered complex of social meanings constantly transformed by political struggle
  • **Race is a concept that signified and symbolizes conflicts and interests by refeerring to different types of bodies.
  • Race involves seemingly biological human characteristcics, but selecting specific characteristics as racial significatories is a social and historical process.
  • There is an irreducible visual dimension: bodies are visually read and narrated.
  • Racialization: the extension of racial meaning to a previously racially unclassified relationship, social practice, or group.
  • Althusser, racial interpellation
  • Racial profiles
  • Even blind respondents hav esome concept of what race is
  • Why not just dispense with race altogether?
  • Race is not merely a problem/misconception which can be passed over into a post-racial society.
  • Race is an element of social structure rather than an irregularity within it.
  • Racialization proceeding from religiont o science to politics.

The Evolution of Race Consciousness

  • Identification of different groups of people – back to history, the Bible or herodutus
  • Race concept (modern) – rise of Europe and the arrival of Europeans in the Americas
  • Christian Europe viewed non-Christian others with suspicion, but this is not racial but religious
  • When Europeans reached the new World, distinctions and categorizations in a racialized discourse begin to emerge here.
  • European explorers gave rise to merchant capitalism, the possibility for primitive accumulation
  • Europeans “discovered” people and presented a total challenging geneology of the world and of human being.
  • Can truly all be considered part of the human family?
  • What is a human being? What is the nature of human difference?
  • Seizure of territories and goods presupposes a worldview which distinguishes Europeans from others.
  • The conquest of America was the advent of a consolidated social structure of exploitation and signification; it initiated modern racial awareness
  • Americna conquest was the greatest and first racial formation project – Europe constituted as the metropole of a series of empires, “the globe for a theater”. A struggle between civilization and barbarism.
  • Something like social construction of race was already present at the beginning. There was a need immediately to categorize people – Who is European? Who is a settler? Who is African? Who is a slave? Exercise of power requires these distinctions.

From Religion to Science

  • Religious justifications for racial difference gave ways to scientific ones
  • Race was a very active area of intellectual discussion in Europe during the Enlightenment
  • Racial problem moving into the late 18th century: no longer about violent subjugation, but about nation-building, national economies, the naturla rights of man, etc.
  • An attempt to give a morre subtle account of human explicity in the enlightenment, spurred by the classification of organisms by Linnaeus
  • Race becomes a biological concept
  • Familial metaphors
  • Search for scientific justifications
  • Joseph de Gobineau: Essay on the INequality of Races - superior races produced superior cultures
  • US – fertile ground for social Darwinism and eugenics
  • Black scholars challenged biological racism, but only after WWII did this attack on race as biological gain acceptance (after racial science in Nazi Germany)
  • Scientific racism continues to be reified in the study of human variation – e.g. “population groups”
  • Pharmacogenomics – tailors drugs to a specific condition. Race can be a proxy for certain drugs.
  • Fascination with genetics and heritage – DNA testing for race identification, DNA testing for Native American tribal membership, etc.
  • Cognitive psychology, etc. undercover unconscious racial animus / detection; implicit bias; racial schemas; etc.
  • Are cultural formations not themselves constructed?
  • There is a strong temptation to derive racial distinctions from biological sources
  • The antiquated quest for a fundamental quality of racial identity.

From Science to Politics

  • Race is now a preeminently political phenomenon.
  • Historical trend towards recognizing race as a social and political construction
  • Pushing back against the biologization of race
  • Du Bois and black scholars – turn towards sociopolitical frameworks
  • The political struggles of racialized people themselves, the racial horrors of the 20th century
  • Racial politics: state-based racial classifications.
  • Who is free / unfree? Who is a naturalized citizen? etc. all of the concepts become made political, placed within the state.
  • Directive No. 15. Reshapes race discourse in the US; these categories have become de facto standards. (1977)
  • Multiracial identity on the census

Racial Projects

  • Race us a crossroads where social structure and cultural representation meet
  • Race firstly a symbol of signification
  • Racial project – simultaneously an interpretation, representation, explanation of racial identities and meanings
  • Racial projects connect what race means to the way experience is structured
  • Projects travel, compete, and overlap
  • Society is suffused with racial projects


  • Magnus Hirschfeld – 1938, book of Nazi racial doctrines
  • But the term racism has taken on its own anti-meanings.
  • In the US, racism has narrowly been conceived of as racial hate.
  • A racial project is racist if it creates or reproduces structures of domination based on racial significations and identities
  • Race exceeds and transcends racisms, allowing for resistance to racism. Race is more than racism.

