Phil.1450.Appiah - Kwame Anthony Appiah If the people I...

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Unformatted text preview: Kwame Anthony Appiah If the people I talk to and the newspapers I read are representative and reliable, there is a good deal of racism about. People and policies in the United States, in Eastern and Western Europe, in Asia and Africa and Latin America are regu- larly described as “racist.” Australia had, until recently, a racist immigration policy; Britain still has one; racism is on the rise in France; many Israelis support Meir Kahane, an anti— Arab racist; many Arabs, according to a leading authority, are anti—Semitic racists;l and the movement to establish English as the “official language” of the United States is motivated by racism. Or, at least, so many of the people I talk to, and many of the journalists with the news— papers I read, believe. But visitors from lVIars — or from NIalawi — unfamiliar with the Western concept of racism could be excused if they had some difficulty in identifying what exactly racism was. We see it everywhere, but rarely does anyone stop to say what it is, or to explain what is wrong with it. Our visitors from Mars would soon grasp that it had become at least conventional in recent years to express abhorrence for racism. They might even notice that those most often accused of it — members of the South African Nationalist party, for example — may officially abhor it also. But if they sought in the popular media of our day 7 in newspapers and magazines, on television or radio, in novels or films — for an explicit definition of this thing “we” all abhor, it is very likely they would be disap— pointed. Now, of course, this would be true ofmany of our most familiar concepts. Sister, their, tomato — none of these gets defined in the course of our daily business. But the concept of racism is in worse shape than these. For much of what we say about it is, on the face ofit, inconsistent. It is, for example, held by many to be racist to refuse entry to a university to an otherwise quali— fied “Negro” candidate, but not to be so to refuse entry to an equally qualified “Caucasian” one. But “Negro” and “Caucasian” are both alleged to be names of races, and invidious dis— crimination on the basis ofrace is usually held to be a paradigm case of racism. Or, to take another example, it is widely believed to be evidence of an unacceptable racism to exclude people from clubs on the basis of race; yet most people, even those who think of “Jewish” as a racial term, seem to think that there is nothing wrong with Jewish clubs, whose members do not share any particular religious beliefs, or Afro— American societies, whose members share the juridical characteristic of American citizenship and the “racial” characteristic of being black. I say that these are inconsistencies “on the face of it,” because, for example, affirmative action in university admissions is importantly different from the earlier refusal to admit blacks or Jews (or other “Others”) that it is meant, in part, to correct. Deep enough analysis may reveal it to be Sexualand Radaleennnnafion quite consistent with the abhorrence of racism; even a shallow analysis suggests that it is intended to be so. Similarly, justifications can be offered for “racial” associations in a plural society that are not available for the racial exclu— sivism of the country club. But if we take racism seriously we ought to be concerned about the adequacy of these justifications. In this essay, then, I propose to take our ordinary ways of thinking about race and racism and point up some of their presuppositions. And since popular concepts are, of course, usu- ally fairly fuzzin and untheoretically conceived, much of what I have to say will seem to be both more theoretically and more precisely commit— ted than the talk of racism and racists in our newspapers and on television. My claim is that these theoretical claims are required to make sense of racism as the practice of reasoning human beings. If anyone were to suggest that much, perhaps most, of what goes under the name “racism” in our world cannot be given such a rationalized foundation, I should not disagree; but to the extent that a practice cannot be rationally reconstructed it ought, surely, to be given up by reasonable people. The right tactic with racism, if you really want to oppose it, is to object to it rationally in the form in which it stands the best chance of meeting ob— jections. The doctrines I want to discuss can be rationally articulated; and they are worth articu— lating rationally in order that we can rationally say what we object to in them. Racist Propositions There are at least three distinct doctrines that might be held to express the theoretical content of what we call “racism.” One is the View 7 which I shall call run-afist 7 that there are heritable characteristics, possessed by members of our species, that allow us to divide them into a small set of races, in such a way that all the members of these races share certain traits and tendencies with each other that they do not share with members of any other race. These traits and tendencies characteristic of a race constitute, on the racialist view, a sort of racial essence; and it is part of the content of racialism @ that the essential heritable characteristics of what the nineteenth century called the “Races of Man” account for more than the visible mor— phological characteristics — skin color, hair type, facial features 7 on the basis of which we make our informal classifications. Racialism is at the heart of nineteenth—century Western attempts to develop a science of racial difference; but it appears to have been believed by others —— for example, Hegel, before then, and many