That's (Also) Racist! Entity Type Pluralism, Responsibility, and Liberatory Norms

2019-08-13T17:52:55Z (GMT) by Lacey J Davidson

Some philosophers (Blum 2002 and Anderson 2010) have argued that ‘racism’ and ‘racist’ have been used so widely that they have lost their conceptual potency and are no longer effective moral evaluations. For this reason, they think we should use other terms to identify racial injustices. It is the goal of this dissertation to argue against this conclusion. In Chapter 2, I develop tools for diagnosing the individualist versus structuralist debate within philosophical accounts of racism. I use these tools to show that both individualists and structuralists are committed to entity type monism or the view that only certain kinds of entities can be racist. I reject this view and argue for entity type pluralism. In Chapter 3, I move from entity type pluralism to develop an account of the application conditions for the predicate ‘racist’ that tell us when and why we should apply the predicate to particular entities. These two chapters serve to clarify RACISM. In Chapter 4, I develop new resources for understanding moral responsibility for racism, specifically for how agents can be held accountable for intervening upon racist non-agential entities like norms, policies, and institutions. I call these resources “oblique blame” and “intervention-sensitive moral responsibility.” Intervention-sensitive moral responsibility gives way to a problem. Given the ways in which our current epistemic practices exclude the testimony of People of Color, we will have a hard time knowing when we are responsible in this intervention-sensitive way. I call this the Knowledge Problem. In Chapter 5, I bring together the literature on epistemic oppression and the empirically-informed norms literature to show that interventions into epistemic norms help solve this problem. I provide four candidate norms from activist and organizing communities as examples. Taken together, this dissertation shows that we need not discontinue our use of ‘racism’ and ‘racist’ and that the terms can be used effectively to hold each other accountable toward anti-racist aims and a liberated future.