Thursday, August 5, 2010

Tommie Shelby on Why Racism isn't in the "Heart"

The below is excerpted from his article in the Journal of Social Philosophy, titled "Is Racism in the "Heart"?"
Rather than focus on the mental states of individuals without regard to
their sociohistorical context, which can often lead us astray, I would suggest
that we view racism as fundamentally a type of ideology.10 Put briefly and
somewhat crudely, “ideologies” are widely accepted illusory systems of belief
that function to establish or reinforce structures of social oppression. We
should also note that these social illusions, like the belief that blacks are an
inferior “race,” are often, even typically, accepted because of the unacknowl-
edged desires or fears of those who embrace them (e.g., some white workers
have embraced racist beliefs and attitudes when they were anxious about the
entrance of lower-paid blacks into a tight labor market.11 Racial ideologies
emerged with the African slave trade and European imperialist domination
of “darker” peoples. These peoples were “racialized” in an effort to legitimize
their subjugation and exploitation: the idea of biological “race,” the linchpin
of the ideology, was used to impute an inherent and unchangeable set
of physically based characteristics to the subordinate Other, an “essential
nature” which supposedly set them apart from and explained why they were
appropriately exploited by the dominant group. This ideology served (and
still serves) to legitimize the subordination and economic exploitation of non-
white people. Even after slavery was abolished and decolonization was well
under way, the ideology continued to have an impact on social relations, as
it functioned to legitimize segregation, uneven socioeconomic development,
a racially segmented labor market, and the social neglect of the urban poor.

No comments: