RACISM: WHAT IT IS AND WHAT IT ISN'T*


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Abstract

The words “racist” and “racism” have become so overused that they now constitute obstacles to understanding and interracial dialogue about racial matters. Instead of the current practice of referring to virtually anything that goes wrong or amiss with respect to race as “racism,” we should recognize a much broader moral vocabulary for characterizing racial ills – racial insensitivity, racial ignorance, racial injustice, racial discomfort, racial exclusion. At the same time, we should fix on a definition of “racism” that is continuous with its historical usage, and avoids conceptual inflation. I suggest two basic, and distinct, forms of racism that meet this condition–antipathy racism and inferiorizing racism. We should also recognize that not all racially objectionable actions are done from a racist motive, and that not all racial stereotypes are racist.

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