The logic of racism

These days, just about the most damaging charge that can be leveled against one's character is being a racist.  True or not, justified or not, the charge by itself is often sufficient to harm a person's reputation, lead to ostracism, and even cause loss of employment.  Profuse apologies (and groveling) may work in the short term, but in the long term, one is never quite certain that the stain has been washed away.

A professional philosopher can shed light on the issue, following in the footsteps of the patron saint of moral philosophy, Socrates.  I have in mind a recent book by analytic philosopher Thomas L. Carson, who used to teach at Loyola University Chicago.  Tom and I went to graduate school together at Brown University.  The book is Lincoln's Ethics (Cambridge University Press, 2015), which presents definitions of racist beliefs in a chapter titled "Was Lincoln a Racist?"  Here are some examples:

  • That members of a group with certain racial characteristics are morally or intellectually "inferior."
  • That it is permissible to discriminate against members of a group with certain racial characteristics.
  • That it is permissible to exploit members of a group with certain racial characteristics.
  • That it is permissible to hate or harbor ill will toward members of a group with certain racial characteristics.
  • That indifference to the welfare of members of a group with certain racial characteristic is permissible.

It follows that arguing willy-nilly from persons taken singly to groups thereof (institutions, nations, cultures) commits an elementary logical fallacy, composition.  Critical Race Theory commits this fallacy.  Similarly fallacious is talk of "systemic racism."  Another fallacy is that only members of a specific group can be the target of racist beliefs — e.g., blacks — and that only members of specific groups can hold such beliefs — e.g., whites.

So, next time accusations of racism are thrown around in your presence, rehearse the points made here.  This may shut up the mudslinger, at least temporarily.  But it's unlikely to slow down race-hustlers and the left generally because they're after power at any cost and could not care less about logic and fine distinctions.  They'll quote Marx: "Philosophers only interpret the world; the point is to change it."  Socrates is turning over in his grave.

Image: Pixabay.

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