I want to note that I believe my argument does need some more work, and the finalized version of my argument will be available in both the Hermeneutic Pragmatism PDF I spoke of in my prelude article as well as the book formed by the PDF. So if something seems like it needs some work/emphasis let me know in the comments and I'll work on it some more in addition to my own analysis. For reference, I wrote out around 60 philosophical/political questions and this was the most fresh discussion I had in my mind at that moment. Anyways, happy reading.C. D. Chester
The Classical Definition is Objective
Hostility, contempt, condescension, or prejudice, on the basis of social practices of racial classification, and the wider phenomena of social, economic, and political mistreatment that often accompany such classification.Racism, p769, The Cambridge Dictionary of Philosophy (2nd Edition)
In a simpler expression: The social/economic/political mistreatment of someone/something based on racial classifications within a society.
The above definition(s) allows for everyone in a society to be objectively classified as a racist1. This is because the actions referenced in determining racism can be easily related to a focused definition based on objective data/analysis of the person committing the action(s) and not (as you will soon see) a data pool that is statistically likely to be subjective.
Explanation of the Social Theorist's View
As of late, this notion is facing a surprising amount of backlash from social theorists. They developed another definition based on relative power in a society. An example would be The Undergirding Factor is POWER: Toward an Understanding of Prejudice and Racism by Caleb Rosado2. This sociological version (R-SV) is espoused particularly among racial minorities and advocates of social justice/equity/multiculturalism.
The main reason sociologists have aimed to alter the definition above is to identify which relative aspect of racism sprouts its central defect: cognitive, economic, or moral.3Social theorists dispute whether racism is in its essence an ideological belief, a system of social oppression, or discriminatory behavior.4For more context, note that “… racism presupposes the legitimacy of [a society’s] racial classifications, and perhaps the metaphysical reality of races. Nevertheless, some hold that … racial classifications [were] invented chiefly to explain and help justify the oppression of some peoples by others.”5
The R-SV states rather plainly that racism can only be conducted by racial groups who attain certain social powers. Thus, the R-SV is founded upon a racialized hierarchy of power. In essence, something can only be racist towards something else if relative to the hierarchy that something has more power than the something else.6This relative power difference is what accordingly evolves prejudice into racism. This evolutionary prerequisite is where many, myself included, find flaws in its rationale.
Origins and Objections
To understand the R-SV we need to understand its fundamental origin. At least in terms of the current US locale, all races abide by and are given the same laws and freedoms to live by. The only reason(s) that these laws/freedoms might be obstructed is due to the people operating in the system, warping it in whatever possible manner to achieve the said immoral (and likely illegal) mistreatment of said person(s). This, for clarification, shifts all direct, quantifiable blame upon the persons, NOT the actual system/structures utilized. Thus, in acknowledgment of these assumed actions, we must focus our attention to the relative powers certain persons have in our society. This is the fundamental premise that most, if not all, R-SV’s utilize. However, this is not where people take aim at the R-SV; it lies with the jump (evolutionary prerequisite) from the fundamental premise to the creation of a racialized hierarchy.
To make said jump one must weigh what one views the relative power of each racial classification. This is where subjectivity seeps in IF not done tediously correct. Due to the R-SV’s nature, there are numerous variables they need to account for in the creation of this hierarchy, hence tediously correct. Note that the total number of variables is seemingly infinite given the dimensions of plausible societal data.7If you will, relate this to Gödel’s Incompleteness Theorems. They state that for any semblance of a mathematical consistency to be achieved in an axiomatic notion, it would require an infinite amount, due to the limitlessness of the field it resides over.8In retrospect, these theorems provide a strong case that the R-SV is trying to achieve a logically impossible task.
What sociologists do to circumvent this endlessness is to use a statistical approach to reasonably simplify the data. The problem is that the available statistical data that one might draw in these dimensions are typically highly subjective. For instance, surveys, economical comparisons, and more usually create predictive models from personalized data, but these personalized data sets are typically subjective to the person’s experiences. Yes, you can note hard facts like readily available non-contextual wage or score disparities between racial groups, but the lack of objective context is of far greater importance. Without the context the hard facts CANNOT be put into multi-dimensional data sets, like the data set required in the statistical approach.
The reason the data’s context cannot be usually reached is that to obtain such context requires a reasonable amount of the history associated with it, forming the overarching reasons that it currently exists, or has existed, as such. To understand the relative history then, you must note the massive interconnectivity that even slight actions over time have. In essence, note the barely quantifiable chains of events surrounding the truly contextualized data. Thus, due to the strenuous task of even slightly understanding the full contexts of small sets of data, the plausibility of quantifiably denoting it amongst entire racial groups vastly decreases, that is if the data can actually be put in quantifiable terms in the end. With such in mind, the reasonability of using even the statistically formed hierarchy does not seem to be an achievable task for the sociologists to complete, and so many people do not pragmatically abide by the R-SV. The improbable reconciliation of necessary contextualization does leave open the objectivist possibility, so in theory the R-SV works out in some fashion. Regardless, the R-SV even without the statistical simplification would still rely on a large pool of subjective data due to the very nature of personalized data and all rough approximations will either be logically subjective or likely to statistically create weak correlations in regards to the predicted results. With this in mind, the only plausible definition left to use is the first one mentioned: the classical definition.
- The Cambridge Dictionary of Philosophy (2nd Edition)
- Gödel's Incompleteness Theorems (Fall 2018 Edition) by Panu Raatikainen
- The Undergirding Factor is POWER: Toward an Understanding of Prejudice and Racism by Caleb Rosado