in other parts of the non—Western world since 7 who have had no interest in developing scientific theories. Racialism is not, in itself, a doctrine that must be dangerous, even if the racial essence is thought to entail moral and intellectual dispos— itions. Provided positive moral qualities are dis— tributed across the races, each can be respected, can have its “separate but equal" place. Unlike most Western—educated people, I believe — and I have argued elsewhere} — that racialism is false; but by itself, it seems to be a cognitive rather than a moral problem. The issue is how the world is, not how we would want it to be. Racialism is, however, a presupposition of other doctrines that have been called “racism,” and these other doctrines have been, in the last few centuries, the basis of a great deal of human suffering and the source of a great deal of moral error. One such doctrine we might call “extrinsic racism": extrinsic racists make moral distinc— tions between members of different races be— cause they bclime that the racial essence entails certain morally relevant qualities. The basis for the extrinsic racists’ discrimination between people is their belief that members of different races differ in respects that warrant the differ— ential treatment, respects 7 such as honesty or courage or intelligence that are uncontrover- sially held (at least in most contemporary cul— tures) to be acceptable as a basis for treating people differently. Evidence that there are no such differences in morally relevant characteris— tics — that Negroes do not necessarily lack intel— lectual capacities, that Jews are not especially avaricious — should thus lead people out of their racism if it is purely extrinsic. As we know, such evidence often fails to change an extrinsic racist‘s attitudes substantially, for some of the extrinsic racist’s best friends have always been JeWish. But at this point -~ ifthe racist is sincere a what we have is no longer a false doctrine but a cognitive incapacity, one whose significance I shall discuss later in this essay. I say that the sincere extrinsic racist may suffer from a cognitive incapacity. But some who espouse extrinsic racist doctrines are simply insincere intrinsic racists. For intrinsic matrix, on my definition, are people who differ— entiate morally between members of different races because they believe that each race has a different moral status, quite independent of the moral characteristics entailed by its racial es— sence. Just as, for example, many people assume that the fact that they are biologically related to another person — a brother, an aunt, a cousin — gives them a moral interest in that person,“1 so an intrinsic racist holds that the bare fact of being of the same race is a reason for preferring one person to another. (I shall return to this parallel later well.) For an intrinsic racist, no amount of evidence that a member of another race is capable of great moral, intellectual, or cultural achievements, or has characteristics that, in members ofone’s own race, would make them admirable or attractive, offers any ground for treating that person as he or she would treat similarly endowed members of his or her own race. Just so, some sexists are "‘intrinsic sexists," holding that the bare fact that someone is a woman (or man) is a reason for treating her (or him) in certain ways. There are interesting possibilities for compli— cating these distinctions: some racists, for example, claim, as the Mormons once did, that they discriminate between people because they believe that God requires them to do so, Is this an extrinsic racism, predicated on the combin— ation of God‘s being an intrinsic racist and the beliefthat it is right to do what God wills? Or is it intrinsic racism because it is based on the belief that God requires these discriminations because they are right? (Is an act pious because the gods love it, or do they love it because it is pious?) Nevertheless, the distinctions between racialism and racism and between two potentially overlap— ping kinds of racism provide us with the skeleton of an anatomy of the propositional contents of racial attitudes. Radsms Racist Dispositions Most people will want to object already that this discussion of the propositional content of racist moral and factual beliefs misses something ab— solutely crucial to the character of the psycho— logical and sociological reality of racism, something I touched on when I mentioned that extrinsic racist utterances are often made by people who suffer from what I called a “cog— nitive incapacity.” Part of the standard force of accusations of racism is that their objects are in some way irrational. The objection to Professor Shoekley’s claims about the intelligence of blacks is not just that they are false; it is rather that Professor Shockley seems, like many people we call “racist,” to be unable to see that the evidence does not support his factual claims and that the connection between his factual claims and his policy prescriptions involves a series of non sequiturs. What makes these cognitive incapacities es— pecially troubling — something we should respond to with more than a recommendation that the individual, Professor Shockley, be offered psychotherapy 7 is that they conform to a certain pattern: namely, that it is especial— ly where beliefs and policies are to the dis— advantage of nonwhite people that he shows the sorts of disturbing failure that have made his views both notorious and notoriously unreliable. Indeed, Professor Shockley’s reason— ing works extremely well in some other areas: that he is a Nobel Laureate in physics is part of what makes him so interesting an example. This cognitive incapacity is not, of course, a rare one. Many of us are unable to give