Blackadder’s Lair

The home of many a cunning plan

Prolegomena on Race and Racism

The controversy surrounding the Reverend Wright and related fall out has got me thinking about issues of race and racism. So much so that I would like to do a series of posts on the subject. This is, in many ways, a rather fraught undertaking. Conversations about race tend to be very difficult, and are especially prone to devolving into a series of charges and counter-charges. There are no doubt many reasons for this, but key among them, I think, is that we lack a clear understanding of what exactly it is racism does and doesn’t consist in. Virtually everyone agrees that racism is wrong and that it is seriously wrong, but there is no general agreement as to what racism is, or to what makes it wrong. Without such a common agreement, conversations on race are bound to be heated, as what some consider obvious racism will for others be seen as unobjectionable, and visa versa.

Before we can have any sort of practical discussion about race and racism, therefore, we need to answer, as clearly and as precisely as we can, the question: what is racism, and why is it wrong? It is that question I wish to examine in the series that follows. Before I start, however, there are a couple of points that – given the sensitive nature of the topic – I feel need be made.

First, in asking what racism is, and why it is wrong, I am not asking whether racism is wrong. The answer to that is obviously yes, and in fact the intrinsic immorality of racism will be one of the key guideposts I plan to follow in trying to develop a clear conception of what racism consists in.

Second, given the precise nature of the question, much of what I write on the subject may seem needlessly abstract, or may involve looking at the subject from all sorts of (seemingly strange) angles. Anyone who finds this series to be insufficiently practical, divorced from experience, or involving too much fine hair splitting is free to write his own blog posts on the subject somewhere else.

Third, given the nature of the subject matter, it is almost certain that something I say is this series is going to offend someone. For that I apologize in advance. I would ask, however, that anyone who objects to something I say here object to what I have actually said, not what you wish I had said, or what you think I was deviously trying to imply, etc. Nor are these posts intended as open forums in which people can sound off on any issue related to race on which they happen to have strong opinions. I would ask that people try to confine themselves as to the specific topic of the post at hand, and not go off on tangents.

Forth, to avoid having the comments on these posts devolve into a shouting match, I am going to be imposing a strict “no insults” rule on these posts. Anyone who personally attacks someone else on these threads, whether by calling him an idiot, or a racist, or whatever, will find their comments edited or deleted. On the other hand, I’m going to try my best not to censor anyone for simply expressing a particular view (even a view others may find offensive), so long as it is done civilly. I know this may be difficult. If someone espouses a view you find greatly offensive, the natural response is to attack the person. I think that the conversation will be much more productive, though, if we confine our criticism to ideas, rather than to the people expressing those ideas.

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June 3, 2008 - Posted by | Race

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