Racial Politics: Despotism, Democracy, and Hegemony

  • The US was a racial despotism
  • Panethnicization
  • Racial despotism to racial democracy
  • Racial hegemony re-emerges as “colorblindness”

Week 4: The Normative Dimension of Race

“A Social Constructionist Analysis of Race”, Sally Haslanger

  • Development of a realist, social constructionist accout of race
  • “Race in the genomic age”: we should shift from “is race real?” to “what concept of race should we employ to achieve antiracist goals”?
  • Language is a collective social practice rather than presented by an authority.
  • What ‘race’ means is not up tot he biologist; there i no Language Police.
  • Start from a normative basis of where to go

Race Eliminativism, Race Constructionism, and Race Naturalism.

  • Race eliminativists: talk of races is totally misleading and should be eliminated from our discourse, we should stop participating
  • Race constructionists: races are real, but social rather than natural groups; we need to recognize mechanisms of racial formation
  • Naturalists: human species can be divided on the basis of geneitc / physical traits
  • The difference between these approaches to race is not “just semantics” – it affects social policy.

Natural and Social Kinds

  • Is the debate primarily metaphysical / scientific about the reality of race?
  • Eliminativists & naturalists agree that races, if they exist, are natural
  • Cnostructionists: races are social kinds
  • “Kind” – following the Aristotelian essence. Objects are distinctive because of their essence.
  • Are races Aristotelian kinds?
  • Superficial features can be modified and people will be treated differently.
  • Locke: kinds are highly unified
    • Real kinds: unified by properties which play a role in the causal structure of the world
    • Nominal kinds: unified by properties which are interesting or useful to us.

Can ‘facts’ settle hte matter?

  • The meaning of race is not settled by facts, but rather is used in the settling of facts.

Lessons from Philosophy of Language

  • Folk concept of race is not th e’true meaning’, but it is a player
  • What concept of race should we employ?
  • Reference magnetism: type terms pick out a type
  • Division fo linguistic labor

Is Race a Fiction

  • Externalists about meaning
  • The eliminativist project needs to be rethought

Race as a social kind

  • Feminists: gender is the social meaning of sex
  • Under constructionism, we can proceed politically without recommending a specific semantic revolution


  • The debate between eliminativists, constructionists, natrualists should be understood in terms of how to understand race in discourse
  • Color hierarchy
  • Language functions as a collective social practice

Page 9

‘Race’: Normative, Not Metaphysical or Semantic, Ron Mallon

  • What is race?
  • Racial skepticism, racial constructionism, racial population naturalism
  • What ought we do with talk about race?
  • There is a close association between metaphysics nad normativity.
  • There is no direct entailment between metaphysical facts and particular practice of race talk
  • Semantic strategy: connects metaphysical claims with linguistic-conceptual practices
    1. There is a metaphysical assumption.
    2. There is a semantic assumption that some theory of referenc eis correct.
    3. Racial terms refer or fail to refer to some metaphysical features of the world
  • Three conclusions in the article:
    1. Much of the apparent metaphysical disagreement over race is an illusion.
    2. Appearance of subsntive metaphysical debate is the product of the semantic strategy
    3. The semantic strategy is problematic. Race theory should no try to find the ‘correct’ theory of reference

I. The Ontological Consensus: The Rejection of Racialism

  • Historical view that race is associated with racial essences, racialism (Anthony Appiah)
  • Races were biobehavioral essences
  • Unlikely that there is interesting genetic essence
  • Ontological consensus

II. Racial Skepticism

  • Appiah: race does not refer to anything in the world
    • Ideational account: descriptivist theory of reference. Committed to racialism. Kripke and Putnam have overturned descriptivism.
    • Referential / causal-historical account of reference: a term which picks out a kind of thing. But by the ontological consensus, there are nov alid candidates for referents, except for those set out by racialism.
  • Races cannot be reproductively isolated, because there is no such reproductive isolation
  • Zack: race maybe is not even a useful scientific tool
  • Zack and Appiah: mismatch arguments. What is believed to be true about x is very different from what is actually true about x.

III. Racial constructionism

  • Racial constructionists infer that race is not a biological kind, but they try to develop an account on which race deos exist as socially constructed
  • Charels Mills: a plausible social ontology which is not essentialist nor transhistorical but real
  • Three kinds of constructionism
    • Thin constructivism. Ordinary people ascribe racial membership to self-awareness, public awareness, bodily appearance, etc. It is thin because it is based on superficial features
    • Interactive constructionism. Racialization happens via a causal interaction between a person and racial labels or concepts. What joins blacks is not a set of physical characteristics, but rather a shared experience of being cognitviely identified as black.
    • Institutional construction. Labeling is conceptually or logically required; race is an important socially constructed institution.
  • Skeptics: using linguistic terms which refer to nothing is improper.
  • Mills: racial terms shorn of racialist implications may be necessary
  • DuBois: races are socio-cultural objects

IV. Racial Population Naturalism

  • Robin Andreasen, Philip Kitcher: defend racial naturalism as compatible with rejecting racialism
  • Races may be biological populations
  • Population thinking: identifying relevant biological groups by feature sof entire populations
  • Andreasan: defends cladism, populations situiated into phylogenetic tree
  • Philip Kitcher understands races as a reproductively isolated population lineage.
  • Kitcher: divisions of races might have biological significance, insofar as reproductive isolation might result
  • Appiah and Zack allow for the possibility that biological relevant human populations might exist, but the object of their skepticism is current large populations called “races”
  • No racial population has ever completely isolated from another – Zack
  • Is the one-drop rule necessary for the race concept ‘black’?
  • The real dispute is over what human populations there were and what should be labelled as ‘race’.
  • The disagreement is semantic rather than metaphysical.

V. Expanding the Ontological Consensus

  • Semantic strategy: beginning with different assumptions regarding the correct theory ofr eference
  • Generally wide agreeement metaphysically
    1. Racialism is false
    2. There are a variety of racial concepts in the US
    3. Ordinary people employ superficial criteria
    4. Application of racial concepts may causally affect persons
    5. Racial classification has had oppressive effects
    6. Historical reproductive distribution responsible for the isolation of certain superficial body features. …
  • Everyone picks out a different meaning of “race” – a different side of race

VI. Against the Semantic Strategy

  • Racial theorists have achieved alternative conclusions by making different assumptions about the correct semantics
  • The semantic strategy might send race metaphysics the wayside of philosophy of language
  • Should a semantically correct account of race dictate our use of race?
  • Yet there is significant disagreement about the normative use of race-talk
  • What do we want our racial concepts, terms, and practices to do?

Week 5: A Return to Racial Naturalism

“A Radical Solution to the Race Problem”, Quayshawn Spencer

  • Race picks out a biologically real entity
  • Human population groups form a “Blumenbach partition”


  • Race designates a biologically real entity
  • Using genetic clutering results, \(K = 5\) level of clustering.

The US Meaning of Race

  • People use ‘race’ in many different ways – what is the national meaning?
  • The US meaning of ‘race’ is just its referent
  • Americans know about census race groups, college applications, birth certificates, etc.
  • 93.8% of Americans identify themselves as one of five races.
  • The United States has no official language, but does have official racial discourse.
  • Racial discourse is controlled by the linguistic division of labor
  • What does the OMB pick out with ‘race’?
  • In the US, race is like a proper name
  • Is race an arbitrary set of population groups, or biologically real?