up beliefs that play a part in justifying the special advantages we gain (or hope to gain) from our positions in the social order 7 in particular, beliefs about the positive characters of the class of people who share that position. Many people who express extrinsic racist beliefs — many white South Africans, for example — are beneficiaries of social orders that deliver advan— tages to them by virtue of their “race,” so that their disinclination to accept evidence that would deprive them ofa justification for those @ Sexual and Racial Discrimination advantages is just an instance of this general phenomenon. So too, evidence that access to higher educa— tion is as largely determined by the quality of our earlier educations as by our own innate talents, does not, on the whole, undermine the confidence of college entrants from private schools in England or the United States or Ghana. Many of them continue to believe in the face of this evidence that their acceptance at “good” universities shows them to be intel— lectually better endowed (and not just better prepared) than those who are rejected. It is facts such as these that give sense to the notion of false consciousness, the idea that an ideology can prevent us from acknowledging facts that would threaten our position. The most interesting cases of this sort of ideological resistance to the truth are not, per— haps, the ones I have just mentioned. On the whole, it is less surprising, once we accept the admittedly problematic notion of self—decep— tion, that people who think that certain attitudes or beliefs advantage them or those they care about should be able, as we say, to “persuade” themselves to ignore evidence that undermines those beliefs or attitudes. What is more interest— ing is the existence of people who resist the truth of a proposition while thinking that its wider acceptance would in no way disadvantage them or those individuals about whom they care 7 this might be thought to describe Professor Shockley; or who resist the truth when they recognize that its acceptance would actually ad- vantage them — this might be the case with some black people who have internalized negative racist stereotypes; or who fail, by virtue of their ideological attachments, to recognize what is in their own best interests at all. My business here is not with the psycho— logical or social processes by which these forms of ideological resistance operate, but it is important, I think, to see the refusal on the part of some extrinsic racists to accept evidence against the beliefs as an instance of a widespread phenomenon in human affairs. It is a plain fact, to which theories of ideology must address themselves, that our species is prone both mor— ally and intellectually to such distortions of judgment, in particular to distortions of judg— @ ment that reflect partiality. An inability to change your mind in the face of appropriate5 evidence is a cognitive incapacity: but it is one that all of us surely suffer from in some areas of belief; especially in areas where our own inter— ests or self—images are (or seem to be) at stake. It is not, however, as some have held, a ten— dency that we are powerless to resist. No one, no doubt, can be impartial about everything 7 even about everything to which the notion of partiality applies; but there is no subject matter about which most sane people cannot, in the end, be persuaded to avoid partiality in judg- ment. And it may help to shake the convictions of those whose incapacity derives from this sort of ideological defense if we show them how their reaction fits into this general pattern. It is, indeed, because it generally does fit this pat— tern that we call such views “racism” 7 the suffix “—ism” indicating that what we have in mind is not simply a theory but an ideology. It would be odd to call someone brought up in a remote corner of the world with false and demeaning views about white people a “racist” if that person gave up these beliefs quite easily in the face of appropriate evidence. Real live racists, then, exhibit a systematically distorted rationality, the kind of systematically distorted rationality that we are likely to call “ideological.” And it is a distortion that is espe— cially striking in the cognitive domain: extrinsic racists, as I said earlier, however intelligent or otherwise well informed, often fail to treat evi— dence against the theoretical propositions of extrinsic racism dispassionately. Like extrinsic racism, intrinsic racism can also often be seen as ideological; but since scientific evidence is not going to settle the issue, a failure to see that it is wrong represents a cognitive incapacity only on controversially realist views about morality. What makes intrinsic racism similarly ideo— logical is not so much the failure of inductive 0r deductive rationality that is so striking in someone like Professor Shockley but rather the connection that it, like extrinsic racism, has with the interests 7 real or perceived 7 of the dominant groupf' Shockley’s racism is in a cer— tain sense directed against nonwhite people: many believe that his views would, if accepted, operate against their objective interests, and he certainly presents the black “race” in a less than flattering light. I propose to use the old—fashioned term “racial prejudice” in the rest of this essay to refer to the deformation of rationality in judg— ment that characterizes those whose racism is more than a theoretical attachment to certain propositions about race. Racial Prejudice It is hardly necessary to raise objections to what I am calling “racial prejudice”; someone who exhibits such deformations of rationality is plainly in trouble. But it is important to remem— ber that propositional racists in a racist culture have