Racism, Psychology, and Morality: Dialogue with Faucher and Machery

Philosophy of the Social Sciences 41 (2):250-268 (2011)
Abstract
I here respond to several points in Faucher and Machery’s vigorous and informative critique of my volitional account of racism (VAR). First, although the authors deem it a form of "implicit racial bias," a mere tendency to associate black people with "negative" concepts falls short of racial "bias" or prejudice in the relevant sense. Second, such an associative disposition need not even be morally objectionable. Third, even for more substantial forms of implicit racial bias such as race-based fear or disgust, Faucher and Machery offer no account or explanation of when we should consider these racist, in whom, in what respect(s), or why. So, findings of implicit racial bias pose no clear objection to VAR. Fourth, because VAR allows not only racial hate, but also callous indifference, disdain, and other forms of racially driven disregard, to be racist,VAR is not "psychologically monist." Fifth, as VAR allows racist attitudes to be immoral in more than one way, offending against both the moral virtues of benevolence and justice, VAR is not "morally monist" either. I also reveal problems with some of Faucher and Machery’s other claims: Faucher and Machery take too narrow a conception of the types of psychology that can contribute to understanding racism; the internal complexity of hatred, which they approvingly mention, is irrelevant to VAR’s truth and undermines part of their criticism of VAR; whether some forms of racial bias are "racial ills" is irrelevant to VAR, which only analyzes racism; over-attention to implicit racial bias may cloak or exacerbate some of our society’s racial ills, or even constitute a new one. I conclude by noting that Faucher and Machery are not just critics of VAR but also allies of VAR in important controversies against those who insist racism lies primarily in social structures and institutions
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