Race as a Human Population partition

  • A species has population structure when it has one or more partitions of populations
  • Genetic clustering analysis – nonrandom mating leaves behind a genetic trail
  • 4.3% of total human genetic variation si found by Blumenbach populations, but this is enough to have partitions.

Objections and replies

  • Races supposedly must satisfy certain conditions to be races, but Blumenbach populations don’t have to necessarily
  • Glasgow, ‘mismatch objoection’ – human genetic clusters do not reasonably overlpa with US racial groups
  • Human group differences can both be real and socially constructed.

Week 6: Racial Deflationism

“Deflating Race”, Lionel McPherson

  • The word “race” has been searching for a stable idea for hundreds of years – philosophy to biology, etc.
  • Is race witches and phlogiston?
  • Race means different things to different speakers
  • Can we rehabilitate a popular conception of race? Probably not
  • Instead, we should pursue socioancestral thinking.
  • There is too much “noise” with the ‘race’ signal. A master concept of race is unproductive.
  • Eliminativism: a racial skeptic for whom race talk is an error or even a lie, and that we should remove it from our vocabularies.
  • Deflationary pluralism: race talk is not necessarily an error. Maybe races do exist, or they don’t. Race signifies many different things; the “burden of a racist history” means we should let go of the race idea
  • “Race” is not reducible either to biology or continental ancestry.
  • There is no stable core to the race idea.

1 – A Very Brief History of the Race Idea

  • Francois Bernier, 1994: race as discrete human groups organized on skin color
  • Thin idea of race: race is only slightly more than skin deep
  • Physical differences of race are heritable
  • Race becomes less innocuous during the Enlightenment
  • Kant’s scientific spin on the race idea: species vs race, they are the same species but constitute different races
    • Climate science and such
    • Steven Pinker: the “dangerous idea of the next decade” – groups of people differ genetically
    • Is resistance to this kind of work merely ideological and antiscientific commitment to equality of persons?
  • Group differences pertain to statistical distributions, not to individuals.
  • No one disputes that certain physical characteristics are highly correlated with continental ancestry.
  • Why have race theorists been so preoccuppied with differences in intelligence? Biological determinism – behavioral norms and social/economic differences arise from biology.
    • Intervening in “natural inequality” would be futile
  • How might history yield a master concept for recognizing patterns of physical difference and racism? It was and is contested, which is why there is always eternal controversy over the word’s meaning.
  • Kant is the founding father of racial essentialism: physical difference patterns are a sign of uniform traits for cognitive differences
  • Racial essentialism is still the core of race

2 – Renewed Race Science

  • Some scientists and philosophers of science defend the notion of major human races biological
  • Few race theorists subscribe to core racial essentialism
  • Doub tabout significant cogntivie differences between races (Sesardic, Levin)
  • Ernst Mayr: race comes from taxonomy, the practice of classification
  • Taxonomic definition of ‘race’ is circular
  • Why are there so many “people of African descent” in the Olympics sprint finals? Are black sof athletically superior body and lesser mind.
  • Critique of Mayr’s subspecies concept: the notion of genetic distinction is subjective and arbitrary in taxonomy. There is no natural, objective criteria for drawing boundaries – what characteristics? WHat thresholds? etc.
  • The global economy has complicated population isolation
  • Philosophers of science try to improve upon conceptually naive taxonomies of human races
  • Philip Kitcher and Robin Andreasen – phylogenetic approach defining races as part of lineage
  • Vindicating the race idea through epidemiology?
  • Even a complex racial taxonomy perpetuates essentialist myths and confusions

3 – Constructing a meaning of race

  • Race is thickly real as a social kind of thing
  • Race is mainly a social construction.
  • Groups become races when nonbiological differences are tied to physical differences
  • So still: what is race, really? Sally Haslanger, there are competing theories of meaning applied to philosophy of language problems
  • Haslanger: the meaning of race arises from shared meanings. Our idea of race is not committed to a biological basis.

4 – Racial Pragmatism

  • Trying to sustain the race idea is going to sustain critical errors – “there is nothing that can do all that we ask ‘race’ to do for us”
  • Any account of substantial racial difference is lost without racial essences.
  • Appiah’s eliminativism renders racial identities hostage to belief in racial essences
  • Racial identities can be socially important
  • Cornel West: Du Bois is an American pragmatist
  • Racial groups were thought to be thick natural races, and they have been treated as such
  • Visible continental ancestry, not the race idea, is the root of the social reality of color consciousness
  • Deflationary approach: it all depends on what ‘race’ is taken to mean
  • Racial thinking remains unstable
  • There is no master meaning on the horizon

5 – Introducing Socioancestry

  • Skepticism about the race idea deos not entail rejecting color-conscious thinking
  • Racial identities can be important in resisting racism
  • Do not mistake racial identity as a species of cultural identity.
  • Black Americans might be better with a weaker attachment to their (incoherent) racial identity.
  • Reframing racial thinking as socioancestral thinking: socioancestral groups give rise to socioancestral identities, rathert han refusing to recognize color-conscious reality or racial identities.
  • Facts about continental ancestry do not necessarily mean things like one-drop, etc.

Week 7: …

“Current Conceptions of Racism: A Critical Examination of Some Recent Philosophy”, J. L. A. Garcia

Introduction: Problems of Method

  • Is there really such a thing as racism in a conceptually meaningful sense?
  • Conceptual inflationism
  • Are charges of racism like charges of communism in the McCarthy era
  • So what really is racism?
  • Conceptual work is rarely done and the results are unsatisactory
  • David Goldberg: two ways of addressing the nature of racism.
    • Purely conceptual: stipulate definitions on the basis of what they ought to signify
    • Historical: to lay out how terms have been used
    • Question – might these be inseparable notions?
  • Neither way is good enough for us. Stipulative deifnitions are not powerful for investigation. But also, a record of how people have applied a term does not tell us what people have meant by it.
  • What we want to discover is what we are saying about the things we apply to it.
  • “Racism” – employed historically in a variety of senses, does not mean there were different forms of racism. “Ontology does not so closely track semantics; lexicography is not taxonomy”
  • Different conditions for a conception of racism to meet social philosophy’s task of understanding social phenomena and determining their significance / value.
    • Clarify why racism is immoral, without trivializing this
    • Permit racism to be a feature of both individuals and institutions
    • Allow practices, actions, beliefs, goals, fears, etc. to be possibly racist things
    • Accomodate clear cases of racism from history and imagination, and excludes cases where it is absent
    • Remain internally consistent and free of unacceptable implications
    • Conform to our everyday discourse about racism
    • Be plausibly historic or continuous throught ime
    • Have a similar structure to antisemitism, xenophobia, etc.
  • Do these criteria betray Kantian / anti-Hegelian epistemic sympathies?
  • Banton and Miles:
    • Kantians, believe their observer can formulate theories explaining as many observations as possible.
    • Hegelians: understand that the observer is part of the world that he studies
  • No one really denies that the observer is part of the world they describe. Nor that “racism” ought to make sense of the background of the history as much as it can. These “more modest goals” are bettr than “grandiose talk” of understanding principles for a term’s development and the essence of historical relationships.
  • We can begin from the Kantian common elements of antisemitism and racism, while also understanding from the Hegelian perspective that they may serive different systemic functions.
  • Conflict between Afro-Caribbeans and Asians in Britain: Hegelian thinkers are often reluctant to call this racism, the explanatory significance is attached to the structural position of respective groups.
  • Racism can plainly have many causes
  • What those who invoke Hegel have in mind is historicist quasi-nominalism.
    • Time One: racism predicates one social phenomenon, P1
    • Time Two: racism predicate ssomethingly a little bit different, social phenomenon P2
    • Over time, a single term means many different things, different racisms of which share some features, but all of which concern racial inferiority. But because it evolved over time, we can’t say that there is a single simple constant meaning through time.
    • The quest to uncover the transhistorical nature of racism ends up becoming futile; it is ahistoricist and essentialist
  • Hegelian claim has some bite – this view does not contradict hte project here, though. We are considering how racism exists now.
    • Ok, this is not really fair from a Hegelian perspective. It’s important to understand how things change through time, but not to assert simple essences.
  • All we seek is to understand what racism is, but metaphysical language is sometimes needed.
  • This project does not make one into an essentialist, foundationalist, Platonist, etc. another “comparable bogeyman haunting the postmodernists’ fevered imaginations.”
  • Racism is not one thing, but two quite different and unrelated things.
  • Wittgenstein: do not nourish your thought on too restrict a diet of examples

1: Systemic and Social-Power Conceptions – Marable and Hacker

  • Perhaps racism can be identified with systems of social control
  • Racism is a system of ignorance used to oppress African-Americans, Latinos, Asians, … on the basis of ethnicity, culture, mannerisms, color
  • Subordination at a systemic level.
  • Drawbacks warrant its rejection
  • Appears to restrict all victims of racism to people who are not white
    • Sartre, “anti-racist racism”
  • Marable does not allow for unsuccessful racism, apolitical racism, or personal racism. Surely someone who espouses racism must have a sense of racism, even if they fail to contribute to the racist world-system.
  • It is absurd to think people become racists only when and if there exists a system of oppression (hm… maybe)
  • It would be absurd to think of antisemitism or even xenophobia in this way.
    • Is antisemitism a form of racism?
  • How might individuals’ affective responses be racist? How do they fit into the system. Desires, plans, fears, can be racist – because of what they are or come from, not because of their instrumental role in an oppressive system.
  • It is tempting to use ‘racism’ in a catch-all manner. But we need to be more fine-grained; it is more complex. It’s not merely whatever happens to work against the progress of disadvantaged racial groups. Racism is immoral, but not everything which works against racial progress is (conclusively immoral).
    • government has many legitimate goals
    • Racism is most useful as an analytical tool when it is reserved for factors which harm members because of their race.
    • Black disadvantage stems from racism: this should be explanatory, not merely a tautological statement.
  • Andrew Hacker, Coleman Young: racism should be attributed only to those who have the power to cause suffering. Whites cannot be the only racists; racism comes into full form only when it has an impact on the “real world”
  • The bitter, solitary bigot is still racist, even when they are powerless. Feelings, wishes, etc. are all racist
  • People are pitted together in a way which undermines community solidarity, etc.
  • Young: the powerless cannot be racists
  • Hacker: the powerless can be racist, but racism of the powerless is without significance
    • The powerless sometimes respond with antisemitism or xenophobia agains ta dominant group.
    • Racism should turn out to be structurally similar to these forms of intolerance
    • Even if racism is “significant” only when tied to power, why is contextual power excluded?
    • …and what about the moral significance? Why ought that to have any relation?
    • Hatred or contempt for “what they are” – interesting question here about racial essentialism. – because in a social constructionist analysis of race, you are not really actually any race.
    • Racial hatred impacts the ‘real world’. But why are powerless bigots “left off the hook” morally?
  • Another thesis: racism is possible only among the comparatively powerful, where an individual A treats B in a racist way only if A is in a situation of power over B.
  • Still, it excludes the solitary, impotent, and intolerant
  • Reply: well, it still matters: because the “solitary” and “impotent” are a structural part of the democratic system