false moral beliefs but may not suffer from racial prejudice. Once we show them how soci— ety has enforced extrinsic racist stereotypes, once we ask them whether they really believe that race in itself, independently of those ex— trinsic racist beliefs, justifies differential treatn merit, many will come to give up racist propositions, although we must remember how powerful a weight of authority our arguments have to overcome. Reasonable people may insist on substantial evidence if they are to give up beliefs that are central to their cultures. Still, in the end, many will resist such reasoning; and to the extent that their preju— dices are really not subject to any kind of rational control, we may wonder whether it is right to treat Such people as morally responsible for the acts their racial prejudice motivates, or morally reprehensible for holding the views to which their prejudice leads them. It is a bad thing that such people exist; they are, in a certain sense, bad people. But it is not clear to me that they are responsible for the fact that they are bad. Racial prejudice, like prejudice gener— ally, may threaten an agent’s autonomy, making it appropriate to treat or train rather than to reason with them. But once someone has bcen offered evidence both (1) that their reasoning in a certain domain is distorted by prejudice, and (2) that the dis— tortions conform to a pattern that suggests a lack of impartiality, they ought to take special care in articulating views and proposing policies Racisms in that domain. They ought to do so because, as I have already said, the phenomenon of partial- ity in judgment is well attested in human affairs. Even if you are not immediately persuaded that you are yourself a victim of such a distorted rationality in a certain domain, you should keep in mind always that this is the usual pos- ition of those who suffer from such prejudices. To the extent that this line of thought is not one that itself falls within the domain in question, one can be held responsible for not subjecting judgments that are within that domain to an especially extended scrutiny; and this is a flir— ti'urz' true if the policies one is recommending are plainly of enormous consequence. If it is clear that racial prejudice is regret- table, it is also clear in the nature of the case that providing even a superabundance of reasons and evidence will often not be a successful way of removing it. Nevertheless, the racist’s prejudice will be articulated through the sorts of theoret— ical propositions I dubbed extrinsic and intrin— sic racism. And we should certainly be able to say something reasonable about why these the— oretical propositions should be rejected. Part of the reason that this is worth doing is precisely the fact that many of those who assent to the propositional content of racism do not suffer from racial prejudice. In a country like the United States, where racist propositions were once part of the national ideology, there will be many who assent to racist propositions simply because they were raised to do so. Ra— tional objection to racist propositions has a fair chance of changing such people’s beliefs. Extrinsic and Intrinsic Racism It is not always clear whether someone’s theor— etical racism is intrinsic or extrinsic, and there is certainly no reason why we should expect to be able to settle the question. Since the issue prob- ably never occurs to most people in these terms, we cannot suppose that they must have an answer. In fact, given the definition of the terms I offered, there is nothing barring some— one from being both an intrinsic and an extrin— sic racist, holding both that the bare fact of race provides a basis for treating members of his or @ Sexual and Racial Discrimination her own race differently from others and that there are morally relevant characteristics that are differentially distributed among the races. Indeed, for reasons I shall discuss in a moment, mast intrinsic racists are likely to express extrin— sic racist beliefs, so that we should not be sur— prised that many people seem, in fact, to be committed to both forms of racism. The Holocaust made unreservedly clear the threat that racism poses to human decency. But it also blurred our thinking because in focusing our attention on the racist character of the Nazi atrocities, it obscured their character as atroci— ties. What is appalling about Nazi racism is not just that it presupposes, as all racism does, false (racialist) beliefs r not simply that it involves a moral incapacity (the inability to extend our moral sentiments to all our fellow creatures) and a moral failing (the making of moral dis— tinctions without moral differences) 7 but that it leads, first, to oppression and then to mass slaughter. In recent. years, South African racism has had a similar distorting effect. For although South African racism has not led to killings on the scale of the Holocaust - even if it has both left South Africa judicially executing more (mostly black) people per head of population than most other countries and led to massive differences between the life chances of white and nonwhite South Africans — it has led to the systematic oppression and economic ex— ploitation of people who are not classified as “white,” and to the infliction of suffering on citizens of all racial classifications, not least by the police state that is required to maintain that exploitation and oppression. Part ofour resistance, therefore, to calling the racial ideas of those, such as the Black National— ists of the 1960s, \vho advocate racial solidarity, by the same term that we use to describe the attitudes of Nazis or of members of the South African Nationalist party, surely resides in the fact that they largely did not contemplate using race as a basis for inflicting harm. Indeed, it seems to me that there is a significant pattern in the modern rhetoric of race, such that the discourse of racial solidarity is usually expressed through the language of imrinsir racism, while those who have used race as the basis for oppression and hatred have appealed to extrinsic racist ideas. This @ point is important for understanding the charac— ter of contemporary racial attitudes. The two major uses of race as a basis for moral solidarity that are most familiar in the West are varieties of Pan—Africanism and Zion— ism. In each case it is presupposed that a “people,” Negroes or Jews, has the basis for shared political life in the fact of being of the same race. There are varieties of each form of “nationalism” that make the basis lie in shared traditions; but however plausible this may be in the case of Zionism, which has in Judaism, the religion, a realistic candidate for a common and nonracial focus for nationality, the peoples of Africa have a good deal less in common cultur- ally than is usually assumed. I discuss this issue at length in In .My Father’s House: Essays in the Philosophy}! ofAfriran Cult-are, but let me say here that I believe the central fact is this: what blacks in the West, like secularized Jews, have mostly in common is that they are perceived — both by themselves and by others 7 as belonging to the same race, and that this common race is used by others as the basis for discriminating against them. “If you ever forget you’re aJew, a goy will remind you.” The Black Nationalists, like some Zionists, responded to their experi— ence of racial discrimination by accepting the racialism it presupposed.7 Although race is indeed at the heart of Black Nationalism, however, it seems that it is the fact of a shared race, not the fact of a shared racial character, that provides the basis for solidarity. Where racism is implicated in the basis for national solidarity, it is intrinsic, not (or not only} estrinsic. It is this that makes the idea of fraternity one that is naturally applied in nation- alist discourse. For, as I have already observed, the moral status of close family members is not normally thought of in most cultures as depending on qualities of character: we are sup— posed to love our brothers and sisters in spite of their faults and not because of their virtues. Alexander Crummell, one of the founding fathers of Black Nationalism, literalizcs the metaphor of family in these startling words: Races, like families, are the organisms and ordinances of God: and race feeling, like family feeling, is of divine origin. The ex— tinction of race feeling is just as possible as the extinction of family feeling. Indeed, a race is a family.8 It is the assimilation of “race feeling” to “family feeling” that makes intrinsic racism seem so much less objectionable than extrinsic racism. For this metaphorical identification re— flects the fact that, in the modern world (unlike the nineteenth century), intrinsic racism is ac— knowledged almost exclusively as the basis of feelings of community. We can surely, then, share a sense of what Crummell’s friend and cry—worker Edward Blyden called “the poetry of politics," that is, “the feeling of race,” the feeling of “people with whom we are con— nected.”9 The racism here is the basis of acts of supererogation, the treatment of others better than we otherwise might, better than moral duty demands of us. This is a contingent fact. There is no logical impossibility in the idea of racialists whose moral beliefs lead them to feelings of hatred for other races while leaving no room for love of members of their own. Nevertheless most racial hatred is in fact expressed through extrin— sic racism: most people who have used race as the basis for causing harm to others have felt the need to see the others as independently morallv 'flawcd. It is one thing to espouse fraternity without claiming that your brothers and sisters have any special qualities that deserve recogni— tion, and another to espouse hatred of others who have done nothing to deserve it") Many Afrikaners i like many in the Ameri— can South until recently — have a long list of extrinsic racist answers to the question why blacks should not have full civil rights. Extrinsic racism has usually been the basis for treating people worse than we otherwise might, for giving them less than their humanity entitles them to. But this too is a contingent fact. Indeed, Crummell’s guarded respect for white people derived from a belief in the superior moral qualities of the Anglo-Saxon race. Intrinsic racism is, in my view, a moral error. Even if racialism were correct, the bare fact that someone was of another race would be no reason to treat them worse — or better — than someone ofmy race. In our public lives, people are owed Racisms treatment independently of their biological characters: if they are to be differently treated there must be some morally relevant difference between them. In our private lives, we are mor— ally free to have aesthetic preferences between people, but once our treatment of people raises moral issues, we may not make arbitrary dis— tinctions. Using race in itself as a morally rele— vant distinction strikes most of us as obviously arbitrary. Without associated moral characteris— tics, why should race provide a better basis than hair color or height or timbre of voice? And if two people share all the properties morally rele- vant to some action we ought to do, it will be an error — a failure to apply the Kantian injunction to universalize our moral judgments — to use the bare facts of race as the basis for treating them differently. No one should deny that a common ancestry might, in particular cases, account for similarities in moral character. But then it would be the moral similarities that justified the different treatment. It is presumably because most people 7 out— side the South African Nationalist Party and the Ku Klux Klan — share the sense that intrinsic racism requires arbitrary distinctions that they are largely unwilling to express it in situations that invite moral criticism. But I do not know how I would argue with someone who was willing to announce an intrinsic racism as a basic moral idea: the best one can do, perhaps, is to provide objections to possible lines of de— fense of it. De Gustibus It might be thought that intrinsic racism should be regarded not so much as an adherence to a (moral) proposition as the expression ofa taste, analogous, say, to the food prejudice that makes most English people unwilling to eat horse meat, and most Westerners unwilling to eat the insect grubs that the lKung people find so appetizing. The analogy does at least this much for us, namely, to provide a model of the way that current: racist propositions can be a reflec— tion of an underlying prejudice. For, of course, in most cultures food prejudices are rational— ized: we say insects are unhygienic and cats taste @ Sexual and Racial Discrimination horrible. Yet a cooked insect is no more health- threatening than a cooked carrot, and the un— pleasant taste of eat meat, far from justifying our preiudice against it, probably derives from that preiudice. But there the usefulness of the analogy ends. For intrinsic racism, as I have defined it, is not simply a taste for the company of one’s “own kind,” but a moral doctrine, one that is sup— posed to underlie differences in the treatment of people in contexts where moral evaluation is appropriate. And for moral distinctions we cannot accept that “de gustibus non est dispu- tandum.” W’e do not need the full apparatus of Kantian ethics to require that public morality be constrained by reason. A proper analogy would be with someone who thought that we could continue to kill cattle for beef, even if cattle exercised all the complex cultural skills ofhuman beings. I think it is obvious that creatures that shared our cap— acity for understanding as well as our capacity for pain should not be treated the way we actu- ally treat cattle 7 that “intrinsic speciesism“ would be as wrong as racism. And the fact that most people think it is worse to be cruel to chimpanzees than to frogs suggests that they may agree with me. The distinction in attitudes surely reflects a belief in the greater richness of the mental life of chimps. Still, I do not know h0w I would argue against someone who could not see this; someone who continued to act on the contrary belief might, in the end, simply have to be locked up. The Family Model I have suggested that intrinsic racism is, at least sometimes, a metaphorical extension of the moral priority of one‘s family: it might, there— fore, be suggested that a defense of intrinsic racism could proceed along the same lines as a defense of the family as a center of moral inter— est. The possibility of a defense of family rela— tions as morally relevant — or, more precisely, of the claim that one may be morally entitled (or even obliged) to make distinctions between two otherwise morally indistinguishable people be— cause one is related to one and not to the other 7 @ is theoretically important for the prospects of a philosophical defense of intrinsic racism. This is because such a defense of the family involves ‘ like intrinsic racism — a denial of the basic claim, expressed so clearly by Kant, that from the perspective of morality, it is as rational agents simpliciter that we are to assess and be assessed. For anyone who follows Kant in this, what matters, as we might say, is not who you are but how you try to live. Intrinsic racism denies this fundamental claim also. And, in so doing, as I have argued elsewhere, it runs against the mainstream of the history of Western moral theory.11 The importance of drawing attention to the similarities between the defense of the family and the defense of the race, then, is not merely that the metaphor of family is often invoked by racism; it is that each of them offers the same general challenge to the Kantian stream of our moral thought. And the parallel with the de— fense of the family should be especially appealing to an intrinsic racist, since many of us who have little time for racism would hope that the family is susceptible to some such de— fense. The problem in generalizing the defense of the family, however, is that such defenses stan— dardly begin at a point that makes the argument for intrinsic racism immediately implausible: namely, with the family as the unit through which we live what is most intimate, as the center of private life. If we distinguish, with Bernard Williams, between ethical thought, which takes seriously “the demands, needs, claims, desires, and generally, the lives of other people,"12 and morality, which focuses more narrowly on obligation, it may well be that private life matters to us precisely because it is altogether unsuited to the universalizing tendencies of morality. The functioning family unit has contracted substantially with industrialization, the disap— pearance ofthe family as the unit of production, and the increasing mobility of labor, but there remains that irreducible minimum: the parent or parents with the child or children. In this “nuclear” family, there is, of course, a substan— tial body of shared experience, shared attitudes, shared knowledge and beliefs; and the mutual psychological investment that exists within this group is, for most of us, one of the things that gives meaning to our lives. It is a natural enough confusion 7 which we find again and again in