Racism, Ideology, and Social Movements

Res Philosophica 94 (1):1-22 (2017)

Abstract

Racism, sexism, and other forms of injustice are more than just bad attitudes; after all, such injustice involves unfair distributions of goods and resources. But attitudes play a role. How central is that role? Tommie Shelby, among others, argues that racism is an ideology and takes a cognitivist approach suggesting that ideologies consist in false beliefs that arise out of and serve pernicious social conditions. In this paper I argue that racism is better understood as a set of practices, attitudes, social meanings, and material conditions, that systematically reinforce one another. Attitudes play a role, but even the cognitive/affective component of ideologies should include culturally shared habits of mind and action. These habits of mind distort, obscure, and occlude important facts about subordinated groups and result in a failure to recognize their interests. How do we disrupt such practices to achieve greater justice? I argue that this is sometimes, but not always, best achieved by argument or challenging false beliefs, so social movements legitimately seek other means.

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Author's Profile

Sally Haslanger
Massachusetts Institute of Technology

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Citations of this work

What’s New in the New Ideology Critique?Kirun Sankaran - 2020 - Philosophical Studies 177 (5):1441-1462.
Bias, Structure, and Injustice: A Reply to Haslanger.Robin Zheng - 2018 - Feminist Philosophy Quarterly 4 (1):1-30.
False Exemplars: Admiration and the Ethics of Public Monuments.Benjamin Cohen Rossi - 2020 - Journal of Ethics and Social Philosophy 18 (1).
What is Implicit Bias?Jules Holroyd, Robin Scaife & Tom Stafford - 2017 - Philosophy Compass 12 (10):e12437.
What is White Ignorance?Annette Martín - forthcoming - The Philosophical Quarterly.

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