2: A Doxastic Conception – Appiah

  • Doxastic understandings of racism. Racism is a belief, ideology, dogma, doctrine, or theory
  • Appiah: racism involves propositions and ispositions. Racism is both a tendency of racial prejudice to hold false propositions about the existence and moral significance of rsome races, even in the face of evidence which should lead one otherwise
    • This point might be pushed back upon. There is somehow an idea that the truth will reveal itself. but it actually takes a great labor to not be racist; and actually it is tied to socio-political-economic relationships, i.e. which people have access to the truth?
  • Racism vs racialism (view that there are heritable characteristics which contstitue races)
  • All forms of racism presuppose racism
  • Extrinsic and intrinsic racism
    • Extrinsic racists: make moral distinctions between members of different races because they belief racial essence entails certain morally relevant qualities. Honesty, courage, intelligence, etc.
    • Intrinsic racists: differentiate morally between members of different races, each race has a different moral status
  • Difficulties
    • Institutions?
    • Individuals’ desires, feelings, hopes, fears? how do these count if racism is purely dispositions to belief propositions?
    • Surely a racist must not necessarily need to make moral distinctions across races
    • not clear why Appiah thinks it is essential that racists hold their beliefs in an irrational way
  • Appiah refrains from moral condemnations of people who believe certain propositions.
  • is someone who holds dangerous beliefs a bad person? What is personhood except for that which you believe?
  • Plato’s “city in speech” in The Republic – its citizens are told the noble lie that the golden race are the most honored.
  • Prejudice distinguishes the real racist from the propositional racist – racism is not merely a matter of beliefs but also the mode of belief
    • Real racists have a deformation of rationality; prejudice makes them resistant to rational dissuasion from their racial beliefs
  • Interests and self-image: a connection to see oneself as moral despite one’s racism
  • Appiah is careful not to morally blame even the real racist – are they responsible for the fact that they are bad? (… this discussion seems very unnuanced…)
    • This is unacceptable because any accoutn of racism must explain why someone or something is racist, and to criticize them for it morally.
    • Someone’s racial prejudice is open to moral criticism
    • Beliefs are of moral interest for their work in rationalizing prior racist conservative attitudes.
  • What is important is not the epistemic dimension but the moral dimension.
  • Black nationalists and other advocates of racial solidarity are intrinsic racists. If we are reluctant to call a group racist because their racial beliefs are disconnected from desire to harm, this shows that we think antipathy is essential to racism.
  • Discourse of racial soolidarity is usually expressed through the language of intrinsic racism
  • Racism is vicious, not fellow-feeling.
  • We need a further distinction of intrinsic racism between the strong view that differential treatment is morally required and the weak view that it is merely orally permissible.
  • Morality may still allow “favoritism”

page. 15

Week 8: Responses to Volitional and Institutional Accounts

“Heart Attack: A Critique of Jorge Garcia’s Volitional Conception of Racism”

  • Garcia shifts the framework from the sociopolitical to the ethical and analyzes racism as a vice
  • Account is non-revisionist, non-doxastic, volitional, and moralized
  • Garcia’s argument is in fact revisionist and does not satisfy all of these criteria.
  • Left-wing structural analyses are superior.


  • “The Heart of Racism” – distinctive and original analysis of racism.
  • Garcia has taken on many opponents in the field.
  • Garcia is one of the few conservatives in the black philosophical community.
  • Contests cozy left consenses.
  • Garcia offers a volitional, non-doxastic analysis of racism: racism as prmiarily a matter of ill will.
  • The “heart” of racism is a matter of the heart
  • Structural / holistic accounts which focus on power are erroneous.
  • Garcia’s accoutn is moralized. Racism is always morally wrong
  • Racism is above all a vice.
  • Explanation of white racism vs. white supremacy
  • Garcia’s accoutn is fundamentally misguided
  • Dispute is largely ideological, arising from different theoretical commitments.

1: A Non-Revisionist Account

  • Definitions can be divided into revisionist and non-revisionist
  • Garcia claims to offer a definition of racism which is non-revisionist
  • Garcia is doing the traditional analytic-philosophical task of under-laborer: clearing up unclarities, making explicit implicit commitments which have been there all along.
  • Citing examples of “classification errors”
  • Some of Garcia’s conditions shift the frame of neutrality
  • Reflect’s Garcia’s conviction that racism is basically a vice.
  • Why should racism have a similar structure to homophobia, antisemitism, xenophobia?
  • Sexism doesn’t have to include ill will

2: A Non-Doxastic Account

  • Belief is not essential to racism, since racism is in the heart a matter of ill will
  • Volitional-emotive vs. cogntiive-doxastic.
  • How is “will” used?
  • What is really ‘volitional”?
  • Quine

“Is Racism in the Heart?”, Tommie Shelby

  • Jorge Garcia, volitional concept of racism
  • Racism is rooted in noncognitive attitudes, motives and feelings
  • Racism is a “vicious kind of racially based disregard for the welfare of certain people”
  • Racism involves the heart of the racist: wants, intentions, hopes, fears, etc.
  • Immorality of racism stems from its bieng opposed to benevolence and justice
  • Racism is an individual moral vice
  • “Infection” model of racism: an act is racist insofar as a racist heart infects the conduct of the racist

Methodological Considerations

  • Garcia thinks racism is necessarily wrong
  • A sociological or historical account does not need to make clear waht is wrong with racism
  • Garcia artificially limits the discussion of racism to moral and philosophical, which is itself an unreasonable requirement.
  • Garcia assumes the usefulness of the commonsense thick concept of “racism”
  • Garcia seeks to preserve the “descriptive core” and “condemnatory force” of the concept
  • Doesn’t work when
    • The phenomenon is not clearly wrong
    • Ordinary use of the concept is too vague and inconsistent
  • It is not clear at wall what racism even means.
  • “Racism” has strong emotive force but little clear content.
  • We should remain about he nature of the tterm racism fornow
  • Racism is always wrong – this should be a concluision
  • Or… you can just stipulate racism is immoral, in which race “racism” functions as a condemnatory role.
  • Alternative to thick or stipulative approaches

The Role of Racist Beliefs

  • Garcia: racist beliefs are seconadary and inessential
  • Racist beliefs are essential to and sufficient for racism
  • Whya re people racists? They ahve been socialized into a racist culture
  • Racist beliefs are central to an analysis of racism
  • Racism is fundamentally a kind of ideology
  • Ideologies are epistemically unsound and irationalily held.
  • Garcia rejects belief-centered accounts of racism because he is committed to the immorality requirement
    • Iss and eue: category mistake (beliefs cannot be immoral) and incompatibility with freedom of thougthxpression

Is a Racist Heart Essential?

  • No.

Week 9: Narrow-Scope “Racism”

“I’m not a Racist, But…”: The Moral Quandary of Race, Lawrence Blum

“Racism”: Its Core Meaning

  • Most Americans wish to avoid being called racist
  • Has the word racism been deflated?
  • Not all racial incidents are racist incidents
  • “Racism” – denying dignity to “any human group”???
  • Inflated use ofr acism pays some kind of indirect tribute to racial oppression, but is part of a proliferation of isms.

“Racism”: A History

  • “Racism”: used by European social scientists int he 1930s to characterize and condemn the Nazi belief system
  • Nazi belief system posited the superiority of the Aryan race over lesser races.
  • Postwar release of information about Nazi atrocities intensified the revulsion attached to racism.
  • American slavery retroactively contributes to a negative moral atmosphere around the term
  • Originally, racism was not an articulation of prejudice but a full-blown system of thought.
  • But “racism” is no longer limited to a system of belief in racial inferiority
  • “White racism” – a central organizing idea in the Kerner Commission Report
  • “Institutional racism”

Defining “Racism”

  • Two paradigms of racism: inferiorization and antipathy
    • Inferiorization: linked to histrocial racist doctrine and racist social systems
    • Antipathy: racial bigotry, hostility, hatred
  • Three general categories
    • Personal racism
    • Social racism
    • Institutional racism

Racial Prejudice

  • Clarify the antipathy paradigm for persoanl racism
  • Prejudice, prejudging
  • Faulty and inflexible generalization

Categroial Drift

  • Confusion, undifferentiated use upon different entities: beliefs, acts, attitude, statements, persons, etc.