discussions of adoption in the popular media — that identifies the relevant group with the bio— logical unit of genitor, generrix, and offspring rather than with the social unit of those who share a common domestic life. The relations of parents and their biological chiidren are of moral importance, of course, in part because children are standardly the product of behavior voluntarily undertaken by their bio— logical parents. But the moral relations between biological siblings and half-siblings cannot, as I have already pointed out, be accounted for in such terms. A rational defense of the family ought to appeal to the causal responsibility of the biological parent and the common life of the domestic unit, and not to the brute fact of biological relatedness, even if the former pair of considerations defines groups that are often coextensive with the groups generated by the latter. For brute biological relatedness bears no necessary connection to the sorts ofhuman pur— poses that seem likely to be relevant at the most basic level of ethical thought. An argument that such a central group is bound to be crucially important in the lives of most human beings in societies like ours is not, of course, an argument for any specific mode of organization of the “family”: feminism and the gay liberation movement have offered candidate groups that could (and sometimes do) occupy the same sort of role in the lives of those whose sexualities or whose dispositions otherwise make the nuclear family uncongenial; and these candidates have been offered specifically in the course of defenses of a move toward societies that are agreeably beyond patriarchy and homophobia. The central thought of these feminist and gay critiques of the nuclear family is that we cannot continue to view any one organization of private life as “natural,” once we have seen even the broadest outlines of the archaeology of the family concept. If that is right, then the argument for the family must be an argument for a mode of organization of life and feeling that subserves certain positiw functions; and however the Racisms details of such an argument would proceed it is highly unlikely that the same functions could be served by groups on the scale of races, simply because, as I say, the family is attractive in part exactly for reasons of its personal scale. I need hardly say that rational defenses of intrinsic racism along the lines I have been considering are not easily found. In the absence of detailed defenses to consider, I can only offer these general reasons for doubting that they can succeed: the generally Kantian tenor of much of our moral thought threatens the project from the start; and the essentially unintimate nature of relations within “races” suggests that there is little prospect that the defense of the family — which seems an attractive and plausible project that extends ethical life beyond the narrow range of a universalizing morality — can be ap— plied to a defense of races. Conclusions I have suggested that what we. call “racism” involves both propositions and dispositions. The propositions were, first, that there are races (this was rrit‘ial'ism) and, second, that these races are morally significant either (a) because they are contingently correlated with morally relevant properties (this was attrimir racism) or (b) because they are intrinsically morally signifi— cant (this was i'mrz'nsir rarzsm). The disposition was a tendency to assent to false propositions, both moral and theoretical, about races — propositions that support policies or beliefs that are to the disadvantage of some race (or races) as opposed to others, and to do so €\CEI in the face of evidence and argument that should appropriately lead to giving those prop— ositions up. This disposition I callet “racial prejudice.” I suggested that intrinsic racism had tended in our own time to be the natural expression of feelings of community, and this is, of course, one of the reasons why we are not inclined to call it racist. For, to the extent that a theoretical position is not associated with irrationally held beliefs that tend to the disadvantage of some group, it fails to display the dirt’rfcdm'sx of the distortions of rationalin characteristic of racial @ Warning Concerning Copyright Restrictions The c0pyright law of the United States (Title '17, United States Code) governs the making of photocopies or other reproductions of copyrighted material. Under certain conditions specified in the law, libraries and archives are authorized to furnish a photOCOpy or other reproduction. One ofthese specified conditions is that the photocopy or reproduction is not to be “used for any purpose other than private study, scholarship, or research.” If a user makes a request for, or later uses, a photocopy or reproduction for purposes in excess of “fair use,” that user may be liable for copyright infringement. This institution reserves the right to refuse to accept a copying order if, in its judgment, fulfillment of the order would involve violation of copyright law. Printing note: Ifyou do not want to print this page. select pages 2 to the end on the print dialog screen. Sexual and Racial Discrimination prejudice. Intrinsic racism may be as irrationally held as any other view, but it does not have to be directed against anyone. So far as theory is concerned I believe racial— ism to be false: since theoretical racism of both kinds presupposes racialism, I could not logic— ally support racism of either variety. But even if racialism were true, both forms of theoretical racism would be incorrect. Extrinsic racism is false because the genes that account for the gross morphological differences that underlie our standard racial categories are not linked to those genes that determine, to whatever degree such matters are determined genetically, our moral and intellectual characters. Intrinsic racism is mistaken because it breaches the Kant- ian imperative to make moral distinctions only on morally relevant grounds 7 granted that there is no reason to believe that race, in 5r, is morally relevant, and also no reason to suppose that races are like families in providing a sphere of ethical life that legitimately escapes the demands of a universalizing morality. Notes 1 Bernard Lewis. Semitc’s and AntilSemites (New York: Norton, 1986). I shall be using the words "racism" and “racial- ism” with the meanings I stipulate: in some dia- lects of English they are synonyms, and in most dialects their definition is less than precise. For discussion of recent biological evidence see M. Nei and A. K. Roychoudhury, “Genetic Relation- ship and Evolution ofIIuman Races," Et'olutimk (in! Biology, vol. 14 (New York: Plenum, 1983), pp. 1759; for useful background see also M. Nei and A. K. Roychoudhury, “Gene Differences between Caucasian, Negro, and Japanese Popula- tions,” Srierire 177 (August 1972); 434 5. 3 See my “The Uncompleted Argument: Du Bois and the Illusion of Race,“ Critical Inquiry 12 (Autumn 1985); reprinted in Henry Louis Gates (ed.), “Rare,” l'l'i‘iting. mid Diyfrrem'e (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1986), pp. 21—37. -l This fact shows up most obviously in the assump- tion that adopted children intelligibly make claims IQ against their natural siblings: natural parents are, of course, causally responsible for their child's existence and that could be the basis of moral @ Ul \l claims, without any sense that biological related— ness entailed rights or responsibilities. But no such basis exists for an interest in natural siblings; my sisters are not causally responsible for my existence. See “The Family Nlodel,” later in this essay. Obviously what evidence should appropriately change your beliefs is not independent of your social or historical situation. In mid-nineteenth- century America, in New England quite as much as in the heart of Dixie, the pervasiveness of the institutional support for the prevailing system of racist belief — the fact that it was reinforced by religion and state, and defended by people in the universities and colleges, who had the greatest cognitive authority i meant that it would have been appropriate to insist on a substantial body of evidence and argument before giving up assent to racist propositions, in California in the 19805, of course, matters stand rather differently. To acknowledge this is not to admit to a cognitive relativism: rather, it is to hold that, at least in some domains, the fact that a belief is widely held — and especially by people in positions of cognitive authority 7 may be a good prima facie reason for believing it. Ideologies, as most theorists of ideology have admitted, standardly outlive the period in which they conform to the objective interests of the dominant group in a society; so even someone who thinks that the dominant group in our society no longer needs racism to buttress its position can see racism as the persisting ideology of an earlier phase of society. (I say “group” to keep the claim appropriately general; it seems to me a substantial further claim that the dominant group whose interests an ideology serves is always a class.) I have argued, however, in “The Conservation of ’ " that racism continues to serve the inter- ests of the ruling classes in the West; in Black American [.llt’t’fllltl‘t’ Forum, 23 (Spring 1989), pp. 37 60. As I argued in “The Uncompleted Argument: Du Bois and the Illusion of Race.” The reactive (or dialectical) character of this move explains why Sartre calls its manifestations in Negritude an “antiracist racism”; see “Orphee Noir,” his pref— ace to Senghor’s Anilinlogie de la nmit'rlle patio? ne‘gre er malagurlie dc languefrrmpm'se (Paris: I’UF, 1948). Sartre believed, of course, that the synthe— sis of this dialectic would be transcendence of racism; and it was his view of it as a stage - the antithesis in that process that allowed him to see it as a positive advance over the original “thesis” ‘Race, of European racism.I suspect that the reactive character of antirncis‘t racism accounts for the tolerance that is regularly extended to it in liberal circles; but this tolerance is surely hard to justify unless one shares Sartre’s optimistic interpret— ation of it as a stage in a process that leads to the end of all racisms. (And unless your view of this dialectic is deterministic. you should in any case want to play an argumentative role in moving to this next stage.) For a similar Zionist response see IIoraee Kal— len’s “The Ethics of Zionism," Mormbmn, August 1906. Alexander Crummell, “The Race Problem in America," in Brotz’s Negro Serial and Politiral Thought (New York: Basic Books, 1966), p. 184. 10 ll l2 Racisms Christianity, Islam and the Negro Rare (1887; reprinted Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 1967), p. 197. This is in part a reflection of an important asym— metry: loathing, unlike love, needs justifying; and this, I would argue, is because loathing usually leads to acts that are in re undesirable, whereas love leads to acts that are largely in re desirable — indeed, supererogatorily so. See my “Racism and Moral Pollution,” Philo— sophical Forum 18 (Winter—Spring 198677): 1857 202. Bernard “lilliams, Ethics and the Limits of‘Pliile omplri' (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1985), p. 12. 1 do not, as is obvious, share Williams’s skepticism about morality. ...
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Phil.1450.Appiah - Kwame Anthony Appiah If the people I...

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